Dark Tranquillity_The GalleryGenre-defining albums don’t come along every day – or every year – so when they do pop up, it’s important to take note of them for future generations like me. When The Gallery saw release in 1995, so many moons ago, I was not really prepared to appreciate its artistry due to a preoccupation with jaundice. Thankfully the historians had me covered. It’s not just an incredibly significant album, it’s also just plain good; unlike some other Gothenburg metal of the same era, the LP has aged quite well, and the band themselves are still putting out respectable and creative material, setting them apart from In Flames‘ halfhearted radio metal and the backwards-glancing trepidity of At the Gates‘ latest. Dark Tranquillity were the band that introduced me to death metal with Character and the ensuing Fiction and We are the Void, and I’m indebted to those friends, critics, and connoisseurs that turned me on to their music and recognized its excellence so that it could be best preserved. I like to think that I now play that role here at Angry Metal Guy. We don’t try to be trendsetters here (except for those pesky NeO fans) but rather archivists, trying to keep track of metal’s history as it happens rather than set its path ourselves [Call us The Archivists!Steel Archivist]. And so it is with humility that I write this ultimately superfluous re-review of a metal classic, hoping that somewhere down the line it will lead someone to a small piece of the trailblazing art that influenced so much of the music we know and love today.

The Gallery marks Mikael Stanne’s debut as Dark Tranquillity‘s frontman, and his swap out with Anders Friden was unambiguously the best decision the band ever made. For those who don’t know, this album marks a solidification of both the Gothenburg sound and the lineup of one of its first and greatest practitioners. After Friden’s work on Skydancer and Mikael’s role as session vocalist on In Flames‘ Lunar StrainDark Tranquillity opted to jettison Friden and replace him with Stanne, thus relieving him of his rhythm guitar duties and creating space for Fredrik Johansson. Both Anders and In Flames reeled for a bit, resulting in the confused credits of the Subterranean EP, but that’s a different story, as is the oft-maligned history of that group.

Now, why Stanne wasn’t the band’s vocalist in the first place is still something of a mystery, because this LP demonstrates (and I’m sorry, Anders) that he was twice the singer that Friden was at the time. His ability to emote was unparalleled in the scene – and keep in mind, this was even before we were introduced to his intensely soulful baritone singing – and even this early in the game his delivery was very creative, relying on his acidic mid-range growls to do the heavy lifting, but experimenting with spoken word in the classic “Lethe” and making use of light processing and studio effects on other tracks.

Dark-Tranquillity_1995

It’s not just Stanne who perfects this album, though; the entire band is responsible for the genre-defining writing and performance. The ending supersong of “Mine is the Grandeur…” “… of Melancholy Burning” (on a side note, I’d love to know who first used that ellipse trick to end an album, for reasons that pertain to Plebeian Grandstand) is especially a high point for the band’s rhythm section. Anders Jivarp’s proves himself to be an unsung hero of ’90s death metal drumming here as well, with a brilliant array of mid-paced grooves and beats that fit snugly into the song’s framework. Meanwhile, Martin Henriksson’s brilliant basslines are the true melodic backbone of the composition and Niklas Sundin seems to realize this, giving him plenty of room by reigning in the guitar parts.

Sundin himself makes an outsized contribution to the album’s quality, pulling some of the best melodeath riffs ever out of nowhere. The odd-timed harmonies in “The Dividing Line” and the frequently unorthodox metric subdivisions and shifts on the title track, and throughout the album as a whole, provide more rhythmic roughage than a dozen modern djent bands. Jivarp plays along with a knack for subtlety, never stealing the show but throwing in oddball-rhythms, like the offbeat shuffles in “The One Brooding Warning” in places where you’d least expect. While Sundin’s most memorable and heart-wrenching work was still on the horizon at this point in the band’s career, the dual leads and acoustic passages in The Gallery remain incredibly effective; the aforementioned “Lethe” defines a certain type of pseudo-ballad that the band has made use of frequently throughout their career, though I believe they perfected it with “Insanity’s Crescendo” – but more on that in two years, eh?

