Sound — 8
Melodic death metal pioneers Dark Tranquillity have recently celebrated their 20 years anniversary with the triumphant DVD-release "Where Death Is Most Alive", and around the same time, their ninth studio album "We Are the Void" finished recording. The band probably need no more introduction than this, and their impressive discography is known for containing modern metal masterpieces such as "The Gallery" (1995), "Damage Done" (2002) and "Fiction" (2007). Will We Are the Void live up to the expectations and will the veterans once again show the young imitators how it's done? And the answer is yes. "We Are the Void" has a personality that sets it aside from the albums it's most oftenly compared to ("Fiction" and "Character" from 2007 and 2005 respectively), but the core sound remains the same. Fast melodic riffs, soaring guitar leads, heavy rhythms and a tasteful use of keyboards are as present as ever on "We Are the Void", but the sound is overall darker. Harmonically and structure-wise, the album is also a bit more complex than their last couple of releases. On opener "Shadow In Our Blood", vocalist Mikaels roar sounds more fierce and black metal inspired than ever, and the song is based around fast riffs and an eerie chorus. Also, the intro of the song, with its eastern-tinged keyboards, caught me completely off guard. It's not the best track on the album, but it does the job. A couple of quite "standard" songs are present on the album, such as third track "The Fatalist", "Surface the Infinite", "At the Point of Ignition" and "In My Absence". While there's absolutely nothing bad with these songs (although "Surface the Infinite" is probably one of their most forgetable songs ever), they feel like they could have been on any other recent Dark Tranquillity album as well. Some might call them fillers, but the quality of these tracks are still very high. Album highlights are the title track with its furious thrash tempos, black metal inspired "Arkhangalsk", the gothic "Her Silent Language", structurally complex "The Grandest Accusation" and the magificently depressive album closer "Iridium". All of these tracks are outstanding proofs of that Dark Tranquillity is more than capable of creating grade A metal. Closing song Iridium with its slow, brooding verses, epic, dark chorus and industrial outro is right up there with "Lethe" from "The Gallery". A true masterpiece.
Lyrics — 10
Mikael Stanne is known for his lyrical abilities, and "We Are the Void" is no exception. The themes are the same as on earlier album, with a protagonist that Stanne explains as "everything he hates about himself" and how he battles and tries to understand himself. The lyrics are furious and poetic, and quite oftenly beautiful without being too pretentious. Some other themes are also explored, such as the core of human nature ("Arkhangalsk") and the end of the world ("Iridium"). The lyrics are deep and deserves to be read, listened to and studied. Mikael Stanne is easily among the best extreme metal vocalists out there, and his mid-range death metal rasp is sure to please almost any fan of the genre. On this album, he uses his clean vocals a bit more than earlier, and also in a different way - less melodrama and more emotion. The clean vocals works perfectly with the music, and closing track "Iridium" really showcases how effortlessly Mikael uses both of his voices.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall, this album delivers the goods, and while some tracks feel a bit too similiar to each other, it still have loads of personality and some quite outstanding songwriting. It shows that Dark Tranquillity still knows how to do it and do it good, and this is certainly on my top albums of the year list. Best tracks: Iridium, Arkhangalsk, Her Silent Language, I Am the Void, The Grandest Accusation Worst tracks: Surface the Infinite