Dark Tranquillity – Alone In the Void

Saturday, 30th March 2013

(This content originally appeared on Blistering.com)

They’re the last Gothenburg band standing, it seems, whatever that means. Perhaps no band has been so intrinsically tied to its home city than Dark Tranquillity and it’s a blessing and a curse. On one hand, DT can virtually write the same album using traditional melodic death metal elements and everything would be rosy. On the other, wherever they go, whatever they do, the spectre of being a pure melodic death metal band from Sweden’s second largest city will forever follow the long-running Swedes. DT has found a work-around, though.

After a string of predictable, albeit highly enjoyable albums like 2005’sCharacter and 2007’s Fiction, DT returns with We Are the Void, a slight detour from the past. Re-introduced are dominant electronic sounds, something the band used to its advantage on 2000’s vastly underrated Haven. If anything, it enables Dark Tranquillity to say fresh in a stage of their career when most bands are willing to just pack it in.

We caught up with affable singer Mikael Stanne while on their North American run with Killswitch Engage. Fresh off a gig in New York City, Stanne was more than happy to subject himself to Blistering’s interrogations…

Blistering.com: This isn’t the first time you’ve toured with Killswitch Engage, but obviously it’s a much different ballgame for this tour. How has this tour been working out?

Mikael Stanne: It’s been awesome. We go on stage and it’s a totally different crowd than what we’re used to. This is a young, hip audience, but we’ve been able to turn a lot of heads. We’re looking forward to coming back later in the year and hopefully playing for some of the people that have seen us on this tour.

Blistering.com: What’s the reaction been to the new songs?

Stanne: Well, we’re only doing two new songs on this tour. When we come back, we’ll do more.

Blistering.com: To these ears, We Are the Void sounds very Haven-like. Do you agree with that sentiment?

Stanne: [pauses] I haven’t thought about that. I don’t know [laughs]., We tried hard to branch out and incorporate different aspects of what we like. Not so much a different direction, but some new twists and turns.

Blistering.com: Then would you say the writing process has gotten easier? This is your ninth studio album…

Stanne: It’s easier nowadays, only because of technology. But writing the songs…it’s sometimes hard to get going. For the new record, we hadn’t written anything new in a couple of years and we booked studio time and were like, “Look at us! We have nothing!” So we gave ourselves a deadline and that helped get the shit started. Martin [Henriksson, guitars] and Niklas [Sundin, guitaris] had their ideas in which they showed to everyone and we got started.

Blistering.com: You recently added Daniel [Antonsson, bass] to the ranks. How’s he working out?

Stanne: We’ve known him since we were kids. He was around when we started and when he was fired from Soilwork, he got in touch and sure enough, he was in. He knows our lingo and helped contribute to the new album. He wrote “Dream Oblivion,” which is a fantastic song. He has good inspiration and comes from a good place. It’s always good to have fresh new blood in the band.

Blistering.com: Your clean vocals make a return on “The Grandest Accusation” and “Her Silent Language.” Any sort of trepidation around doing them again?

Stanne: Right now, I do it when it needs to be done. I don’t want to overdo it, yet I don’t want to do them for the wrong reasons or to try to please people. I started to attempt them around ‘95/’96 and they just never fit, so we only used them when we need to. I’m pretty happy with how they turned out on the new record.

Blistering.com: The video for “Shadow In Our Blood” must have been an interesting experience for you.

Stanne: It was [laughs]. We didn’t want to do the usual “stand in a basement and look tough” type of video, so I went to Finland in the dead of winter and was surrounded by a bunch of strangers. I was strapped to this 4-wheel pirate ship thing. It was weird. I was very disoriented and since I was strapped in, I only had peripheral vision, so I just saw the sky and trees for 14 hours [laughs]. It was a radical idea, though and it turned out fantastic.

Blistering.com: This ties into the high emphasis DT has always placed on visuals, right?

Stanne: Oh yeah, right from the beginning it was something we always talked about. When we formed we did layouts and art for our releases because we wanted them to be special and unique. We wanted to offer something different than what most bands were doing and since Niklas was good at it, it just made it easier. Now we can do a lot of different things because of Niklas’ expertise. For our European tour we’re working on having projections and animations. It’s cool so all the drunks can get some visuals [laughs].

Blistering.com: We’re now 15 years removed from The Gallery. What kind of perspective do you have on it and will you play the album in its entirety?

Stanne: For me, it’s a very special album. It was our first “proper” album, if you know what I mean. The songs, I just love. The riffs, the ideas, are very special to me. The whole thing was so fresh at the time. Fans keep asking us to do the whole thing, so maybe when we’re not as exciting anymore, we’ll do the whole album live [laughs]. I still feel we’re pretty exciting, though.

Blistering.com: Any thoughts around Jesper [Stromblad] leaving In Flames? He was one of the originals from the Gothenburg scene.

Stanne: It’s sad. I don’t want an In Flames without him in the band. I know he’s been having problems, but what can you do? He wasn’t ready to come back and I respect his decision.

Blistering.com: If you had a penny for every time someone asked you about the Gothenburg scene and its influence on the rest of the world, would you be a rich man?

Stanne: [laughs] Since ’97, I think, I’ve been asked about in almost every interview. We’ve just stayed true to ourselves and our music. I don’t think in terms of the Gothenburg scene and I know Martin and the others guys don’t either. Martin doesn’t even listen to music outside of the band, but he’s the one that always keeps us in check. To see the two of them work together, pulling things apart, then putting them back together, it’s amazing.

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