The Gothenburg innovators return on their ninth studio album, maintaining their high level of excellence, but lacking growth and innovation.
Dark Tranquillity is one of the only Gothenburg originators that still have a decent level of credibility on the scene. With At the Gates no longer producing quality material, In Flames barely maintaining a shred of their former stature, and Soilwork producing inconsistent music from album to album, there isn't much left of the Gothenburg core to keep the old fans happy. Therefore, a new Dark Tranquillity album always manages to excite fans of the traditional sound, as well as the newer fans that the band has drawn in recent years. After the masterpieces Character and Fiction, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that Dark Tranquillity's ninth studio album would match that level of quality. Dark Tranquillity entered the studio prepared to do just that on We Are the Void, armed with new writing and recording techniques that were intended to make their sound even better.
This album is certainly a solid addition to Dark Tranquillity's discography. There's no denying that these songs have intensity, melody, and technicality blended into the signature Dark Tranquillity sound. Mikael Stanne's vocals are as powerful as always, carrying his unique passion and surprising depth throughout. Stanne also breaks out his clean singing voice once again on the track "Her Silent Language", and after the excellent clean-sung parts of "Misery's Crown" on Fiction, bringing back the clean singing on We Are the Void is sure to please both new and old fans. New bassist Daniel Antonsson delivers an excellent performance, fitting into the sound perfectly and providing a strong foundation for the rest of the sound. His performance is doubly good considering that he normally plays guitar and has not played bass in any of his other bands.
The sole problem with this album is that there is a definite lack of growth compared to the progress shown on previous albums, especially Fiction. The biggest indicator of this is that there isn't a lot of variety in the compositions from one song to the next. Aside from changes in speed and an occasional key change, there's nothing preventing the songs from blending together. A lot of these tracks actually feel like they should be Fiction B-sides, since they have almost the exact same tone and atmosphere. The exceptions to this are "I Am the Void", which almost feels like a thrash song with its straightforward speed and intricate solo; and "Iridium", which has a doom metal atmosphere similar to the style of Katatonia and Swallow the Sun. Apart from these two tracks, most of this album is lacking in inventiveness.
We Are the Void is definitely a good album, and will surely generate a lot of new fan favorites. The songs are what you would expect from Dark Tranquillity, and this is a band that never fails to deliver quality material. However, a little more stylistic variety would have made this album stand out much more from its predecessors. Granted, Dark Tranquillity have been doing this style of metal for over two decades, and there is only so far you can take your sound before you reach the limit of progression. But still, adding a little variety to the sound of their next album will be necessary to avoid the appearance that the band is in a creative rut.