Melodic death metal icons Dark
Tranquility just released Atoma
last month, and the album, perhaps more than many of their past albums, reflects the name of the band in a strikingly literal sense. On Atoma
Tranquility diverges from what a lot of the critically acclaimed bands choose to do. They follow a set of ideas more like that of Soilwork
’s The Living Infinite and The Ride Majestic
– with a dark, gut-wrenching twist of the sound. The cunning riffs and progressions echo through the mind of the listener like malicious, howling wolves. Unlike the albums of many melodeath bands such as Amon Amarth
, who are known for gorgeous melodies that leave the listener in ecstasy, Atoma
berates the listener and transports them to a world ruled by shadows and phobias. Even as the chaotic resonance of Atoma
is its most prominent feature, the brilliant minds of the members find a way to interject a sense of serenity into the music. Even that which is dark and cold can be gorgeous, such as the wilderness during a blizzard. Even the hurricane has its eye, which seems distant from the rest of the storm in its peacefulness, but is ultimately connected to the entire cell.
The flow of the album is logical and conscience.
The first song, Encircled, drops the listener into the world of Atoma
with its descending riffs. If you close your eyes, you almost feel as if you’re dropping into some kind of crystalized ice cavern a hundred miles under the arctic ice caps. Such a description many not be sufficient; perhaps the album truly brings the listener into the caves of some far off world that has yet to be discovered by mankind. The harmony between the darkness and the beauty of the song almost seems impossible, yet, is clearly audible to the listener.
, the title track, brings the feel of the album into an entirely different mood. The darkness subsides, and the straightforward melody of the song reminds me of a plain rock song with a hint of melodeath. The upbeat tune of the song sounds like a battle anthem for weak, and the hungry. The electronic sound playing over the main guitar riff adds another layer that would give the song a much more simplistic feel without it. In addition to the growls of the frontman, clean singing that has a prominent resemblance to the vocals of Björn "Speed" Strid
is woven into the tune.
The next few songs vary between serene, and cold, clean vocals and growls eloquently sewn and blended into the music. Whenever the album reaches Faithless by Default
, the listener is plunged into a whole other level of gloom and mystical wonder. The next couple of songs drive the point home.
Clearing Skies is when the album really starts to go to its conclusion. It’s no coincidence that the name of the song is Clearing Skies. It starts the transition from the dark, stormy night, to the peaceful, quiet morning that follows. The melodies of the song are more comforting and harmonious than the dissonant, chaotic riffs of the other songs of the album. The song immediately following Clearing Skies, When the World Screams, takes one last shot at aggression before the album calms down for good.
The final song of the album really brings the album to a close. The opening riff of the song really makes it sound like the last chapter of a book, and that chapter ties up all the loose ends, and answers any unknown questions. It eases the listener into the end of the fantasy, and gives them a resolve that they can’t forget.
Many fans of Dark
Tranquility criticized them because they were experimenting with some new elements and clean vocals. In my mind, not only did they succeed in implementing the new elements, they succeeded heavily with album flow. Not all bands have a huge regard for album flow – they just write a bunch of songs that they like, and put them together. Atoma
sounds like a book that’s supposed to be read in order from the first chapter, to the last. It has different highs and lows throughout the album, and in the end, it creates a perfect, unified symphony. Like clockwork, all of the aspects and constituents of the album function together to make a working machine.
Is it different? Sure, but it’s different in a way that I really enjoyed. I’ll admit that it took some time to break the album in. Atoma
feels like a fine wine in a sense that it’s an acquired taste. It takes a little bit of time and speculation to truly realize the work of art that Atoma
is, and how genius the members of Dark
Tranquility are for creating what they’ve created. I’m not used to the kind of melodeath that they create – I’m used to the likes of Amon Amarth
, and others, whose expressions aren’t so… well, dark. Dark
Tranquility definitely made Atoma
match their name. It’s a little odd to hear musical elements that are so diametrically opposed – that is, darkness, and serenity – combined into one work. However, I think that once again, they pulled it off pretty well.
While I think Atoma
is a great album, I still naturally gravitate towards melodeath like Amon Amarth
, so for me, this album earns a 7/10, especially for its creative blending of elements, and for its clockwork flow. I hope that those of you who feel this album is problematic will give it a few more listens and contemplate what they’ve really done here before you judge it so harshly.