Dark Tranquility - Atoma

Dark Tranquility Atoma cover
Dark Tranquility
Century Media Records
Dark Tranquility had quite a crisis in their hands when earlier this year their guitarist/bassist of some 25 years Martin Henrikkson announced his departure due to diminished interest in playing music. They could have broken up, but instead they picked up the pieces and soldiered on, coming out with their eleventh album.
True to their name, Dark Tranquility remain Dark, emotive and true enough to their overall sound and roots. They have surely progressed and changed, but have done so in a very organic and stretched out fashion, as to not estrange listeners. You can still easily characterize them as Death Metal, even though they have probably outgrown the genre label… but unlike In Flames and At The Gates, which they used to be compared to, all pioneers of the Gothenburg sound, Dark Tranquillity has not gone pop or taken a decade or more off just to return to do fests and then inevitably an album. They kept putting out albums, while keeping the quality bar quite high throughout.
On “Atoma” the band has managed to both revisit, the sound of about a decade ago, but has also done so without doing a complete throw back, but more like a taking a cue and then coming up with probably their most varied offering so far.
“Encircled” is dark and menacing but still quite melodic, with “Atoma” being a bit more electronic and subdued, but it comes in effortlessly and perfectly naturally.
“Forward Momentum” further cleans up the sound, but ups on the melancholy in a quite savage and soul wrenching way that feels really authentic and artistic. It’s almost as if a wave band has taken over bits and pieces of this album, but you’d not complain about their presence. Rather be thankful.
“Neutrality” is far from “neutral” as it borders on death metal yet again, but does so with generous dialed in guitar parts.
“Force of Hand” is slower and more ponderous”, but not any less heavy and dark, with the sudden burst reminding you why you liked those guys in the first place.
“Faithless by Default” and “Proof of Life” are more melodic and slower building tracks, with “The Pitiless” sandwiched in between them and writhing to be heard, a far more more typical SMD piece in the archetypal sense of the world.
“Clearing Skies” is probably one of the best songs, where the band hits the perfect balance between its more melodic and more in your face styles to great effect. But it still denies to “clean” its act up to get a sure hit… which is just so brave.
“When the World Screams” is one of the most intense and better songs on the album, with some fantastic ideas running through it.
“Merciless Fate” seems to polarize things though beginning in a very melodic but growly way to progressively clear up significantly, only to close in the same hellish way…
“Caves and Embers” is not bad, but with the album almost nearing its end, it’s probably one of the least interesting and by the numbers songs, not something you’d skip, but neither a firm favorite, either.
In “The Absolute” Stanne’s vocals sound as if he’s submerged in a room full of water or something, lower and further back than in other places and also completely “clean”. It’s a more subdued and melancholic track that has a pretty heavy atmosphere however that makes you feel like drowning in the sound.
Last but not least ,“Time Out of Place” begins with a cathartic clash of sounds to again move forwards with some melancholic clean vocals, but this time in an ethereal & warmer way that is only interrupted a couple of ways by some fuzzy sound explosions, but progressively seems to offer the final solution and an exit to the album.
Not losing the plot and coming back with a rather nice entry so late in their career is probably quite the task for the Swedes, one of the last bands standing by their principles almost three decades later. Well done gentlemen.