Album review: Dark Tranquillity – Atoma
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2016 has been a bizarrely great year for seeing some of metal’s beloved veterans totally reinvent and revitalise themselves. Classic metallers like Testament, Death Angel, Anthrax and Dream Theater have delivered nothing short of A* records this year, with some of their new releases even threatening to out-do their beloved, long-untouchable albums of the past. And this elite club of reenergised rock n roll elders can now add Dark Tranquillity to its ranks, as the Swedish melodic death metal quintet is set to blow all away with their brand new album, Atoma. With ten albums and almost three decades of existence under their collective belt, the idea of Dark Tranquillity creating something this vital and awe-inspiring should be an impossibility. Yet, not only does Atoma prove that that is a fallacy, it is an album that is destined to make anyone that ever believed that fallacy slap themselves in the face. 21 years after laying down the blueprints for melodic death metal with their seminal magnum opus The Gallery (1995), Dark Tranquillity are continuing to expand upon the possibilities of the genre that they helped to invent. Rather than being an exercise in brutality and abrasiveness, Atoma takes a musical style as harsh as melo-death and somehow makes it beautiful and artistic. Unlike contemporaries such as Carcass – a band which specialises in making melodic death metal a destructive and evil-sounding sub-genre – Dark Tranquillity makes extreme music a positive, emotionally complex affair. Atoma is not afraid to go to cleaner musical territory when it needs to. For example, the record may open with the fast, heavy, blast-beat-laden ‘Encircled’, but it leads into the beautiful, expansive title track, which mostly utilises clean singing from vocalist Mikael Stanne (except for the choruses) and a great emphasis on the keyboards of Martin Brändström.
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