Sunday, 7 October 2012

CD Review: The Gallery, by Dark Tranquillity (1995)

One of the foundational melodic death metal albums, The Gallery established Dark Tranquillity at the forefront of Sweden's Gothenburg metal scene along with In Flames and At The Gates. The Gallery buckles somewhat under the weight of metal history's expectations, but does offer plenty to enjoy.

The tempo is a controlled mid-pace, the Mikael Stanne vocals are a mid-range growl, and the guitars of Fredrik Johansson and Niklas Sundin trade decent riffs in the best Maiden traditions, without ever fully achieving a unique creative breakthrough. The drums of Anders Jivarp are full of life but sound thin, while Martin Henriksson's bass is very much in the inconspicuous background.

The Gallery places notable emphasis on melodies as a foundation for all the tracks, but continuous themes often get lost. There is an underlying sense of underdeveloped maturity about the songwriting, most noticeable in some clunky transitions, not surprising for a band early in their recording catalogue and helping to invent the fundamentals of melodic death metal, but Dark Tranquillity seem to easily get distracted with too many unrelated elements suddenly intervening to disrupt the thematic cohesiveness of quite a few tracks.

On title track The Gallery and closer ...Of Melancholy Burning, female vocals courtesy of Eva-Marie Larsson rudely intrude, in catastrophically awkward fashion. The clean female vocals sound tentative, under-produced and an overall bad fit.

The band manage to dust themselves free of clutter and create a couple of worthy gems. Opener Punish My Heaven kicks-off the album with a powerful statement of intent, quite brilliant Maidenish guitars to the fore in a potent mix of the clean lines from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and the proudly soiled brawn of death metal. Lethe is perhaps the most ambitious track, with a long, brooding, 80 second introduction crashing into a heroic folk metal theme, guitars shining elegantly thin beams of blue light onto a forested battlefield, Manowar-style vocals adding to the warrior ethos.

There is also a lot to admire in tracks such as Edenspring, The Dividing Line, The One Brooding Warning and The Emptiness From Which I Fed, although moments of short brilliance are often balanced with underdeveloped or unnecessary passages.

The Gallery may lack outright masterpieces, but the artwork on display is never less than engaging.  


Mikael Stanne - Vocals
Fredrik Johansson - Guitar
Martin Henriksson - Bass
Anders Jivarp - Drums
Niklas Sundin - Guitars

Female vocals - Eva-Marie Larsson

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Punish My Heaven - 9
2. Silence, And The Firmament Withdrew - 7
3. Edenspring - 8
4. The Dividing Line - 8
5. The Gallery - 7
6. The One Brooding Warning - 8
7. Midway Through Infinity - 7
8. Lethe - 9
9. The Emptiness From Which I Fed - 8
10. Mine Is The Grandeur... - 7
11. ...Of Melancholy Burning - 7

Average: 7.73

Produced and Engineered by Fredrik Nordstrom and Dark Tranquillity.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

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