Originally published in Guitar World, June 2010
The Swedish death metallers find harmony on We Are the Void.
Dark Tranquillity been together for two decades, long enough for them to get stuck in their ways not once but several times. Songwriting, in particular, has been problematic for the Swedish death metal sextet. Over the course of eight albums, the group’s members tried to reach consensus when it came to composing. If one member didn’t like a guitar riff presented at rehearsal, for example, they’d abandon it, along with the song to which it belonged.
For their new, and ninth, album, We Are the Void, they decided to try something new and work out their differences. According to rhythm guitarist Martin Henriksson, the track that best reflects their newfound sense of collaboration is the album’s opener, “Shadow in Our Blood,” which lead guitarist Niklas Sundin wrote. “I hated it to begin with,” Henriksson says. “All the riffs were in different keys. I think by suggesting that we drop the keys, the song came together.”
Sundin says the process illustrated the two guitarists’ distinctly different approaches. “Martin is more about structure and I’m more chaotic,” he says. “But it makes for a good combination of different ideas and attitudes to music.”
And, hey, it took only 20 years for them to see the light. But while Dark Tranquillity have been on a slow learning curve, their gradual progress over that time has helped them stay vital from album to album. Dark Tranquillity’s sound—characterized by short, catchy guitar solos, syncopated rhythms and vocalist Mikael Stanne’s powerful growls—developed early on from the group’s lack of experience. Sundin says, “We were focusing on melody in the beginning probably because that’s easier to figure
out when you don’t have that kind of proper training.”
Henriksson certainly has changed his ways over the years. As the band’s bassist through 1999, he used to insist that the guitars and bass play different notes and chords from one another. He relented after the full-time addition of keyboardist Martin Brändström made his demands impractical. “Looking back on it,” Henriksson says, “I realized it was quite retarded.”