Revolver has teamed with Dark Tranquillity for an exclusive, limited-edition "Translucent Highlighter Yellow" vinyl variant of their new album, Moment. It's limited to just 200 worldwide, so get yours before they're gone!
In the 30 years since Dark Tranquillity first emerged out of Gothenburg, the Swedish crew have been a leading force in that city's storied melodic death-metal scene (which also includes similarly influential peers like In Flames and At the Gates). Dark Tranquillity have earned countless accolades and released 11 studio albums along the way — but no record in their history has been created under such bizarre circumstances as their 12th and new offering, Moment.
In 2019, Dark Tranquillity began the preproduction process for what would become Moment. By March, they were ready to record. And then the pandemic hit. "That was stressful and weird," says vocalist Mikael Stanne. "We went into the studio where we really felt confined and kind of isolated in a good way — while the rest of the world was feeling the same in a different way, which was super odd."
COVID-19's ongoing spread — and the ensuing psychological, physical, economical and existential effects that rippled through humanity — would not only reshape the band's approach, but also the album's material. "We kind of postponed the release of the album a little bit so that we could spend more time in the studio and just finish things and change some too," says Stanne. "So most songs were written, but I think what we made was much different from where we started. It was cool in that it gave us a lot of freedom and afforded us a lot of time to be more creative and try things out."
We spoke with Stanne about the new LP, the dangers of idle hands, the challenges in keeping a decades long project fresh and how the "new" members guitarists Christopher Amott (Arch Enemy) and Johan Reinholdz (Nonexist, Skyfire) placed their own personal stamp on the material.
HOW MUCH OF THE NEW ALBUM WAS DONE BEFORE COVID CAUSED EVERYTHING TO SHUT DOWN
MIKAEL STANNE Most of it, actually. We started writing early last year, demoing so that we had something to deal with and bounce off, to know a general direction to go. So most of the things were done by early 2020, and we decided to start working properly in March to finally record things and, of course, that's when everything kind of changed ... Chris [Amott] was living in the States at the time, so fortunately he just got here before they shut down all flights. We were super lucky, but it was super stressful for him because his wife was still in New York and he couldn't go back. It took a few months [before] his wife could come here, and now they decided to move here. So they live in Sweden now, which is awesome. It was something that they had thought about and planned before, but COVID kind of expedited the whole procedure a little bit.
That was stressful and weird. And then we went into the studio where we really felt confined and kind of isolated in a good way — while the rest of the world was feeling the same in a different way, which was super odd. Then when things changed all of a sudden, you view the album very differently. "OK, maybe we won't do any shows. We won't be traveling at all this year. So what do we do? All the festivals are suddenly canceled and the American tour as well." So we kind of postponed the release of the album a little bit so that we could spend more time in the studio and just finish things and change some too. So most songs were written but I think what we made was much different from where we started. It was cool in that it gave us a lot of freedom and afforded us a lot of time to be more creative and try things out.
DID THE THEMES OF THE ALBUM CHANGE AT ALL DURING THIS TIME?
I did change some of the lyrics when this started happening. Some of what I had written about — our choices, way of doing things and the paths that we take that lead to the worst places imaginable — made even more sense. So all of a sudden stuff like that I was writing about became kind of true, so that was kind of scary. I think just in terms of how serious we felt recording it — I think that really showed.
And I think for [keyboardist] Martin Brändström, who produced it, he kind of felt this weird pressure to do something special just because of the times we were living in: to really emphasize this pressure, and not just from ourselves and fans, but this mounting pressure that we felt socio-politically and "How do we deal with this?" Questions like "How do we come out of this," "How much is it going to change," or "How are we going to survive this year?" So there was all this insecurity and uncertainty that was so frustrating. And, of course, that was something that we talked about every single day in the studio. So it did definitely affect us, even if it doesn't explicitly [show] in an outward way.
"PHANTOM DAYS" WAS THE FIRST SINGLE YOU SHARED WITH PEOPLE. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT ITS THEMES?
I think the title makes even more sense now than it did a year ago when it was written. It is about [losing] something that you take for granted … then it's gone, but you still feel it and see it and therefore have a hard time letting it go. It's kind of like you see the person you're missing in the streets everyday, even though you know that they're gone. And of course that applies to all the everyday things that we take for granted now.
AS A CREATIVE, MOST PEOPLE'S BIGGEST CHALLENGE IS TIME. THEN ALL OF A SUDDEN IN MARCH YOU HAVE WAY TOO MUCH OF IT! BUT IN A LOT OF WAYS THAT'S A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD … KNOWING WHEN TO SAY STOP AND AVOIDING TINKERING TOO MUCH.
