Kyle McGinn of Dead Rhetoric recently conducted an interview with vocalist Mikael Stanne of Swedish melodic death metal pioneers DARK TRANQUILLITY. A few excerpts from the chat follow below.
Dead Rhetoric: What was it like to write an album without [founding guitarist] Niklas [Sundin]?
Mikael: "It was strange. There was an absence on 'Atoma' as well, as that was when he began to focus on where he needed to be, and it was a struggle to get the album done because of that. So we had to take the reins more than usual already. So going into this album, knowing that we have Chris [Amott] and Johan [Reinholdz], we had to incorporate their talents and way of playing and thinking into it. But we also had a lot of songs ready. So we had a starting point, and knowing where things were going initially. So having Johan and Chris interpret the songs, and not having a time schedule — we were not in a hurry or rush at all. We tried things out to see how they worked and went back and forth on a lot of stuff, to leave some things open to interpretation but also remain true to what is fundamentally DARK TRANQUILLITY in sound. So it was strange and weird not having that comfort, but Martin Brändström [keyboards] has grown into this role even more with this album. He took on a lot more responsibility when it comes to making sure that everyone is on the same page, keeping the songs focused and strong. He made sure the songs kept to the rules and ideas that we are about. Credit goes to Martin for keeping it all together and keeping things focused."
Dead Rhetoric: What do Johan and Chris bring to DARK TRANQUILLITY?
Mikael: "A kind of energy, but fresh perspective into writing the songs. They can be enthusiastic and as critical about anything as we are. It has served to make these songs different in the way that we would like them to be. Sometimes Johan would do something that we thought was fantastic but didn't fit, or sometimes Chris would do something fantastic, but it wasn't really D.T. — there's this weird policing that goes along with it. But in a positive way, to retain what we are about. But having fresh ears and hands to tackle the material has really opened up new possibilities when it comes to writing and recording going forward, as well as playing these songs live."
Dead Rhetoric: You've been working hard on the road the last few years, did the coronavirus give to time to relax at all? Did you work on any home brewing?
Mikael: "Yeah [laughs], what else can I do? I've been drinking a lot, brewing a lot. I wouldn't say it's relaxed, as we have been keeping ourselves busy. But you can be much more relaxed when thinking about upcoming things. You don't have to be worried or rush things. You don't have to have that stress in your system, like finishing something before going on tour. Now we could just focus on the album and go from there. We didn't need to plan the entire year going forward. I think that gave us a different vibe in the studio. Then halfway through, we realized that we didn't need to release it when we initially thought. We could go another month. That afforded us more opportunities and things to do. We could relax, but I don't want that. I want to have a tour plan from the day of the release of the album, so we can go out and travel and see people and perform. Do all that stuff. But it's been a very creative time for the band for sure. We spent so much more time writing, arranging, and producing that we normally wouldn't do. So in that respect, it has been good. I've been more productive this year than I ever have. [Laughs] In that way, I'm really glad that we have this kind of job, even if we rely on an audience and touring. Since we dedicated this year to recording an album anyway, not much changed. We did cancel like 65 shows, but hopefully when this blows over, we can get them back and start again. It's troubling and worrisome, and it makes you feel miserable, but I try to enjoy it for what it is right now. To get the most out of it, and say yes to things that I might normally would say no to. Things that I might not be able to do if I was busy with something else. I can do things that I have thought are interesting, cool, or challenging."
Dead Rhetoric: I think that melancholy really comes through with the new album. The way the clean vocals are in there too. There's some nice "Projector" feelings at times.
Mikael: "Cool, yeah maybe. This one is closer to 'Projector' than any of our other previous albums, I don't know. When we feel like we have the time or opportunity to dig into that [melancholy], it makes it so creatively interesting. We could do a pre-production of all the album and even more songs, and just try things out. We can play with it, change it, have Johan rewrite the song, and then do it all over again. The luxury of having five different versions of songs sometimes and picking the best parts and mixing/matching so we have the right kind of vibe and energy for each song. It really helped this time."
You can read the entire interview at Dead Rhetoric.
"Moment" will be released on November 20 via Century Media Records. The album was recorded at Nacksving Studios and Rogue Music by Martin Brändström and then mixed/mastered by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios.