Album Review: Dark Tranquillity- Atoma

I’d like to preface this entire review by saying that this will purposefully be the most unprofessional album review I’ve ever written. DT is one of my all time favorite bands, so when talking about one of my favorite bands, I tend to go a little off the deep end and write the way I would speak.

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I’ve got a lot of good things to say about Atoma, but I’ve got a lot of shit to talk as well. Regardless, that’s the way the entire record panned out for me. Song for song, it’s a masterpiece one second and a shit show (I’m exaggerating) the next. Here are the facts:

The Mind’s I and The Gallery are both classic melodic death masterpieces that helped define the genre. Gothenburg, SE is “famous” for “starting” MD, but who knows, right? I mean, some young kids were probably playing the exact same shit At the Gates were playing on Slaughter of the Soul during the 80’s or something while they were stuck in a garage and just never got passed that point.

On occasion, Atoma gives us that classic MD throwback sound we know and love. For example, both the opening riff and verse riff in the opening track, “Encircled” are fucking sweet and thrash very well. Yet, the chorus in this song is kind of melodramatic. When it comes to the midi keys, simplistic riffing and mid paced drums, present especially on the last few albums, it’s no surprise that certain parts of Atoma, are just continuations of where DT left off on Construct (my least favorite). Then again, even Construct had its moments. To me, for every disappointing part in a newer DT song, there’s something else new and fresh that doesn’t rub me the wrong way.

Atoma is just a very emotional album. Musically, it just makes me think of a depressed person going on an emotional roller coaster (we’ve all been there), and maybe that’s not so bad. The writing feels honest and the moments meant to be powerful don’t fall short.

By now, I’m sure most of you reading this (who are fans) have heard the songs, “The Pitiless”, “Atoma” and “Forward Momentum”. Those are the three singles released prior to the album release. So, if you’re at all interested in a quick rundown of what this whole album is about, check out those three tunes on YouTube. The vibes in those three tracks pretty much sum up the album. I’m also a sucker for the “Forward Momentum” video, because it’s very science fiction/post apocalyptic themed. I’ll post it at the end.

One other thing I will say for this album is that it has a lot of deceitful intros. There’s a song called “Clearing Skies” that has a really sappy beginning, then kicks into a brutal classic DT verse, then another melodramatic chorus (that still has chops and decent vibes). I guess that’s a common theme throughout the whole thing now that I think of it. Picture this: Deceitfully good or bad intro + awesome verse riff + melodrama + deceitfully heavy buildup + so so calm/quiet bridge + epic double chorus/outro thing = most of the tracks on Atoma (usually in that order).

Again, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t (IMO). I don’t mean to generalize and say that every song follows the same formula, because that’s not the case at all. In the past, DT has wowed me with their use of melancholic feels through keys, guitar and clean singing. They did it on “My Negation”, the closer on Character, and they did it again on this album’s closer, “Caves and Embers” (if you don’t have the bonus tracks). They weave in and out of the chorus on this track a few different ways, but you always end up back at this triumphant, yet sad sounding synth line over some depressed/gut wrenching chords. It’s a shame that this wasn’t the only song on the album with this kind of vibe, because it would’ve hit a lot harder and been more meaningful without so much sap put in front of it on other tracks.

So, what exactly am I saying here? In a nutshell, I don’t love it, but I certainly don’t hate it. There’s enough classic DT in here to keep me listening and not enough classic DT to make me rank it anywhere near the top of their discography. However, in conclusion, I will say that most of both the clean guitars and lead guitars shine throughout the tracklist. There are quite a few “Yeaaaaah, buddy!” moments from those two elements.

This is also DT’s first album with Anders Iwers on bass and Jens Floren on rhythm guitar (although Jens may just be live), and as a group, they put out another decent record for the diehard fans to munch on. Kudos, metal Swedes. I say, keep doing what you’ve been doing for the last 27 years. For Skydancer though Atoma, Gothenburg thanks you.

 

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