Sound — 7
Dark Tranquility has been making extreme metal since it was considered just some weird music that lives over in those Viking countries. Arguably one of the first melodic death metal bands, they formed in 1989 and were an integral part of the Gothenburg metal scene. They have managed to stand apart from their contemporaries in the genre by changing up their sound fairly frequently and continuing to experiment. During different phases of their career they have experimented with clean vocals mixed in with the normal death metal growled vocals, and with this album we once again see some occasional clean vocals make an appearance. "Construct" is the tenth full length studio release by Dark Tranquility and has ten tracks (or twelve if you get the deluxe US version). The runtime on the standard version of the album is just over 40 minutes with an average song length at somewhere around three and a half minutes. The cover art and track listing were revealed on March 27, 2013. The first single from the album, "For Broken Words" was released on April 15, 2013. The second single, "The Science Of Noise," was released just 10 days later on April 25th. The music video for "Uniformity" was released on May 10th then followed by the third single, "Endtime Hearts," on May 23, 2013.
The album is slightly less aggressive than Dark Tranquility's previous releases and in some cases the keyboard and guitar are almost more ambient than anything. On many of the songs you wouldn't guess that this is a melodic death metal album until the growled vocals come in. The drums on the album were seriously impressive for a death metal release, melodic or not. Anders Jivarp actually plays the drums and adds value to the songs instead of a lot of the double bass pedal craziness that has become so popular in extreme metal. The album opens with the single, "For Broken Words," with a melody played via some serious tremolo picking early in the song, building to some melodic guitar and bass parts with some intermittent chugging. The next track, "The Science Of Noise," has some rather interesting guitar riffing going on, which wasn't at all what I expected from this album. "Uniformity" is the third track on the album and has a distinctive sadness running throughout it, as well as being the first track on the album with any substantial clean vocals. Also, while Dark Tranquility have been using keyboards in their music for a while, they are one of the few melodic death metal bands doing it right, more for emphasizing riffs and creating an atmosphere than being overpowering. Without giving a rundown of each individual song, this could possibly be the most diverse release in Dark Tranquility's history.
Lyrics — 8
Mikael Stanne's vocals are impressive, both growled and clean, expressing a depth of emotion that is unique in the world of extreme metal. While the vocals are primarily growled, there are clean vocals at almost regular intervals throughout the album. Mikael is unique in that he can growl without his lyrics becoming indecipherable, and also he has a very solid baritone voice for clean vocals. Occasionally, Mikael uses a whispered growl for a passage here and there which I haven't heard him use on an album before, and this was a nice touch adding more dynamics to his vocal style. As an example of what I'm talking about check out "Endtime Hearts." As this is death metal, the lyrics tend to stick to some darker topics but more in the realm of sad/melancholy instead of gruesome and evil. As a sample of the lyrical content here are some lyrics from "For Broken Words": "No truth, no lie/ it twists and turns/ into something that is not to be/ what truth is left/ what's abandoned as the life flew by/ our words are broken/ commit to sacrifice/ betrayal of the code/ thrust into nothingness/ no truth, no lie." Or here is another short sample, this time from the track "The Science Of Noise": "To connect/ and make sense of it all/ realize/ through the chaos within/ we measure what is everything but real/ on a crooked scale."
Overall Impression — 7
I know I'll get some flak for this statement, but "Construct" sounds like what I imagine a melodic death metal album written by Steven Wilson would sound like. Honestly, a lot of the album would fit in alongside multiple other genres if not for the growled vocals. This isn't a bad thing, as it allows each song to have its own character and room to breathe instead of being an onslaught of full on aggression for 40 minutes. Honestly, I only dabble in melodic death metal but I was glued to this album. The songs are each unique in and of themselves and the album is composed very well as a whole. My favorite tracks from the album would be "For Broken Words," "Endtime Hearts" and "None Becoming." This album would probably qualify as one of the most surprising releases this year, for myself. Even for those who aren't fans of death metal or extreme metal, I would still recommend this album as it is seriously impressive.