Dark Tranquillity_ProjectorEvery once in a while the metal scene collectively pisses on a band or record and someone needs to step up and defend why they like it. We normally don’t spend a lot of time defending shitty records, but sometimes genuinely interesting or good records get lampooned by an overly conservative heavy metal scene and that calls for a professional contrarian to defend it! If ever there were professional contrarians, it would be the staff of AMG. So here we are to re-hash a record from our past that (some of us) love that everyone else seems to have soured on (or never liked in the first place). 

I know it’s hard to believe, but once upon a time, it was tough to get an album by Gothenburg legends Dark Tranquillity at a record store here in America. In the early 90’s, they were making waves in Europe with their trademark twin-guitar melodies, counterpointed basslines, and amazingly shrill screams by one Mikael Stanne. The problem was back then, they were signed to the relatively-tiny Osmose Productions, so in order to hear their work, you had to either buy it off of eBay, or pay import prices to acquire their albums. Since I was a huge At The Gates/In Flames fanatic then, I was dying to check out what I was missing. So when word got out that Dark Tranquillity signed with Century Media, I was ecstatic to check them out. I was able to procure a second-hand copy of their previous album, 1996’s underrated The Mind’s I, from a good friend of mine, and was floored by how great they sounded: urgent, melodic, and hungry.

Dark TranquillityWhen Projector was released in 1999, that same friend came to me and told me that they had “sold out.” In his words, gone were the twin melodies, the aggression, the hunger, the passion, and GOD FORBID, MIKAEL STANNE IS SINGING. And my friend was not alone, as many magazines went on to paint Projector as the Load or Cold Lake of its time, and wondering how the same city that produced In Flames and At The Gates could possibly create something as horribly benign as Projector. So I checked it out on a whim… and instantly fell in love with it. And you know what? It’s aged quite nicely.

Yes, it’s true that there was no “Dreamlore Degenerate” or “Punish My Heaven” on here, but this was a band on a new label, looking for new sounds, and utilizing them efficiently and memorably. “FreeCard” and “ThereIn” were (and still are) an effective one-two punch to open up an album, the former introducing synthesizers into their trademark sound, and the latter is now a staple in their live set. Both songs use twin guitars as a garnish rather than the meal itself, and instead of creating an air of majesty, there’s a fog of melancholy in their deployment, which would mirror the despondency generated on their bleak album cover. “The Sun Fired Blanks” and closer “On Your Time” brought out the much-needed aggression as another shade of color on Projector‘s creative palette.

DarkTranquility-2And Mikael’s singing voice? The man’s got some impressive pipes as both a screamer and a singer. With the possible exception of “Day to End” (and even then, I loved it), his voice isn’t overwrought with melodrama, but puts a rainy layer on an already miserable (in a good way) experience. In fact, “Auctioned” to this very day, remains as one of my all-time favorite DT tracks, and it’s because of the simple piano melody, beautiful acoustic guitar, Martin Henriksson’s phenomenal bass work, and Mikael’s heart-wrenching vocals and lyrics. By the way, guys, if you’re reading this, why is this not in your live set?

As many of you know, Dark Tranquillity would “bounce back” with 2000’s Haven (meh), and go on to release a trio of unfuckwithable slabs of melodeath (Damage DoneCharacter and Fiction) before dipping their toes into moodier waters yet again. Last year’s Construct has been labeled by many as their “new Projector,claiming their new sound is as multi-layered and tough to crack open. Time will tell on that note, but Projector, to me at least, was a uniquely beautiful, awkward experience that was ahead of its time. It’s just now that many detractors are finally catching up to that fact.

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  • André Snyde Lopes

    This one shouldn’t need defending. The only reason this album gets any flak is because it doesn’t sound like The Gallery or The Mind’s I. Otherwise, it’s a great album, with some really effective moments of brilliance.

    Expectations can do that to you.

    Haven was a much worse experience than this one and it wasn’t even bad.

    • Slammin Rushdie

      Even on Metal Archives, it’s rated higher than The Mind’s I or Haven, and only two points shy of The Gallery. Then again, Metal Archives ratings don’t really mean that much.

      • Mr. Necrodaemon Terrorsathan

        If I’m correct, Vulgar Display of Power only has 55% of approval.

        • Holy fuck! You are right… what the shit?

          • Mr. Necrodaemon Terrorsathan

            I don’t know, AMG. I think that some people really dislike them because of their music, but some people seems to hate them, based upon other things, like the fact they played Glam before the ’90’s, or that somehow they were responsible for introducing the tough guy attitude in metal, or that they are just ripping off Exhorder.

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          yeah people really hate that record and/or that band, I loved it when it came out. Met Dimebag in a coffee shop in kings cross sydney when they toured here, he gave me a couple of backstage passes to their sydney gig was awesome…but its pretty dumb music

        • Grymm

          Yeah, I don’t put any stock on approval ratings over at Metal Archives.

          • André Snyde Lopes

            There are plenty of well written and almost professionally methodical reviews on MA. You just need to look at the names and hope that review isn’t a one-off. I personally found myself seeing a lot of and agreeing with reviews from a guy by the name of “autothrall” so I frequent his blog now.

