Welcome to Throwback Thursday! This is the place where we get to indulge in nostalgia and wax poetic about excellent metal of years past. Today's 94th TBT brings us to a magical time when the 21st century was still in its fledgling, early years. In a sweet little hamlet known Gothenburg, Sweden, musicians got together to drink beer, swap tapes, and make some of the greatest music that metal has to date ever known. Visiting it's 15 year anniversary as of just a few weeks ago, Dark Tranquillity's Character launched the band into the stratosphere of melodeath giants. Thanks to the album's appeal, Dark Tranquillity are now known as one of the 'Gothenburg big three' along with brother bands At The Gates and In Flames. Landing somewhere in the middle of their career thus far, Character masterfully demonstrates melodeath at it's some of it's highest heights.
DARK TRANQUILLITY'S CHARACTER
Release Date: January 2005
Record Label: Century Media
If I was going to give someone an album to cut their teeth on who has never, ever heard melodic death metal before it would be Character. Brimming with all the fundamentals that make melodic death metal such a widely beloved genre, Character is both a critical success and a favorite album among fans.
Character represents many elements of melodeath, only the elements have been trimmed of all the fat and slowly simmered together into a thick, satisfying metal reduction. Melodies are intense and play thoughtfully between measures over the drone of dropped tuning. Drums are appropriately diverse, controlling the energy of each verse, chorus and interlude. Keys play off the talkative guitar runs, at times taking turns on carrying melody, at other times providing depth and atmosphere.
Character as a puzzle piece has polish and vision, neatly filling a gap in the turn-of-the-century Gothenburg scene. For example, in comparison to At The Gates seminal album Slaughter of the Soul, the pacing and tempo of Character is satisfyingly slower; yet Character loses no intensity or aggression. Character brings more poignant, expressive solos than that of their counterparts In Flames. While contemporaries such as Soilwork brought about albums with sharper growls and more bombastic energy, Character moves about more methodically with songs that have a gripping presence. Part of Character's presence comes from the deep, throaty, articulate growls of front man Mikael Stanne. A major piece of the band that has fans of their very own, Stanne's growls happen to make the lyrics discernible – a luxury not often found in many modern metal records. Check out this official music video for the album's single "Lost to Apathy":
While celebrating the release of Dark Tranquillity's newer album, Atoma, Stanne spoke with Metal Injection about how the whole scene got started in Gothenburg (spoiler alert – it's because of beer):
Stanne recalls, "My earliest memories of meeting basically all the friends I have now are like when talking about music and drinking beer together. Just hanging out in a park, going to a bar – just, ya know, changing demo tapes and stuff. Sitting at home at someone's house house, drinking and talking about music. That's how we e grew up and that's a huge part of how the scene got started in Gothenburg – we were all just hanging out drinking, yeah, and sharing music. And talking about music – and of course when you are drunk and you talk about musical ideas, eventually you start bands, ha, right? "
Character as a whole has a heavier, more solemn tone than previous releases from Dark Tranquillity – though the album doesn't forget it's tremolo-picking days of yore in tracks such as "The New Build":
One of my favorite tracks off of the album is "The Endless Feed". The song shows growth from the band without sacrificing intent or song writing chops. Thanks to expressive keys, the song has a really unique and memorable atmosphere:
Marrying genre staples with electronics, Dark Tranquillity really blended out their death roots with a new vision that resulted in an album as impactful as Character. This masterful melding combined with thoughtful compositions exemplify what it takes to write excellent melodeath – a happy habit that has persisted Dark Tranquillty long into their still-active career. If you're looking to crack into some of the genre 'greats', Character is a perfect place to start.