Dark Tranquillity - Damage Done (2002)Release ID: 2406
My melodic death metal tastes aren't really that wide in scope as I tend to dwell in the more extreme end of my tastes in death metal generally. Without wishing to generalise too much I find most bands that fall under this sub-genre to be underwhelming. Why would I want my death metal to be melodic, ergo more accessible is the question that has remained largely unanswered for the past 30 or so years of listening to metal. Dark Tranquillity were still a new band for me until today, but sadly they have brought little in the way of reasoning for my opinion of the melodic side of death metal to change much.
I mean it is very melodic, don't get me wrong. There's keyboards galore on display as well as melodious guitar parts, but none of it sticks with me. The riffs feel aggressive enough but they don't really set anything on fire for me and so come off as being restrained or blunted somehow. Stanne's vocals aren't awful by any means but just come across to my ears as being very generic ad tired sounding.
The album seems to go on and on as a result of my struggles it seems with only really track twelve standing out as the album closes with it's adept instrumentation bringing a memorable ending to proceedings. Again, I don't report that the band are doing anything wrong here, I know that the issue lies more so with me than anything they are trying to achieve. To a convert of the melodic death metal sound it probably will have more stars against it's name. I however struggle to give much of anything to the release.
After my horrid experience with testing out a couple cybergrind releases, I needed something to cleanse my palate, and what better way to do that than to head to the melodic opposite end of The Horde spectrum by revisiting a melodeath band I once enjoyed, Dark Tranquillity! They were still standing on top of the Gothenburg melodeath game in the 2000s, at a time when At the Gates was absent and In Flames was heading for a more alternative metal sound. When melodeath was still reigning in my metal interest, Damage Done was one of my favorite albums of the genre alongside At the Gates' Slaughter of the Soul. Dark Tranquillity's 2002 album hooks you up with more melody, thrash, and groove in the riffing, as opposed to the old-fashioned writing of the 90s. There's more detail in the devil!
The sound has had more shape in the 21st Century so far, sounding more cohesive than just technical. There's less focused on the lo-fi speed that some of the more famous extreme metal genres had in the 90s. The sound here is less extreme, becoming as melodic as heavy/power metal, which explains why I only listened to a lot of this band when my metal taste was more melodic about 7 years before this review. Still this kind of accessibility doesn't detract the extremeness and is suitable for some of the heavier fans. However, the accessibility fits better with In Flames. Dark Tranquillity is all about the deep darkness, especially in the growls of Mikael Stanne.
"Final Resistance" already kicks things off with the upbeat speed and melodic texture of the genre. There's some more melody in "Hours Passed in Exile" in the wonderous riffs, though the slight half-second break that starts the last minute isn't highly called for. Some catchy keyboards can be heard in "Monochromatic Stains", which is an anthem to growl along to. Don't be shy!
The arrangement in "Single Part of Two" is a little too much in the synths, but what's promising is the usual melodic Gothenburg sound that's meant for the album. "The Treason Wall" is more active in the drumming by Anders Jivarp. The keyboards in the verses have better searing potential. "Format C for Cortex" has more of the dark character of the album, with the growls continuing to step forward. The title track fires away with thrashy melodeath that would remind some of the band The Crown, while reminding me of my favorite album that this one has likely influenced, Trivium's In Waves. The rage is halted for an interesting melancholic keyboard/guitar outro.
"Cathode Ray Sunshine", which appears in the Brutal Legend soundtrack, has more beautiful electronic aspects and modern drumming. "The Enemy" is the lightest, most ballad-like song here, though the rough darkness surpasses that of In Flames' classic melodeath era. Another track "White Noise / Black Silence" drives through strong riffing, and I remember that making up for what's missing in Haven. The weirdly cool 4 and a half minute instrumental "Ex Nihilo" closes things smoothly.
When I was new to the melodic death metal sound, I considered Damage Done to be one of the best releases of the genre. While there are other masterpieces that surpass this one now, melodeath is still where I wanna get most of death metal, rather than the standard violence of Death and Morbid Angel. The album is deathly within the growled vocals and dark music, though the keyboards stand out as equally as the guitars despite a few bumps. Even during those few years of not listening to this album, it has kept living in my head. Perhaps it is the catchy melody and smooth atmosphere. Damage Done is a killer example of the melodic death metal sound this band has mastered!
Favorites: "Final Resistance", "Monochromatic Stains", "The Treason Wall", "Damage Done", "Cathode Ray Sunshine", "White Noise / Black Silence"
Melodic Death Metal
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