Dark Tranquillity - _Damage Done_
(Century Media, 2002)
by: Pedro Azevedo (
Albums such as 1995's masterpiece _The Gallery_ or 1997's brilliant _The Mind's I_ must not be an easy legacy for Dark Tranquillity; indeed, I suspect that they may even burden their creative process somewhat, much as the band may try to avoid it. For the past couple of albums (_Projector_ [CoC #41] and _Haven_ [CoC #49]), they have been trying hard to introduce new elements into their music: first keyboards and clean vocals, then electronics. They tried to keep moving on instead of going back and trying to outdo themselves by writing an even better _The Gallery_ or _The Mind's I_. This has earned them mixed reactions from fans and critics alike, but personally I have an unusually soft spot for _Projector_ and I also find _Haven_ a very enjoyable disc in its own right. When I first heard that _Damage Done_ would be, to a considerable extent, something like Dark Tranquillity's return to their roots, I felt simultaneously eager to hear it and unsure of whether it would be a good option for them -- simply because their past efforts still stand as major landmarks in the metal world to this day. Ultimately, _Damage Done_ does harken back to _The Mind's I_ more than its predecessors; a couple of riffs bear some resemblance to _Projector_, and the use of electronics is akin to that on _Haven_, even though they normally take the back seat in the music. _Damage Done_ is overall more aggressive than _Projector_ and _Haven_, but without shedding the electronic nuances the band has been using lately. These are generally unobtrusive throughout the album and complement some of the slower tracks nicely. Mikael Stanne's distinctive vocals are again in top shape, this time in a slightly lower range than he has used in the past. In addition to the irreproachable technical aspects of the music, the production on _Damage Done_ is -very- powerful while still retaining all the necessary clarity for everything to shine through. The opening track, "Final Resistance", is among the best tracks Dark Tranquillity have written in a long while, and the material on _Damage Done_ is generally up to the standard set by the band's last couple of records, some of it standing out as highlights from that set of albums -- which is saying a lot. The mixture of quick-and-aggressive, quick-and-melodic and mid-paced material is wisely scattered on the disc, which comes wrapped in excellent artwork -- possibly Niklas Sundin's best work ever in that field. The same cannot really be said of the band's output (one has to consider albums such as _The Gallery_), but _Damage Done_ certainly does not disappoint either. It is not revolutionary, and it is not -everything- I hoped for from Dark Tranquillity (which would have been a 10 out of 10), but it is still a thoroughly enjoyable piece of modern Swedish melodic death metal. [David Rocher: "Dark Tranquillity's sixth release leaves me to dwell on an irritating feeling of very mitigated appreciation. Despite possessing, in appearance at least, all the components crucial to a good Gothenburg death metal release -- aggressive, melodic and powerful riffs, powerful drums, Mikael Stanne's unique vocal style and a murderous production with roaring low-end tonalities --, _Damage Done_ flows pleasantly past one's eardrums, yet deals precisely too little raging aural damage to remain memorable. Niklas Sundin's and Martin Henriksson's very melodious guitar work sadly doesn't strike me as groundbreaking or distinctive, and Martin Brandstrom's now very widespread electronic incursions only display shining inspiration on a very sporadic basis, hence mollifying _Damage Done_ more than they invigorate it with new force. Although a sadly meagre number of tracks do hit their mark (as the muscular opener "Final Resistance" or the intricate "White Noise / Black Silence") with great accuracy, the final notes of _Damage Done_ form closure to an album which, in my mind, lies shrouded in a veil of agreeable, yet mostly indifferent musical emotion."]
(article published 1/9/2002)
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