Dark Tranquillity is easily amongst the most well-recognized and influential bands in the melodic death metal scene. Despite this, I’ve never had an interest in checking them out. After seeing a rousing performance at Wacken in 2015, it seemed appropriate to listen to their next album. “Atoma” is the band’s new release, and even to a non-fan of the band, it was a fairly predictable effort. There are a couple of really fast, thrashy tracks that are in the style I presume the band used to use more often. Most of the album, however, leans more towards the mid-paced side of things, and mixes in growling with clean singing. Unlike many of their peers, however, Dark Tranquillity haven’t abandoned aggression altogether, nor have they made the singing so prevalent that it will ruin the album for you if you only care for growling in melodeath.
One recurring theme on “Atoma” is the strong usage of piano and keyboards. The way they are used in songs like the title track and “Forward Momentum” results in an almost pop-like sound. These efforts make Dark Tranquillity’s music sound nowhere near what you would expect from a band that plays an offshoot of death metal. It simply feels too happy or upbeat at times. As noted, however, this really isn’t a far stretch from other melodeath bands. These types of songs show the similarities between melodic death metal and modern power metal such as Avantasia.
More important than the particular tricks the band uses are the quality of the songs, and this is where Dark Tranquillity shines. The album is slightly front-loaded, with tracks like “Encircled” and “Force of Hand” sticking out. However, the quality doesn’t end on the latter half of the record; it just isn’t as strong as the first 5 or so songs. After the first couple of listens, there are plenty of moments that are easy to growl along to.
There is little to complain about on “Atoma”, other than the fact that it feels a little bit faceless. Undoubtedly, there are numerous melodic death metal records that are just as compelling as this one, and as a novice listener of that style, I would have expected something more profound from one of the subgenre’s giants. Granted, without even listening I know this is miles ahead of a contemporary such as In Flames, but based solely on this record, I would imagine there are better places to start with Dark Tranquillity’s music. Nevertheless, “Atoma” is a reliable effort.
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"Force of Hand"
3.6/5 or 72%.
Written by Scott