Saturday, October 5, 2024

Dark Tranquillity & Amorphis Fires In The Distance

Doors | 6:00 pm // Show | 7:00 pm

Dark Tranquillity

Melodic death metal phenoms DARK TRANQUILLITY herald uncertain times on their new album, Endtime Signals. The Swedish outfit made their mark indelible with The Gallery (1995), Damage Done (2002), Fiction (2007) and the Grammy-winning Moment (2020) but are now venturing into the skyline beyond. By harnessing the chaos/despair of our day and embracing family—former members Fredrik Johansson (R.I.P. 2022) and Niklas Sundin contributed to two songs—DARK TRANQUILLITY break through apathy, fragility and wickedness on Endtime Signals. Mikael Stanne (vocals), Martin Brändström (keyboards), Johan Reinholdz (guitars), Joakim Strandberg Nilsson (drums) and Christian Jansson (bass) empower our passions, light our darkness and blaze us away from annihilation throughout the album’s 12-song sweep, but it’s singles “The Last Imagination”, “Unforgivable” and “Not Nothing” where they focus wholeheartedly on the journey.

“It’s an inspiration to have new musicians [Joakim and Christian] in DARK TRANQUILLITY,” says Brändström, spotlighting recent lineup changes. “There’s new flavors with new musicians. Joakim is a very technical drummer. He opened up new avenues of composing music. With that energy, we thought it would be cool to revisit faster songs. Christian, who is from Pagandom, understood who the band are and already knew what we’ve done—I think he’s been in our orbit since day one. They’re both highly motivated. So, figuring out the album we wanted to make wasn’t a stretch for them. Musically, it’s melancholy neighboring rage. The world is futile, and our music gives us (the band and our fans) the power to do something about it. We’re standing strong, confronting things head-on”.

Endtime Signals is tried and true DARK TRANQUILLITY. It has white-hot aggression (“Unforgiveable”), ballads (“One of Us Is Gone”), balance (“The Last Imagination”), moody movie-like scores (“Our Disconnect”) and ominous proclamations (“A Bleaker Sun”). Yet, this time, it all feels different. The Gothenburgers are, in a way, starting anew. The lineup has changed—both Strandberg Nilsson and Jansson are new to the fold—and so too has life and everything it’s thrown at the band. The storm clouds have profoundly affected the Swedes. With Reinholdz helming the songwriting with Brändström, the story that began with We Are the Void (2010) has ended. Endtime Signals is a darker, grittier, more resolute DARK TRANQUILLITY. Whereas Moment spun positivity into the zeitgeist, Endtime Signals is less optimistic. The lyrics by longtime wordsmith Stanne reflect that.

“The last time I wrote was before the pandemic”, Stanne says, who described Endtime Signals as absolutely cathartic. “It was time to deal with some of that. Many things happened when we started writing for this album a year and a half ago. We lost a lot of friends like Fredrik [Johansson]. The world seemed like a more hostile place overall. We have new guys in the band, too. We felt like we had to make an album that needed to be taken very seriously. So, it’s everything I’ve been thinking about for the last two years. We’re destroying our lives, world, atmosphere and reality systems. It’s so hard to get along and agree on things now. There’s a lot of doomsday feeling in this album. I asked myself, how do

we get ourselves out of this? I felt helpless and insignificant. All this spiraled into what I’d call a ‘light depression’. Writing was my only way out of it”.

DARK TRANQUILLITY recorded Endtime Signals at Rogue Music, Nacksving Studios and Fascination Street Studios. The band spent endless hours at producer Brändström’s Rogue Music in Gothenburg, recording guitars, bass, keyboards/electronics and vocals. Strandberg Nilsson’s drums were ferried to Jens Bogren’s Fascination Street Studios in Örebro, where engineer Alexander Backlund (Soen, Dödsrit) knocked it out of the park. The strings, prominently woven into the touching Johansson tribute “One of Us Is Gone”, as performed by members of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, were, along with additional guitars, finalized at Nacksving Studios, also in Gothenburg. Jens Bogren (Ihsahn, At The Gates) expertly handled the mix and master. All told, DARK TRANQUILLITY was nestled in Endtime Signals production from October 2023 to March 2024. The arduous toil resulted in a magnificently-sounding endeavor of artful perfection and human intelligence. Whether it’s the aggro-melodic sharpness of opener “Shivers and Voids,” the crushing weight of “Drowned Out Voices,” the dystopian vibes of “Our Disconnect,” or the Niklas Sundin-inflected “False Reflection,” Endtime Signals has an unmistakable halo.

“We already knew Jens was going to mix—that was obvious from the beginning”, Reinholdz says, revealing DARK TRANQUILLITY’s propensity to plan in advance. “We felt it made sense for the drums to be recorded with Alex at Fascination Street Studios, but there was a long pre-production period. I’d say Martin’s in everything the deepest, but our process is very democratic. Me, Martin, Mikael and, to some extent, Joakim were constantly revising the songs. We’d play off one another. There’s a lot of nuance in our work, especially with the riffs, where the solos fit in and how the keyboards sound against it all. That took a lot of time. I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out”.