            There are others I take as a pretty safe reference but the aggregate scores are to be taken with a solid rock of salt.

          • Grymm

            Yeah, I should have clarified that!

            What I MEAN to say is that I don’t usually let a number score dictate what I should/shouldn’t enjoy. If the review is informative, then I will plunk down my hard-earned cash for it if it sounds like it’s up my alley. If the review is written by some elitist snob and then they pan the record just out of some need for status, I’m still checking it out if the band’s sounds match my tastes.

    • Grymm

      Haven STILL doesn’t do anything for me.

  • Aaronc50

    Can’t argue with that. This album is filled with great memorable riffs and vocals. Projector has long been my favorite album by DT and I actually had no idea that it was considered a low point by some until reading this!

    • I’m in the same page as you, as I said in the ATG thread, I missed the whole melodeath/gothenburg craze and I had no earthly idea Projector was considered a bad DT record.

  • Vicente Urrutia

    As you said “It was ahead of its time”, the first time I listened to DT was with Projector in 2005, it’s also by far my favorite DT album.

  • Vega Magnus

    Projector is a fantastic album. Construct isn’t a new Projector as much as it is a more mellow We Are the Void, which is itself a second version of Fiction. DT still makes solid music, but they have been lacking in the innovation department for quite a while now.

  • Mr. Necrodaemon Terrorsathan

    Ok, now someone needs to defend Reroute to Remain!

    (I’m kidding, of course)

    • Not it!!

    • Antoine Roth

      I’m gonna say it: I actually think Reroute to Remain is not that bad of a record. The production is terrible and the riffs sometimes very lazy, but some songs are very catchy in a good way, and Dark Signs is an outstanding track. Still very enjoyable overall, even though it has nothing to do with the classic, and superior, In Flames sound of Jester Race to Clayman.

      • Mr. Necrodaemon Terrorsathan

        Hm, it could lead to a very interesting discussion about what is the best post-Clayman In Flames album. I heard some people say that ASTYE is their best, but I also heard the Come Clarity is their best, in their most recent works.

        • Zadion

          I’m probably the lone fellow who enjoys most post-Clayman records. None of them were great, but all of them were at least decent – up til Sounds of a Playground Fading, at least, which is total crap. A Sense of Purpose is the best of the lot, which I gave a solid 3.5.

          Clayman is actually my least favorite In Flames record aside from the aforementioned. It was like a transition from Colony to Reroute and it ended up having the worst of both.

        • Antoine Roth

          All of them enjoyable (until SOAPF), none of them great, but I would say my favorite is ASTYE, it’s really groovy and still pretty intense (heavily brickwalled though). And special mention to Dead End on Come Clarity, perhaps their best modern songs.

          • Leroy

            Actually, I’m going to go out on a limb and say SOAPF was an enjoyable record. The thing I liked about it was it didn’t have an identity crisis – they went straight for the radio, and I’m fine with that – unlike RRTR, ASTYE, where they pretended to be Korn.

          • Finn

            I thought SOAPF was much better than ASOP to be honest. More variation and originality in the songwriting, better vocals and a better production. Not that I am a fan of the direction they’ve taken at all, I’d much rather see them return to a heavier or at least less cheesy sound.

        • Grymm

          Come Clarity is the best post-Clayman release, IMHO.

          It’s still nowhere near Colony or Whoracle, though.

          Future article idea? Hmm… ;)

          • Mr. Necrodaemon Terrorsathan

            Yeah, Come Clarity is the best post-Clayman release.

          • Yeah, well, genital warts is the best of all the sexually transmitted diseases.

          • Grymm

            Speaking of VDs, that could explain the song titles off that album (“Scream”, “Crawl Through Knives”, “Your Bedtime Story is Scaring Everyone”).

        • Finn

          The way I see it, Come Clarity > RTR > STYE > SOAPF > ASOP.

    • Stefano Kevin Prince Vitali

      I am guilty of having fallen in love with that record. I was 16, and it was the first step outside nu metal. 11 years later, it has not aged well… Not so bad but commercial as hell

    • Hard to imagine anyone would step up to defend that fucking piece of shit.

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    I thank you for inspiring me dust this off. It brought me back to a much better place where “plague” metal didn’t exist.

  • Arjan Zwamborn

    I’ve actually never really heard that Projector is considered a bad album by the ‘metal community’. Sure it’s the ‘cleanest’ album in terms of singing, but it’s not any more accessible or commercially sounding than other albums besides that.

    That said, I agree wholeheartedly with this defense! Except for the fact that the Mind’s I was released in ’96 (since it really was in ’97) ;) Anyhow, Projector is a great album and personally one of my favorites from DT (together with the Mind’s I and Character).

  • Zadion

    Hold up, this is an album that still needs defended? I thought the metal subculture has evolved beyond the point of “anything not brutal and evil is anti-metal and must be shunned!” and realized this is among DT’s finest.

    It’s hilarious anyone would say THIS album, which is full of grace, a gothic vibe and occasional neo-classical work, would be considered “selling out” when In Flames released “Reroute to Remain” not long after.