Despite the metal world’s general panning of Construct, I’m still excited about Dark Tranquillity‘s future, and that’s largely due to the huge success of their past. Depending on who you ask, around eight of the band’s ten albums are excellent listening material and each release has its own personality and handful or bushel of good or great songs, which is again incredible especially alongside their contemporaries. The Gallery is without doubt one of the best, if not the best, of the foundational Dark Tranquillity albums and a must hear for anyone who considers themselves a fan of Melodeath, and a required album for the death metal connoisseur that wants to pass the gifts of brutality on to the young and impressionable. They’ll turn out all right, I’m sure.

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  • I love Dark Tranquillity. Great induction to your own Hall of Fame.

    • Dagon

      I was about to send you a facebook message to check this out haha.

  • Grymm

    This album, not only rightfully revered for its musical awesomehood, also has the distinct feature where each song title could end with “…in my pants”, and it would fit beautifully.

    Really, “The One Brooding Warning In My Pants” is epic, as would “Silence… and the Firmament Withdrew In My Pants”. “Lethe In My Pants”, not so much.

    Great write-up, btw.

    • Dr. Scorpion

      It even works with the band’s name. Dark Tranquility in my pants.Hehe.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      I just found out that Wold´s “Screech Owl” is another album where each song title could end with “…in my pants” it it would work.
      “A Sword Becomes Red with Fury in My Pants” anyone?

      • Grymm

        Arsis gets away with the best song title ever with “…And the Blind One Came In My Pants” for many, many reasons.

    • Doomdeathrosh

      I’m guessing it took you exactly four pints to observe that! While we’re at it: “Swarm In My Pants” and “Do Not Look Down In My Pants” by Meshuggah!

      • Kronos

        Meshuggah also has a couple of classics for the metal ladies on ObZen.

        • Doomdeathrosh

          “Bleed In HER Pants”, “Combustion in MY Pants”, “Electric Red In HER(or MY) Pants” Real Nice. But what takes the cake : “This Spiteful Snake In My Pants”!

    • Kronos

      There goes my drink.

  • Levly

    Man I’m glad to see this retro-review and share in the common love for The Gallery :). This remains for me the best Melodeath Metal album of all time, and Edenspring its crowning jewel. Such emotional power and awesome melodies.

  • mtlman1990

    I wish they would play these songs live…

    • BranMakMorn

      They do. At least up until one or two years ago. I saw them three times between 2010 and 2014, and there was always at least one from this album. I am sure I saw them play Punish my Heaven and Lethe, maybe The Dividing Line. Never got my favourite Edenspring unfortunately…

      • mtlman1990

        Last time I saw them, they didn’t play a single song from it. I was really disappointed. There isn’t even a live video on youtube for any of them other than Lethe.

        • BranMakMorn

          They might come back. It was pretty great. After they finished Punish my Heaven all I could do was shout ‘THANK YOU!!”

  • Refined-Iron Cranium

    I love this album. I don’t think it’s 100% perfect, but it’s a remarkable achievement in its own right. What I find the most fascinating about Dark Tranquillity’s music (excluding some of the newer stuff) was the use of counterpoint (At the Gates used this a lot on their first 2 albums too). It’s incredible to hear these rather young bands doing something like that on their early efforts. It just added to the richness of the music.

    Plus, the lyrics on this album are wonderful. My personal favourite are the last few lines from ‘Punish My Heaven’:
    “And as heaven itself commands me
    Out of its lair
    I fear not
    My face lined for darkness
    I’ll go!”

    Mikael’s delivery just makes it sound all the more epic.

    • BranMakMorn

      Didn’t see your comment. Second that comment on the lyrics!

      • gustman17

        Thirding. It amazes me how Edenspring is about alcohol hangover.

        • Kronos

          Lethe is also about drinking and is beautifully realized through Stanne’s delivery. Sounds like the guy had a demon when he was younger.

