Album Review: DARK TRANQUILITY Atoma
Dark Tranquility balances the dark and the light, the heavy and the gentle, and stands strong as pioneers of melodic-death metal.
As one of the pioneers of melodic-death metal, Dark Tranquility has created a solid body of work in its career; and now with their eleventh studio album Atoma (Century Media), the band delivers a record that proves that they deserve the title of talented musicians. Atoma is a mix of previous works while also being able to stand on its own as an individual. In that mix we find some low points to the record, but we also find some incredible high points to make this work stand out as something to be praised.
Opening track “Encircled” acts more as a preparation for the general sounds that are to come. There isn’t anything that truly sets it as unique, but just a very general “This is a Dark Tranquility song” (this isn’t a strong negative, nor is it a strong positive). Where things do become optimistic is the title track “Atoma”; it is here that we get our introduction to what will be an incredible balance of sung vocals and growls. Together they help for each other to stand out just as strong, and accompany the gothic keys and somber rhythm. There’s a dip after that which gives off the same vibe as the opening track when we reach “Forward Momentum”; but that becomes a thing of the past when we reach “Neutrality”. With a fast death metal strong opening, the drum tempo is a solid drive that eventually leads the song to one of the coolest solos that will be found on the record. It is here that it must be made clear that the strongest parts to this record is the lead guitar work and balance of vocalization. Together they both make up the diversity in the coming tracks that make this record stand out.
Starting with “Neutrality” we find Atoma in its strongest stage that includes a few of the songs that are to follow. “Force Of Hand” has a slow but heavy build up that lead to a head banging happy melody and unique growls that have more of a calculated punch with each note to them. It makes for the most diverse sounding song on the record, mostly in thanks to the guitar that switches back and forth from your typical death metal chugging to moments of brightness with an echo and twang. “The Pitiless” stands out with some of the best growls and melodic guitar that will make for a great song in the pit. In “Our Proof Of Life”, it is after a few heavier songs with growls that the singing makes a spotlight return and shift in energy, again with the lead guitar acting as the main drive.
It is after that the rest of the album returns to an energy similar as in the beginning, but just a little bumpier. By bumpy that isn’t to say the songs are bad, but really come to a coin toss of preference depending on the ear. What helps them is diversity in the guitar: its moments of darkness and brightness. What adds to this blurring of the lines are the keys; where they have moments where they can help the right song stick out, they then have their moments where they all sound the same. The record closing on “Caves and Embers” was a good decision seeing that it truly embodies that mix of dark and bright that has appeared throughout since the beginning.
If we look back at the body of work Dark Tranquility has laid out before Atoma, we see their ability to create a variety of sounds and emotions that makes for a solid balance. Atoma has terrific high moments when it comes to the lead guitar work, the drive of the drums, and the balance found in the vocals. The beginning doesn’t necessarily get in the way of enjoying what is to come, but it would have been nice to get that diversity found in the middle also included more towards the end. And again, many of those songs will depend on a specific ear, for they are crafted well, but miss moments of being their best dynamic. That being said, Atoma is a pleasing body of work, and with amazing moments of composition that demonstrate the skills of great musicians.