Dark Tranquility: Fiction

Fiction contains, without question, some of the best death metal out there, no less than we've come to expect from these long-serving veterans.

Dark Tranquility


Label: Century Media
US Release Date: 2007-04-24
UK Release Date: 2007-04-23

The Swedish melodic death metal scene of the 1990s had a huge impact on those who like their music with a crunch, its instigators infusing a searing sense of melody into the brutal noise terror of Entombed and Dismember, while elsewhere in the Far North, Norway’s black metal minions were burning churches and pledging themselves to Satan. Yet for all their marked influence in some of America’s most radio-friendly metal names, particularly As I Lay Dying, Killswitch Engage, and Shadows Fall, precious few traces remain of those Swedish folks renowned for shaping it. In Flames and Soilwork, after a few seminal albums, fell into step with the metalcore they helped forge, and At the Gates dissolved and reformed as the Haunted, who play the same so-called “mallcore” as the above. Depending on who you ask, the reaction you’ll get regarding these bands ranges from dismissals as sell-outs to a perceptive evolution based on the knowledge that it wouldn’t be long before the new style they had created was flooding the market. There is but one pioneer holding their ground release after release in the 21st century: Dark Tranquility.

Fiction happens to be the Gothenburg stoomtroopers’ eighth album since their inception in 1989, and while being both remarkably consistent and sounding genuinely authentic, the most important element -- by far -- is atmosphere. It’s true; diehards might and probably will scoff at the futuristic production, the risqué emphasis on brooding electronic keyboards, two very "un-metal" components to bring together; yet, despite the dull grey sleet-and-hills design of the cover art, this is a band finding ways to incorporate new colors into their palette yet remain true to their origins. Turbo-charged, rigorous, and on more than one occasion emotional, tricky fingerwork is present in full frontal levels, but that’s only half the good news. It’s the way this six-piece finds to set unnerving electronica to pure shredding that makes it spectacular, so Linkin Park should have no reservations whatsoever about taking notes and learning from the masters.

Vocalist Mikael Stanne, for that matter, who in his time has passed through such legends as In Flames and HammerFall, is well-suited to teach amateur death metal grunters a thing or two. On Fiction, he sings with -- gasp -- actual enunciation in a way that highlights the mournful lyrics, furthermore putting his whole body into the performance and forsaking the comical cookie-monster throat-based style. The other-worldly “Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive)” is the clear highlight of the set, intricately constructed around a coursing keyboard stanza, while the guitars batters relentlessly beneath it. It’s Anders Jivarp’s sharp staccato snare that provides many of the cuts with their backbone; throughout unstoppable old-school headbanger “Nothing to No One” (“The ultimate rebellion, the sacrifice is endless!”), bitingly melodic, piano-laced “Icipher” and fiercely driving “The Lesser Faith”, his patter patter keeps the music tumbling through top gear.

The second half of the album wages a mini-evolution on its own, by slowing the tempos and allowing the misery-ridden words to soak in a little more. Stanne contributes clean baritone vocals uncannily similar to that of Nevermore’s Warrel Dane, and the result is that the choruses here really resonate, from the muscular “Don’t bring it! Don’t bring it!” of “Misery’s Crown” to the challenging “Mundane and the Magic”, in which the band rightfully allow themselves the chance to stretch out all the different components of their complicated, thrashing synthesis and, in a style becoming increasingly popular for the genre, duet with a female singer, Theatre of Tragedy’s Nell Sigland.

Elsewhere, “Inside the Particle Storm” may be an utterly glum doomsday soundtrack. “Our lungs are filled with sarin / Our children drowning like dogs / Handcuffed to the weight of cold dark matter / Without purpose, meaning or name”, Stanne declares over the volatile stop-start mix, but it’s “Empty Me”, taking the snappy, incisive riffs of prime Gothenburg and bridging them to a danceable breakdown in the song’s middle section that proves that, for these melo-death masters, it’s all about showmanship, standing back and seeing where eighteen years of experience can take them. Fiction is a pinnacle of Dark Tranquility’s career, imbued with a sense of impassioned cohesion (method to the madness if you will), visible from the first bass-note of “Nothing to No One”, and enriched by repeat listens.





How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?


The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.


'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.


​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.


Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.


Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.


Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.


Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.


Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.


Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.