  • You’re too young to review big boy metal albums!

    • Hulksteraus

      Epic slap-down Mr Druhm!

  • BranMakMorn

    Thanks for this Kronos, this album means a lot to me as first DT album I was advised to buy some 15 years back, and yet I still go back to it regularly. It is really as a classic as they get, with — as you highlight — some really underappreciated technical choices.

    I’d like to mention one thing too: as compared to other big melodeath contemporaries (In Flames, At The Gates), DT had (and still have) some great, well-written and thoughtful lyrics (like, compare this album with Slaughter of the Soul). Rarely reviews mention lyrics, but I thought this one really deserves it.

    To me “We are the outstretched fingers who seize and hold the wind” is a fucking immortal line.

    • RuySan

      This!

      Stanne is indeed an amazing lyricist, and while i don’t usually pay much attention to lyrics, I started to make an exception for DT.

      Concerning this album, while it had a great impact on me, i still favour both Skydance for it’s primeval beauty, and Projector for its maturity in songwriting.

      Oh, and btw, Stanne’s clean vocals are great. It’s a shame he doesn’t use them more often.

      • Kronos

        Stanne has written melodic death metals greatest lyrics, I’m sure ; every album has at least for lyrically excellent songs and I can’t think of a single cringe worthy line in the band’s entire discography. Personal favorites include “iridium”, “hours passed in exile”,”at a loss for words and, come to think of it, the entirety of Haven.

        • BranMakMorn

          Fun fact: when he was a baby, I’ve always put my son to sleep by singing him “Day To End” :)

          • Kronos

            You’re a great dad.

    • madhare

      Totally agree about the lyrics! One grows out of all those dragons, swords, demons, Satan, and “we’re tougher/kvlter than you” stuff. But DT lyrics possibly just keep on getting better as one ages.

      • basenjibrian

        Is ikt just tht Swedes are mre educated than americans> We fiht f th riht to party?

        • [not a Dr] Gonzalo Salazar

          Oh yeah? name something that has nothing to do with guitar…

          • basenjibrian

            Well…we are possibly looking at President Donald Trump. Whuich makes me laugh. What a way to go downhill fast!
            Of course, Americans even in their worst cannot compete with the sheer idiocy of Italians and their love for Berlusconi!

  • sir_c

    Yes indeed, Kronos, yes indeed.

  • Fazy

    One of the albums I returned to the most in my search for good melodeath, thanks for the revisit, Kronos!

    Also, would somebody be kind/kvlt enough to write out a few more names in this genre that would help me resume that search? I tried a few, but I feel like I went a bit maybe too hastily and that my changes expanded quite a lot since. Thanks!

    • RuySan

      Dissection, while being many times lumped in the black metal genre, it’s very melodic, and can appeal to fans of DT, IF and ATG.

      • Fazy

        Thanks, I’ll give them try, maybe they could also help me with my unability to get into black metal!

      • Kronos

        When dissection got back together they pretty much just aped this album. I mean listen to “maha kali”. It’s completely bargain bin dt riffage

        • Wilhelm

          I wouldn’t even say that, the each song had like two riffs…more like Amon Amarth really.

          • Kronos

            True but those riffs were totally dt riffs most of the time.

          • IBlackened

            I laughed really hard on this one.

    • Refined-Iron Cranium

      Insomnium is a band that takes its cues almost directly from Dark Tranquillity.
      Edge of Sanity has some good stuff too, check out Purgatory Afterglow.
      Also, the first 3 Amorphis albums are excellent. Elegy is more on the progressive side, but Tales From the Thousand Lakes is murky, Finnish melodeath goodness.

      (That is, if you haven’t heard of these bands yet.)

      • Fazy

        I liked a few Insomnium songs from their latest album, but haven’t explored them more, yet. I only know Amorphis by name.
        Thanks!

        • Mark Hunt

          The first three Insomnium albums are tits.

    • Wilhelm

      Try these three bands; Gates of Ishtar, Desultory, Unanimated, you cannot go wrong!

