Dark Tranquillity has created yet another masterpiece with their latest album, _Character_. With each album, they re-define their sound; while there are many similarities, every collection of their work is highly unique from each other. _Skydancer_ was a dark, harsh album, with some songs bordering on black metal in their sounds. _The Gallery_ emphasized beauty and classical song structures, with brooding vibes of desperation and tragedy. _The Mind's I_ had shorter, more riff-based songs, yet retained much of the aforementioned qualities. On _Projector_, song after song featured clean vocals and a less aggressive nature (causing many a foolish listener to believe that Dark Tranquillity "sold out"). And their past two albums, _Haven_ and _Damage Done_ incorporated many electronic elements and monstrously deeper vocals. While _Character_ is not a great departure from these latter two albums, it shows that Dark Tranquillity is exploring every nook and cranny in their new blend of industrial/melodic/death metal - and by exploring, they are continuing their progressive nature.
The lineup on this album is the same as it's been for the past six years, with the guitar team of Martin Henriksson (formerly the band's bassist) and Niklas Sundin, bassist Michael Nicklasson, drummer Anders Jivarp, electronics guru Martin Brandström, and vocalist Mikael Stanne. The band is in top shape on _Character_, with particularly shining performances by the latter two. While Martin Brandström's contributions might be no less prominent on this as they were on _Haven_ or _Damage Done_, he has refined his sound, experimenting with much more atmospheric and unusual sounds. Mikael Stanne's vocals have returned to their higher rasp as heard on _The Mind's I_ and _Projector_ (but still deeper than they were on _The Gallery_), and just as emotional and urgent as ever. He occasionally will drop his voice to a whisper, or howl with that same terrific roar which made Dark Tranquillity's past two albums so effective.
"The Endless Feed" opens with trancelike electronic sounds, before a wall heaviness blasts in like an explosion. Mid-tempo in the verses, Niklas and Martin play a sort of lockstep rhythm as Martin Brandström , the pace picks up in the choruses, largely driven by the chugging guitar riffs. In the bridge, there is a moment of quiet as Mikael's voice (under a sort of effect) lurches out from behind the electronic pulses: "I can take what's being given/ I can down whatever comes/ I will do what you deem necessary." And framed by explosive guitar riffs, he then screams "MY FEAR COMPELS ME!"
The first single, "Lost to Apathy," features heavy usage of electronics to texture and complement the guitars. There are some lightning-fast riffs in this song, evenly balanced out by sweeping waves of melodies. Mikael also drops his voice to roar during parts of the choruses, adding to the multifaceted nature of this album.
There are also a few surprises peppered throughout the album. One such is the main rhythm which "The Endless Feed" follows - just listen to the galloping guitar riffs which charge over Anders Jivarp's propulsive drumming. Long has Dark Tranquillity been labeled "melodic death metal," largely because of the vocals, but this is the closest to death metal they have ever been, for Anders creates highly effective blast beats! This song sounds almost like it could be a re-creation of a track from _The Mind's I_.
Album closer "My Negation" is epic-themed, with a sort of desperation in Mikael's voice which evokes feelings of finality and yearning. There are some clean electric guitar leads and brilliant harmonies. Just imagine a cousin to the instrumental closer to _Damage Done_, "Ex Nihilo," but with vocals which only add to the tragic, yet beautiful, themes. This was a perfect choice of a song to end the album with.
Finally, the artwork on this album (once again designed by Niklas Sundin with his own Cabin Fever Media studios) is among Dark Tranquillity's best. It perfectly complements the music, highlighting technology's integration with life.
There are no signs of Dark Tranquillity slowing down, losing ideas, or getting tired on this album. With this album, they have really outdone themselves. By highlighting all their best qualities, they can collect a wide range of sounds, styles, and vibes and incorporate it all into good music. _Character_ is, without a doubt, Dark Tranquilllity's pantheon to their true nature: a progressive band in the finest form.