    Nonetheless, Projector has always been my favorite DT album, since I first discovered them back in ’07.

    • Kyungmi Nam

      :o RtR is awesome! But then again, I have a weak spot for In Flames.

  • Great album, with some of my fav DT songs!

  • Link D. LeonhⒶrt V.

    I’m still hoping to read some love for We Are the Void, I think it’s a great album too.. Projector is fine to me, I like the moody production :)

    • Grymm

      We Are the Void is actually growing on me slowly. Not one of my favorites, but I’m enjoying it more with each passing day.

  • Antoine Roth

    I agree very much, Projector is a great record, and visionary for its time. My least favorite DT record (until the last 2 which I’m not a big fan of) is actually Mind’s I, which is a clear step down from the absolute masterpiece that is The Gallery. Still an excellent record though, just not as good as the one before and after. Haven is also amazing IMO :).

  • Stefano Kevin Prince Vitali

    I don’t need to read the article (but I will) to say that Projector is and has always been a very good record. Not a masterpiece, but an entertaining, inspired and forward looking record I still enjoy listening to!

  • Zadion

    Additionally, am I the only one who thinks The Mind’s I is seriously an awful record? There’s only one good song on it, “Insanity’s Crescendo.” DT’s lowest point for sure as far as I’m concerned.

    • Mr. Necrodaemon Terrorsathan

      I disagree. My fav album by them. But talking about “Insanity’s Crescendo”, I think it’s a shame that it’s the only song where we can hear Sara Svensson’s voice. She’s amazing!

      • Ernesto Aimar

        Well, I also think it’s their weakest album along with “Construct”. I like it, but it doesn’t say much….it sounds like an average melodeath album that could have been done by Ablaze my Sorrow, to name any band of that time.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Love the indefensible position posts! I’ve not heard this record and have no prejudices will check it out

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Can someone defend ‘We Are The Void’?
    I tried really hard to like We are the Void, but just couldn’t engage with any of the songs…its a bit of a dud in my book and have pretty much lost interest in the band as a result.

    • Grymm

      “The Grandest Accusation” is amazing.

      As for the rest? Meh.

    • Leroy

      I used to think that, but then I was travelling and found myself waiting in a tube station as the wind blew through it. If I remember correctly, “The Fatalist” was playing at that moment and only then the underlying spite in that record hit me for the first time. “Archangelsk” is also a prime example. Don’t go into the record expecting twin guitar harmonies and it takes on a new form.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      alright Im re entering the void with preconceptions banished.

  • Mike Eckman

    Yeah, Im with the majority of people here and feel this is a fantastic album. This record came out at a time when I was first getting into death metal. Prior to this, I would usually not have any interest into any bands that werent at least 90% clean singing. This was a great transitional metal for me, and unlike other records that I was getting into around the same time (Does anyone even remember “Sins of Thy Beloved”?) this album holds up really well and I still listen to it at least a couple of times a year.

  • Greg Hasbrouck

    I’ll concur with those who think this is a really good album. It seems
    people often can’t distinguish between a band pushing their boundaries
    or experimenting with their sound and “selling out”. I never quite
    understood while Stanne all but abandoned his clean vocals after this
    release. Unlike Anders, who sounds like Elmer Fudd when he “sings”
    clean, Stanne’s clean vocals are just downright haunting and act as a
    wonderful counterpoint to his masterful harsh vocals.

  • Ernesto Aimar

    Projector was THE album the genre needed back in the moment, and after “the Gallery” the most significant piece of art DT has developed. I can’t get tired of listening to it. “Nether Novas” is one of the greatest melodeath songs I’ve ever heard.
    “Construct” was supposed to be similar to “Projector”, specially because Martin Brandström has been pretty much involved in the writing process, but the results are to dull.
    “Fiction” is IMO the best sequence to “Projector”, adding more heavyness and progressive stuff, but still keeping the sheer melancholy of Stanne vocals and lyrics.
    Any way, I hail “Projector”, it’s the kind of album that remains faithful to a style but envigorates it. Way different to the abominable “Reroute to Remain”

    • gustman17

      Glad to see some Nether Novas love here. Stanne lyrics and performance are top-notch there.
      Reroute it’s not even in the same league. Nether Novas alone is more complex and emotionally intense than that whole album (though I love Dawn of a New Day).

  • Wilhelm

    I don’t think I had much experience with DT before this album, but I bought it when it was released. It clearly became one of my favorite albums and to this day it’s one of the most daring, sincere albums I own. I almost feel that Haven (not as bad an album as people say) was kind of like a retraction of their style on Projector (probably due to some of the negative feedback) I wanted them to go further with this style and it took them years to implement Stanne’s clean vocals again (but without the charm of Projector) Damage done was great and they’ve had some good music but I would really love to see them do a 180 degree spin and innovate again.

    • Grymm

      SINCERE!

      I KNEW I forgot a word! Thank you!

      PS: I didn’t mean to yell at you just now.

  • Finn

    I don’t have anything against Projector but I’ve never really been able to get into it. For reference, I love Construct. Other than being the two DT albums with the most clean vocals, I don’t really hear that many similarities.