      Gates of Ishtar is probably your most straightforward melodic death metal band, incredibly catchy songs though. All three albums are excellent.

      Desultory is MDM, but not Gothenburg. They are probably the most underrated in the Genre. Their albums Into Eternity and Bitterness are both amazing,

      Unanimated are often compared to Dissection but I find them different as well. Ancient God of Evil is a great album by them.

      • Fazy

        Alright, these are some names I have -not- heard yet, great!
        Trying something that varies from Gothenburg sure seems great and I will definitely give many listens to other two you suggested as well. Thanks.

        • IBlackened

          I’m really late here, but check Eucharist, especially the album ‘Mirrorworlds’.

          • Wilhelm

            Another classic!

      • BranMakMorn

        Dude, I gotta thank you. I honestly didn’t know Gates of Ishtar, and I’ve been listening to A Bloodred Path for the last two days and it fucking rocks! Up there with Dissection and Sacramentum really.

        • Wilhelm

          Yep, no problem; It’s a good time to get into them, and that album in particular, because the original lineup is back and doing shows next year playing “A Bloodred Path.” Check out their other releases too – I’m partial to The Dawn of Flames.

    • madhare

      You might also try Omnium Gatherum.

      • Fazy

        I think I heard them before and found them quite okay, did not go deep though, I’ll give them another couple of spins.

    • BranMakMorn

      My very personal mid-90s list of absolute classics for new listeners is:

      -This DT album (95)
      -In Flames’s The Jester Race (95)
      -At The Gates’s Slaughter of the Soul (96)
      -Dissection’s Storm of the Light’s Bane (95)
      -Sacramentum’s Far Away from the Sun (96)
      -Naglfar’s Vittra (95)
      -Vinterland’s Welcome to My Last Chapter (96)

      To me it is still absolutely amazing how just one country produced these six albums over just two years. Absolute fucking classics. I think it is an unmatched production in the genre. I do listen to various Ominum Gatherum, Be’lakor, Insomnium, In Mourning, Mors Principium Est…but they rarely match, to my ears, the trademark mid-90s mix of raw ferocity and melody.

      EDIT: as Refined-Iron Cranium suggested, perhaps Tales From the Thousand Lakes (94) should make my list. Not Swedish tho :)

      • Fazy

        This list seems quite fucking real, thanks a lot! You hit the nail on the head, I am looking for a mix of ferocity and melody, at least I suppose. So far I ended up liking The Gallery, Damage Done and Clayman the most, but I have only heard slivers of what you folks suggested.

        I do like MPE a bit, but in some ways (something about production or sound, maybe?) they sound less -raw-.

        • BranMakMorn

          No problem :) TBH I think that The Gallery stands head and shoulder above most of the others I mentioned. And Damage Done is my second best choice for DT too, even though that is already “2nd period” (the colder, more “electronic” one) DT,

          I know what you mean about MPE. They are fucking tight, but there’s something that is lacking for me, maybe its the production, I don’t know. Plus they are really At the Gates’s torchbearers, not DT’s. Of the more recent bands perhaps my overall pick would be Be’lakor’s “Of Breath and Bone”, even though we are more on the melodic/atmospheric side there.

          • Hammersmith

            Stone’s Reach was a phenomenal record.

  • Wilhelm

    You just cannot go wrong with old DT, I’ve been getting very nostalgic for old school melodeath recently and this is on rotation – The Minds I is incredible too and I can never choose between them. I do wish they would put more thought, like this, into their recent material; they’ve been releasing pretty much the same album since Damage Done.

  • gustman17

    Ah, Dark Tranquillity. Probably my favorite band all around. The parallels and shared history with In Flames work like a pedagogical counterpoint on what can go well and what can go foul when bands evolve.

    While I don’t feel that every song on this album is a winner (I only really come back to a few songs) the high points are almost sublime. It’s interesting how the aesthetic of the band changed (lyrics, artwork, sound of course) but their whole opus still feels consistent and coherent.

