After a four year absence from the Atlanta area, Dark Tranquillity opened a new leg of the Construct World Tour at Masquerade, playing with a passion and vigor that made up for lost time. Joined by two excellent opening acts, Finnish death metal group Omnium Gatherum and California neo-thrashers Exmortus, it would appear that fans of brooding melodic death metal have a lot to look forward to in 2014.
With a traditional Bay Area aesthetic to match their old-school sound, Exmortus took the stage first to warm up the anxiously awaiting crowd. Coming across as a combination of The New Order era Testament, King Diamond and early Children of Bodom, the guttural, throaty vocals and neo-classically inspired solos acted as a contrast as sharp as the band’s technical proficiency. Equal parts homage and innovation, the inclusion of dual lead guitars in particular lead to a few truly impressive moments, such as the sweeping solos during “Immortality Made Flesh.” Consisting of four equally talented musicians, Exmortus are an excellent alternative for those bored with the breakdown-fueled metal of today.
Finland’s Omnium Gatherum played next, and though the group have been around for 18 years, the evening marked the six piece’s first show in the United States. The tension and anticipation of the inaugural performance made for some mutual excitement between the band and the crowd, some of whom had clearly followed the band for quite some time. Though the influence of the evening’s headliners was apparent in Omnium Gatherum’s music, the group’s approach is perhaps more upbeat and optimistic than that of their tour peers, centering on slower songs more concerned with melody than being construed as heavy. This isn’t to suggest Omnium Gatherum aren’t death metal; quite the contrary. However, the dichotomous nature of the music is only propelled by how the group let its songs breathe instead of simply stringing together a series of blast beats and generic guitar solos.
While it took quite a while for Dark Tranquillity to reach Atlanta again, it seemed that the Swedish outfit had no trouble picking up where they left off during the We Are the Void (Century Media) tour. Though the Masquerade stage may be small, Dark Tranquillity refused to skimp out on any production details, and for this alone the group deserves commendation. The stage was flanked with two beautiful, yet macabre art pieces, as well as a projection screen, which played artsy looped video clips and lyric videos to each of the 19 or so songs performed.
It is truly impressive how consistent the group have been over the past two and a half decades. Mikael Stanne’s vocals, for instance, are still as pristine and vicious as they were in 1993 when he initially took over vocal duties, and Niklas Sundin’s guitar tones are equally steady. Visions of gloom danced on the screen behind the group as they treaded through each era of the band’s history, playing hits such as “Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive),” “The Science of Noise,” “Lost to Apathy” and the old but consistently crowd pleasing “Punish My Heaven” from the group’s 1995 record, The Gallery (Osmose Productions).
While the lyrical worlds of Dark Tranquillity’s music are filled with hopelessness and despair, there lies within the band a light shining in the darkness. Enthusiasm was expressed regarding the band’s future, and the remainder of the current tour cycle, in particular. “I feel this is a good start to this North American tour,” Stanne claimed on behalf of the band, as he fist-bumped several audience members. Though their music will undoubtedly remain bleak, fans can only assume Dark Tranquillity’s next move will be anything but.