Death metal is a genre in which there's not a lot of room for diversity in sound. In between multi-metered riff barrages, machine gun-like blast beats and haunting vocals, experimentation is rare.
Sweden's Dark Tranquility tests those boundaries with their latest release, Character. Sticking to the aggressive roots that made them an underground sensation, Dark Tranquility have set out to change the formalities of their genre. Melodies and hooks are added to the group's weaponry, layered with ever-present gothic keyboards.
Character's opening tracks--"The New Build" and "Through Smudged Lenses"--display the classic aggression and attitude of Dark Tranquility. Drummer Anders Jivarp plays 100 miles per minute with his lightning-quick beats, and guitarists Niklas Sundin and Martin Hendriksson complement Jivarp's playing by matching it with menacing riffs and varying tempos. Vocalist Mikael Stanne puts the "death" in death metal with his bloodcurdling and nightmarishly pissed- off lyrics.
"The Endless Feed" showcases the Swedish sextet's sonic evolution. Instead of firing off at will, programmer Martin Brandstrom begins the track with a more atmospheric sound, then it heads into the territory of mid-tempo, crunch riffs and eased-back beats. Stanne retains his aggressive message, but at a calmer pace.
The remaining tracks on Character find a perfect balance between the band's older sound, combined with their modern experimentation. It's quite possibly Dark Tranquility's finest effort, if not their most complete.