By Greg Northrup
Dark Tranquillity are the true pioneers of the Swedish melodic death metal scene. Often imitated but never equaled, seminal works like The Mind's I and the awesome-beyond words opus The Gallery have been regarded as blueprints of the genre. Now with countless bands clamoring in the their wake, Dark Tranquillity has been handed the task of staying ahead of the pack while remaining true to themselves, or risk stagnacity. Two MP3s from the brand new release Projector are now available on the band's website (www.darktranquillity.com) and take it from me, they totally kill! I talked with guitarist Niklas Sundin via E-mail prior to the albums release, and he filled me in on what to expect...
Heaven & Hell: Congratulations! Judging by the few tracks from Projector ("Therein" and "Freecard") that I have heard, the album sounds like real accomplishment. How has the general reaction been to the album so far?
Niklas Sundin: Thanks! The reaction has been nothing but excellent so far. We're doing a lot of
interviews and are getting previews of the reviews, and all people have been
really positive about "Projector" so far, considering it to be an innovative and
generally skullcrushing album - so we're really pleased with that. It seems that
there's a real buzz out there and that many are extremly enthusiastic about the
HH: Do you feel that the melodic death metal style that you helped pioneer has become stagnated? If so, why?
NS: It's the way things work; when a thing has been done a million times by many
different bands, it's not as interesting as it originally was. I don't want to
slag anyone, but none of the newer bands playing in this style have captured my
interest. While some of them undoubtly know how to handle their instruments, the
music is forced and faceless and there's a definite lack of vision and
individuality in their output.
HH: Were the dramatic shifts in your style undertaken in a conscious effort to separate yourselves from imitators , or was the change more natural and evolutionary?
NS: I think it was more of a natural change. Already when writing the material for
"The Mind's I" in '95-'96, we were thinking along the lines of that being the
last album within that distinct genre. Not that our new album is totally
different from our old stuff, but we thought that a change in focus was needed in
order to maintain our interest in playing. Also, since there are so many bands
playing within our established framework, there was a certain need from our side
to move on. We've never aimed to be a band that put out predictable albums that
stay within a certain genre but rather to do whatever that occurs to us at the
HH: What specific musical elements did you add or take away? How do you feel they added to the overall quality of the music?
NS: Tricky question. I mean, I can't say that our music has gotten better and better
with each album; it's more a case of each CD displaying what the band was about
at that time, and this time it wasn't that relevant to keep the speed element to
the same degree as in the past. Apart from that, all I can say is that the
playing is a bit different and that there are much more clear vocals now. People
should definately try to listen to the album with their own ears, since there
have been so many strange rumours of how it's supposed to sound, ha ha.
HH: Generally, when death metal bands attempt to incorporate clean vocals,
they sound terrible. However, the clean vocals on Projector sound incredible. How did you manage to pull this off so well?
NS: Mikael (Stanne, vocalist) has a good and well-developed clear singing voice, as well as a pair of iron lungs for screaming, so there were no problems with that. You're right that
most bands trying to incorporate death metal vox with clear singing sound really
cheesy, so it was a challange to show that it can be done properly.
HH: Who wrote the lyrics? Judging from your having written all of the lyrics on In Flames' Whoracle, have you taken on the role of primary lyricist in Dark Tranquillity?
NS: Actually, the opposite is true. Mikael wrote all the lyrics for "Projector". I've
always thought that it's more genuine to have the vocalist sing his own lyrics,
and since he is a competent pen-wielder it turned out that way. I don't do any
lyrics for In flames now either, by the way.
HH: What are the lyrical ideas that you are trying to present in Projector? Is this a concept album?
NS: It's not a concept album, but there's a certain red line through all the songs.
My impression is that the same keywords as before are being utilized; anguish,
self-loathing and the eradication of the self. Perhaps it's presented in a
different way of writing than before - more Bukowski than Shakespeare, so to say.
HH: Your albums can be extremely difficult to find in America. Was your signing with Century Media simply a matter of better distribution, or were there other factors?
NS: One of the main factors was the improved distribution; it's not reasonable that
fans in Canada, for example, should have to pay high import prizes to get hold of
our music. I can't say that we were dissatisfied with Osmose since they're a good
label, but we wanted to see what we could get with C.M.
HH: I've heard that a tour with yourselves, In Flames, and Children of Bodom is in the works, can you confirm this?
NS: Yes, it'll be a european tour that will last for about a month. Not all the dates
are ready yet, and things are still very much in the working stages, but it looks
realistic to assume that the tour will take place. Getting tours arranged can be
a real hassle, and they often get delayed, cancelled or re-scheduled, but this
time it looks pretty promising. Arch Enemy will also join, so it's kind of a
dream package for a lot of people, which is cool.
HH: Will you be touring in the States in support of Projector? If so, could you please make a stop in New York City?
NS: Right now, no US tours are planned. We've been trying to get a decent proposal
for several years now, but nothing has surfaced so far.
HH: Any closing comments?
NS: Well, thanks for the interview and thanks to the readers for reading this.
Thanks a bunch to Niklas and Dark Tranquillity for the interview. As for the rest of you, be sure to check out Projector when it hits stores on June 23rd.