Oh for sure! And for me that happens at home — when I'm sitting and doing demos, I keep redoing it over and over and over and I'm never satisfied. It takes forever. I think the good thing is that Martin has a goal in mind. And it might take time to get there, but once we're there and we can all agree that this is good, then we move on. So things stretch out and sometimes we spend a weekend, with 10 to 12 hour days just trying to fix something, and maybe we don't — but at least we got somewhere.
MOMENTS IS THE FIRST RECORD TO FEATURE NEW MEMBERS CHRIS AND JOHAN. HOW DID THEY INFLUENCE ITS SOUND?
So the two "new guys" — they've been on tour with us for almost three years. They are incredible musicians and they kind of come from the same musical background. We speak the same language about amazing records from the Seventies, Eighties, Nineties, all that stuff. But yeah, it feels like they've been in the band for 15 years. That said, going into this album it was important for us to kind of maintain our sound, obviously. … So we wanted to just really highlight all the good stuff while welcoming some new influence. But it has to be on our terms. So figuring that out was really cool and interesting and fortunately we had a lot of time to do it.
So, Johan did a lot of rewrites on the songs — enhancements and fixed things — whereas Chris focused more on leads and solos. That's how we kind of developed it. So it's very much our style … but with the added technique and skill. I think it's just more of everything and a great continuation of what we were doing. It was definitely important for us to maintain what we have created overall, so in some respects there was a certain kind of "holding back" on these two super shredding guitar heroes. A bit of "We've never done that before and as much as I love it, it just maybe doesn't really fit." That said, they do definitely shine through, just in a way that makes sense.
DO YOU HAVE A PERSONAL HIGHLIGHT FROM THE RECORD? IF SO, WHAT IS IT AND WHY?
It changes every time I listen to it almost, but there's something about songs that you didn't really believe that much when you first heard them and then they blossomed into something. Where you don't have that immediate kind of feeling of "this is going to work." A song like that was "Remain in the Unknown." We knew we had like a cool first verse but then we had no idea what to do with it. It slowly kind of built into something and eventually came out really cool and very different from the rest of the album. To me, it just really sticks out. So that's probably my favorite, right now anyway.
OBVIOUSLY METAL IS YOUR LANGUAGE — BUT AS A CREATIVE, YOUR MUSICAL LEXICON MUST BE MUCH BROADER. IS THERE A MOMENT ON THE NEW RECORD THAT COMES FROM SOMEWHERE THAT'S UNEXPECTED?
Yeah. One is "Ego Deception" — it's really intense but it also has this prog rock influence and the chorus is in 5/4. We're all fans of King Crimson, Marillion and Yes, and for this track we dabbled in odd time signatures. So in making this track it felt like, "This is actually super cool but should it be a chorus? Can we pull it off?" Johan wrote most of that song and after trying a few things it just kind of stuck. We had a blast with trying to figure out how to make it kind of seamlessly work because that's always the hardest part.
"In Truth Divided," which is a bonus track on the CD & vinyl versions of the album, started out as a simple kind of piano — almost like an acoustic track. We reshaped it into a pretty heavy synth track because we didn't want it to transform into a power ballad because that's an easy trap to fall into. So we decided to really kind of fall back on our roots with Depeche Mode, maybe a little bit of The Mission, British goth rock and kind New Wave Eighties synth.
AS A BAND THAT'S BEEN AROUND FOR SO LONG, HOW HARD IS IT TO TOW THE LINE BETWEEN KEEPING IT FRESH AND STAYING TRUE TO THE BAND'S CORE CREATIVE MISSION?
It's natural, actually. This is what I've been doing and what I know how to do. Part of it is just playing to our strengths and then it's also what do we feel strongly about in our music. So we stick to that and that's fine, but that's not enough — you have to do something else. I find myself, on a personal level, sitting in front of a notepad and listening to a song that we've been working on for a while: trying to come up with the right words, the right kind of rhythm, the right kind of vocals for it.
So I usually go with my first instinct and then I listen to it and try something new that inspires me to do it differently. Eventually you get there. So you have to try way harder to find that thing that will differentiate this from our previous work. It's easy to get locked in and realize, "Oh man, we've done this before." But eventually, like if you struggle hard enough and you fight for it, and then eventually you, you've got to find something that at least feels fresh in your mind. But yeah, that is the biggest struggle. And that's why we do need our time in between albums, I think to find that kind of new spark of inspiration and motivation.