After almost thirty years since the Swedish band Dark Tranquility started their trip as pioneers of melodeath, still have something interesting to say is an achievement within reach of the very few. But this band has been capable of overcome themselves over and over yet staying loyal to their style. That’s the case with their last album, Atoma, released in 2016, that I’m reviewing today.
Surprinsingly, despites its melodic nature, Atoma is an obscure work that turns hard to digest, so it’s necessary to listen to the album more than three times to be able to understand the music and appreciate the details of each song. Also, it’s a work of great cohesion and well defined composition style that gives the sense of unity and makes you consider the songs as a whole, avoiding the downsides of these qualities like the lack of variety and boredom, something hard to attain. Althought the classical style of the band is very present in the music, they’ve created a cleaner, colder atmosphere that helps the beauty of the composition to stand out. I’d like to remark the great vocals, since I love Mikael Stanne’s growls.
The album opens with Encircled, a generic song that doesn’t say much on its own, but sets the tone for what’s coming next. The real introduction is made by the self-titled Atoma, clearly a single of nice guitar picking, beautiful synthesizers and catching chorus which has some twists that turns it really interesting and enjoyable. Definitely one of my favorite songs out of the album. Forward Momentum is another accesible song that follows the path set by the previous track, a little less epic and a bit more gothic.
Neutrality puts an end to the more conventional part of the album with an aggressive burst after a ‘post’ introduction. Clean vocals are gone, drums speed up and guitars take the stage. I specially like the bridge part of this one, perfect to headbanging. The only flaw is that maybe the end is a bit too abrupt, like in the previous one. Force of Hand has my favorite intro and the different layers of sound melt perfectly with all their shades, mainteining the force of Neutrality, the super synthesizers and adding some more gothic traces and dark passages. Also, guitar riffing turns really solid and cool. Faithless by Default takes a step back and turns again more classical and easy-to-listen. Rhythm is slow but tricky, going from heavy to atmospheric, and it’s the element that I like the most of this track.
If the first part of the album presents good songs and keep a high level, from this point it’s when things turn really exciting. The Pitiless breaks in with speedy drums, piercing growls and lots of rage, going to the point without much preamble and somehow managing to contradictorily keep some containment, but turning the atmosphere more and more hopeless, a tone that continues with Our Proof of life. This is an emotional, sing-along tune that does its work. After this, the ‘happy song’, Clearing Skies comes in to fix the mood with bright guitars and optimistic melodies, but I don’t like cheerful songs, and that’s why this is the least I liked. The aggression of When the World Screams at first didn’t work for me, until I started to appreciate its marvelous pre-chorus and chorus, that is just insane. Also the bridge part, although it features a too much conventional breakdown, fixs it up with a great guitar solo. Another of my favorites, togehter with Merciless fate. Drums slow down again and the mood turns apocalyptic, opressing and a bit emotional with those lyrics (‘All you can feel is the loss of who you are… All you will know is the void of emptiness‘). Finally, the album is closed by Caves and Embers, a track similar to what we’ve already listened that doesn’t add anything new.
So Atoma offers a work similar to the previous ones of Dark Tranquility and, although it may seem simple in some ways, a careful listening will reveal all the details and complexity of their composition. The truth is that, for me, Atoma turns out as one of the most aesthetic and beautiful albums I’ve heard this year.