Aniruddh "Andrew" Bansal of Metal Assault recently conducted an interview with vocalist Mikael Stanne of Swedish melodic death metallers DARK TRANQUILLITY. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Metal Assault: Your new album, "Construct", is coming out at the end of May, and the public got its first taste of the album just today, with the song "For Broken Words". That song is a bit darker and heavier than what you did on "We Are The Void". Is that a representation of the new album, or does the album vary from song to song?
Mikael: We feel it's a pretty good representation. It's not like the rest of the songs sound exactly like that. But it's definitely a darker album. It's definitely heavier in many ways. It's more melodic, and yeah, it's the first song of the album so it kind of kicks things into gear. At least we feel that way. We're very proud of the song, the way it came out, and we felt like it would be a good choice for the first premiere. It'll open some eyes, some people will probably be surprised by it, and that's the reaction we wanted. I've been browsing through the band's Facebook page, and many people are like, "Oh, shit!" That's what we wanted! It would have been boring if they were instead saying, "Oh alright, another song, nothing special."
Metal Assault: Talking of "We Are The Void", I think it's an amazing album and one of the best releases of 2010. But was it important for you to not repeat and put out the exact same thing?
Mikael: Yeah, for sure. As good as we feel about that album and the way that it came out, the writing process for that album was grueling and really, really difficult. We spent almost a year in the rehearsal room just going back and forth with songs and parts, bits and pieces here and there, and working so hard just to make it work. It was torture at times, but that eventually is a good thing because what comes out of that misery is something positive in the end. But it was really, really tough. So, after the touring that we did for "We Are The Void", we just couldn't go back and do something like that again for another year. We didn't have the energy for it, we didn't really feel inspired, we didn't have the drive to actually do that. So we figured that we had to do something else. In order to make an album, we had to do something drastic. What ended up happening was that we just kept booking more tours. Let's do another tour, another festival, let's do this and that, so we don't have to worry about making a new album [laughs], because it just seemed like an obstacle that we couldn't overcome. So eventually we just decided, "Fuck it! Let's take all the material we have, go in the studio and just focus." Niklas, Martin and Anders were like, "Perhaps we all don't have to do it at the same time. If the three of us start and put it together, it'll eventually work for all of us." Because it's easier to be three and not five or six, so that's how it started. They prepared all the basic foundations of the songs, and then I started working on it, and we finished it. So, at least in our minds, it was really an "against-all-odds" kind of thing. We felt like it was not going to work. Where do we take this? Where do we go? What is it going to sound like? Is it going to work? Is it fun or interesting? Do we have something to say? It's the 10th album; does it have any purpose? It was really like a low point, you know. But what ended up happening was that we were more energized, inspired and positive than ever before. It turned out to be a really positive experience, as tough as it was. The end result was so satisfying, because of the struggle we had to go through to get there.
Metal Assault: I thought "We Are The Void" was a continuation of "Fiction" in terms of the musical elements, but this one is almost like a fresh thing. Would you agree with that?
Mikael: Yeah, it's kind of like a reaction to what we've been doing. It just didn't feel inspiring to keep doing the same thing. As happy as we were with the direction, you just cannot keep repeating yourself for doing the same thing. You have to feel fresh. The slightest little change in the method of writing is a welcome one. If you can start from a different angle or perspective, it makes all the difference and I think we just didn't want to do another album like that. We decided, let's do it differently. This is more melody-driven, I think; some of the songs are really heavy and others are really slow and mellow. There are some "out there" parts and some of it is catchy and to the point. I guess we tried to strip out all the unnecessary stuff and focused on what was really important. That's always a challenge too. Making simple, straight-forward music can be as hard as making complex music.
Metal Assault: Your bassist, Daniel Antonsson, was announced to have departed the band earlier this year, and you announced the completion of the album soon after. Just to clarify, does he play bass on the album?
Mikael: No, he left before that. We decided that it wasn't working anymore and he wasn't really there for the band. His mind was somewhere else and he wasn't really pulling us in the right direction, so to speak. So we just felt like it's not working, and this was before we started writing, actually. But we made it official a little bit later, so it didn't affect the writing or recording at all beside the fact that we didn't have a bass player during the recording. But Martin used to play bass, and when we talked about it, he didn't think it was a bad idea. He was like, fuck yeah! He hasn't played bass in the band since '99 but it made perfect sense and he came up with some really, really cool stuff. His playing is immaculate and perfect, so it was very cool and I was very happy to hear his bass playing in the band again. Now we've got to find a session guy for a while until we find someone serious. For a while, we're just going to take it easy and have session members.
Read the entire interview from Metal Assault.