    The lyrics in particular are just amazing here. Lethe makes my beard cry (manly, of course). That’s the only thing I missed in your assessment Kronos; everything else is spot on.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    As a counterpoint to this article I would like to offer some praise to an album that, insofar as creating a genre, truly deserves the adulation: Skydancer. Released in the year in which I was born, the album is a creative triumph that exceeds any and all follow-up albums in the melodic death metal genre.

    It is not only an ancestral journey through the lives of gods and men alike, it is a theatrical representation of the forces of nature, good and evil and the chaos within. Skydancer has it all, really, and it’s one of the best albums I’ve ever heard. The music, of course, compliments the journey through the harsh (“Nightfall by the Shore of Time”), epic (“Shadow Duet”), beautiful (“A Bolt of Blazing Gold”) and sorrowful (“Alone”) and it’s all done with a grandeur and elegance that was, frankly lost in most melodeath records since.

    The Gallery, being the successor to Skydancer still shares some of this but the album is less balanced, to the point of sounding silly at points (“Mine is the Grandeur of Melancholy Burning”, yeah I said it).

    • Hulksteraus

      I don’t really agree with The Gallery being less balanced than Skydancer (in fact I think I come back to The Gallery more than I come back to Skydancer as I think Anders’ vocals are not as good as Michaels and I think you can really see this if you compare both openers together (Nightfall… and Punish my Heaven).

      My first extreme albums were around 93/94 when I heard My Dying Bride (Turn Loose The Swans), Opeth (Orchid) and Dark Tranquility (Skydancer) for the first time. I have kept coming back to all three bands over the last 20 odd years, along with Anathema.

      Skydancer and The Gallery both blew me away. I remember at the time the reviews for the Gallery were mixed, however the reviews that retrospectively look back on the album are almost all leaning to classic status. I think that at the time there was nothing that was really around that was like the album. The intelligent lyrics, the artwork, the amazing riff-fest and the emotive growls all combine to produce a classic and, yes, genre-defining sound.

      I think you have this spot-on Kronos. Good work as always.

  • Bradley Roberts

    Dark Tranquillity are a good counter-argument to the idea that a band needs to change up its music as it time goes on. It’s always irritating when a band puts out a classic album that defines their sound but the rest pale in comparison. The Gallery can be seen as the album from which to lead on to many other DT albums, instead of being the only album worth listening to.

  • I love this album so much! But I’m also barely older than it so no nostalgia here, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard this after I heard some of their newer-more famous ones (like Fiction, I think that was the first).
    It’s interesting how different an experience this is, when you always go backwards with these records. But maybe twenty years from now I can also say that ‘oh yeah, I’ve heard their first album when it was released’.

  • Antonio Barrote

    I’m really getting old… I’ll never forget the day I first listened to this album (on a record store, on its release day, something impossible today…), 20 years ago.

    Still my personal favorite DT album to the day…

    thanks for this review!

  • Elton Chagas

    I totally agree with everything you’ve written here, sir.

    Dark Tranquillity was the band that introduced me to extreme metal (with Character) and still my favorite band ever. I also think The Gallery is their best album, and that 80% of their discography is made of classics.

    Great review!

  • I didn’t discover Dark Tranqulity until the album after this, “The Mind’s I”. At the time, it was the very first death metal album I bought, and I wasnt a fan. As a result, I never thought too highly of Dark Tranquility, until someone forced me to listen to “The Gallery” and I started to like it. Now I am a huge fan and love almost their whole catalog….except “The Minds I”. I just couldnt get into that one.

  • Doomdeathrosh

    I remember this being my fist Death Metal album, and the reason I still am a Metalhead! Cheers!

  • El_Cuervo

    Meh. The Jester Race is approximately 11x better

    • Kronos

      Aren’t you one of our ne obliviscaris fans? Your opinion is invalid.

  • Sebastian Bugge

    Funny how Dark Tranqulility now are one of the worst bands in history along with In Flames, both live and in the studio.