A very long four years has passed since the band released their last record, Atoma, in 2016. After all that time, does Moment live up to their prior work and justify the wait? It’s complicated.
I’ll state this as clearly as I can for those uninitiated. I love Dark Tranquillity and have done for almost a decade now. I got into their music with seminal works such as Fiction and The Gallery, and you can see my extended thoughts on their discography in the ranked feature on this site. However, I find myself torn on their new record. I should absolutely adore it, but I find myself doubting as to why I can’t quite make my mind up.
Let’s start with what I do know. For one, It’s a beautifully produced metal record and performances across the board are second to none. Mikael Stanne is one of the best vocalists in melodeath today and it shows, his profound lyricicsm too, elevates the material passed that of the band’s contemporaries in the genre. This is nothing new. Thus we get to my biggest problem with Moment overall, it is nothing new, and after nearly half a decade of waiting, I was expecting something a little stronger.
Every hallmark that you would expect of Dark Tranquillity is on full display here. Synths, check. A striking mixture of growling verses and cleanly sung choruses? Present. Infectious hooks? In spades. The problem arises to the fact that, even after several rotations, I am still struggling to recount much about the record besides the singles, and that is not a good thing. Phantom Days and The Dark Unbroken are strong tracks that throwback to the band’s grace period of Character and Fiction, with Eyes of the World beautifully reminiscent of the band’s work on experimental albums like Haven, with the latter featuring extensive use of Stanne’s richly warm baritone voice.
With regards to Stanne’s performance overall, I was pleasantly shocked to have to wait until the fourth track on Moment to hear his clean delivery breakout. It was a nice change of pace in the formula. I do wish that the rest of the record carried this same defiance of the established normality, instead of leaning on genre convention, something that the latter half of this album tends to do, with the exception of closing track In Truth Divided. This song brought back a lot of memories to Projector, and I am happy to see the band harkening back to their more diverse category and trying something different.
I won’t go so far as to say formulaic or forgettable, but I will state how songs like A Drawn Out Exit, Ego Deception and Failstate seem very paint by numbers. It’s sad to see musicians, as creative as this, coasting on autopilot, refusing to break the mould when the groundwork is laid to innovate and produce another masterpiece. These are good songs! Hell, these are great songs! Though, for Dark Tranquillity, and given all that time that’s gone by, songs like these were really the best they could do in over four years?! It feels like padding, and it’s a shame.
This approach could partially be explained away by the lineup changes that have happened between records, with long time guitarists Martin Henriksson departing after the release of Atoma in 2016 and Niklas Sundin leaving this year. Newcomers Christopher Amott (Arch Enemy, Armageddon) and Johan Reinholdz (Andromeda, Widow) don’t do a bad job where it counts, though it explains why a lot of Moment is as generic as it is in places. Not a bad record whatsoever, one that I am enjoying, but still a disappointment. Here’s hoping in a few years, when the band’s new line-up is more established and ready to contribute together, that we will get a truly outstanding Dark Tranquillity album that lives up to the legacy.