At the end of this strange year, there have been albums that displayed their power through musical prowess and young, exciting talent. There have been albums that displayed their power through capturing the changing heavy metal tides, and setting a precedent for the next wave of metal. But Dark Tranquillity’s new album Moment, the 12th from the Swedish melodeath stalwarts, displays its power through driving the listener to reflection amidst a tumultuous world. Its lessons on how the world perceives truth, and the moments that serve as a turning point in our lives or as a stumbling block, give the album a resonance that makes it an important listen, even if a deal of the music, solid as it is, tends to blend over time.
That’s not to say that there is anything lacking musically here. The band’s talent is as much on display as ever, even with the loss of founding guitarist Nicklas Sundin. It’s more than made up for with new guitarists Christopher Amott and Johan Reinholdz, and their skills shine across the record. Songs like the two openers 'Phantom Days' and 'Transient' open up with a cavernous and towering guitar sound. They also serve to introduce the lush synth and keyboard work from longtime member Martin Brandstrom that is also a big staple of the album. It feels like there is a much greater focus on melody on this record, which makes sense based on its emotional quality.
Frontman/vocalist Mikael Stanne sounds as sharp and as crisp in his harsh delivery as ever, but it’s his melodic singing that actually steals the show when it appears. Songs like 'Standstill' and 'Ego Deception' are plaintive and emotional. And it’s no wonder. The album feels extremely personal to Stanne, as the lyrics are examinations from his life about moments that shaped him and helped him become his present self. There are also very poignant observations about the state of the modern world on here, with songs like the uplifting 'Identical to None', with its synth swells and driving pace, and the emotionally heavy 'In Truth Divided'”, a deep chasm of a song that is felt in the guitar work and in the pace of the song.
Yes, the lyrical talent of the band is certainly the highlight of this album. The production is crystal clear and no one element outweighs the others, which is essential with a lot of moving background pieces that Dark Tranquility like to use. However, the elements that make the songs sound great individually, the soaring synths and thick riffs and sharp solos, all seem to blend together and make only certain moments stand out. Those with the most emotion in the vocals and instrumental playing are the better moments, again on songs like 'Standstill', 'Phantom Days', 'In Truth Divided', and 'Remain in the Unknown', a song that features haunting descending piano and a pleading vocal intro. For a lot of the songs on the record, there is no doubt they sound good and are well constructed both lyrically and musically. However, they all seem to blend into one another, which detracts a bit from the memorability.
But the weight and gravity that Dark Tranquillity have delivered on Moment should not be discounted. This is a melodic and poignant record that is certainly deserving of praise. Though the album when listened front to back gets a bit lost, the individual components are firing on all cylinders and should be digested as such. This is a collection of songs that truly do have the power to change perspectives and cause pause in the craziness of 2020. That’s a feat worthy of recognition.
Moment is out now via Century Media.