Sweden's DARK TRANQUILLITY, it has to be said, have a lot to answer for when it comes to influencing some of the desperately dull darkwave metal that has flooded the European continent. But more than that, they do have the tendency themselves to shatter your concentration span with some of their own dull darkwave offerings and one-paced tendencies. It goes without saying that they wouldn't want to leave you with such an impression through this two-disc, career-spanning retrospective.
To that end, the bad news is that if you've ever witnessed the Gothenburg metallers live in anything other than a shortened support slot — and you're not a DT devotee to any great extent — the seventy-minute plus live disc proves to be somewhat agonizing as the minutes tick by far too slowly. On the plus side, if nothing else, it shows that the band has a pair of highly competent guitarists in Niklas Sundin and Martin Henriksson. When they're throwing a few six-string tricks and the songs have a bit more general "oomph" and colour about them ("The Treason Wall", "Zodijackyl Light"), you could possibly envisage yourself rockin' in the aisles. However, the old musical autopilot is activated all too often on the likes of "Haven", "Indifferent Suns", "The Sun Fired Blanks", "Lethe", "Therein"… we could go on. And on. Okay, so it's an almost entirely note-perfect set with absolute clarity. But that's not nearly enough, of course. What's more, if you are one of those aforementioned lovers of TRANQUILLITY, chances are you'll already be in possession of the "Live Damage" DVD recorded live in Poland in 2002 (which this CD is ripped from).
So, with that out of the running, why such a high mark at the top of this review you might ask? Well, quite frankly, for seven tracks from the beginning of disc one, DARK TRANQUILLITY surpass expectations and then some. Considering that these were all either previously unreleased or Japan-only tracks, they're certainly six of the best from any DT era. The keyboards soar and dive on opener "Static" and its general melodies stretch that bit further than normal. "Cornered" simply has "epic" stamped all over it in every department. Pick of the bunch though by far is the fantastic "Misery in Me", which in essence could hold the secret to DARK TRANQUILLITY becoming a more captivating proposition. Vocalist Mikael Stanne actually sings — not growls — throughout the whole track, you see. And it's a masterful performance set to smooth soul-searching excellence from his bandmates. Why doesn't he permanently leave the monotone growls behind, you wonder, and add a healthy dose of extra character to music that screams out for it when he's this good? Following this, we get extracts from their first demo "Trail Of Life Decayed" and debut EP "A Moonclad Reflection". Inevitably, these sound pretty dated (although probably sounded killer at the time) and only bear fleeting resemblance to the DARK TRANQUILLITY of today. Nevertheless, long-lost material is always welcome to those aficionados with hard-earned cash in expectant hands.
Happily, if those six aforementioned gems are anything to go by, even us non-believers can look forward to their forthcoming new album with quiet confidence.