Former guitarist Sundin has had a direct hand in—whether via his name or design studio, Cabin Fever Media—DARK TRANQUILLITY’s art direction going back to the early ’90s. The industrious Swede has also played a significant design role in bands like Arch Enemy, In Flames and At The Gates, to name a few. Reprising his long-standing position as their go-to visual innovator, Sundin crafted a cover that’s as striking as the music and portentous as the lyrics: the shadowy hues and simple lines telegraph DARK TRANQUILLITY’s new posture. The sun is blurred black, the heavens have violently opened and the duo on the cover embrace an unfortunate ascension. The Endtime Signals have indeed begun.

“The basic sketches and some of the more refined drawings were done with old-fashioned pen on paper”, Sundin says, who was involved from the very beginning. “I still feel that this is the most direct and intuitive method. After scanning the illustrations, the rest of the work was done in the digital
realm (though still mostly hand-drawn in the sense that I use a Wacom tablet). I think this analog-to-digital method mirrors the music well; there’s a human component where one values tradition and craftsmanship, but at the same time, there’s a lot of forward-thinking as well”.

Many albums define the times. Just as Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss symbolizes the ’90s, Opeth’s Ghost Reveries the aughts and Watain’s Lawless Darkness the tenties, DARK TRANQUILLITY’s Endtime Signals



the album of our day. The 12 impactful, powerful songs on offer speak to our inward-moving souls, question our increasingly selfish motives and act defiantly as wedge in the darkness. They do so with remarkable finesse. Will we see the signs and understand the humble yet gifted language of DARK TRANQUILLITY’s Endtime Signals? Yes, we will.


Rock and metal music have always been a haven for those who have bigger stories to tell; who have grander emotions to convey. For more than thirty years, Finnish figureheads Amorphis have done their best to carve their very own niche in heartfelt yet aggressive, melancholic yet soothing tunes. On “Halo”, their staggering fourteenth studio effort, the Fins underline their trailblazing status as one of the most original, culturally relevant and rewarding acts ever to emerge from the land of the thousand lakes.

In the past, mythology and legend took the role of today’s pop culture: Stories and a set of values uniting us by giving us a voice and a tapestry on which we can find each other and identify with something. By weaving the tales of Finnish national epos “Kalevala” into their songs and interpreting them in a timeless way, Amorphis combine the role of ancient minstrels and luminaries of the modern world, honouring tradition without getting stuck in the past.

The vibrant, lively, and touching beauty that is “Halo” highlights their musical and storytelling mastership on a once again soaring level: It’s a progressive, melodic, and quintessentially melancholic heavy metal masterwork plucked from the fickle void of inspiration by original guitarists Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari, bassist Olli-Pekka Laine, drummer Jan Rechberger, longtime keyboardist Santeri Kallio and vocalist Tomi Joutsen, the band’s long-standing lyrical consciousness Pekka Kainulainen and a selected group of world class audio professionals led by renowned Swedish producer Jens Bogren. Considering the band’s prolonged journey in the forefront of innovative metal music, it’s difficult to grasp how Amorphis manages to raise the proverbial bar time and time again, presenting a more than worthy finale to the trilogy begun with 2015’s “Under the Red Cloud” followed by 2018’s “Queen of Time.”

“It really is a great feeling that we can still produce very decent music as a band,” says Holopainen, a founding member of the band. “Perhaps a certain kind of self-criticism and long experience culminate in these latest albums.” To the songwriter himself, “Halo” sounds both familiar and different. “It is thoroughly recognizable Amorphis from beginning to end but the general atmosphere is a little bit heavier and more progressive and also organic compared to its predecessor,” he elaborates.

Tomi Joutsen, the man with vocal cords capable of unleashing colossal, bear-like growls as well as singing soothing, mesmerising lullabies, adds, “To me, ‘Halo’ sounds a little more stripped down compared to ‘Queen Of Time’ and ‘Under The Red Cloud.’ However, don’t get me wrong: when a certain song needs to sound big, then it sounds very big.” He’s right, of course: By stripping down some of the arrangements, the monumental moments become even more monumental.

That’s of course also thanks to producing renaissance man Jens Bogren who harvested the eleven final tracks from a batch of thirty songs Amorphis offered him. “Jens is very demanding, but I really like to work with him,” says Holopainen. “He takes care of the whole project from start to finish, and he allows the musician to focus on just playing. I may not be able to thank Jens enough. Everything we’ve done together has been really great, and this co-operation has carried Amorphis significantly forward.”

Indeed. Setting off with the stormy grandeur of opener “Northwards,” Amorphis take us on an epic journey through the lands of the north, their rich cultural and historical heritage and musical traditions. This is not only an album for fans or metal connoisseurs. It’s a must for every imaginative mind out there with a soft spot for cinematic soundscapes, triumphant melodies and breathtaking dynamics measuring the borderlands of light and dark.

However, no Amorphis album would be complete without the imaginative and poetic storytelling of renowned lyricist and “Kalevala” expert Pekka Kainulainen. “From day one, Pekka has always been an enthusiastic and prolific lyricist for Amorphis,” says Joutsen. “It is a slow process of translating archaic Finnish poetry into English and adapting it our progressive rhythms. Fortunately, Pekka does everything on time and with great care.” Since 2007’s “Silent Waters,” Kainulainen has been navigating the mythological waters of his homeland with great skill and respect. For “Halo,” he outdid himself once again. “‘Halo’ is a loose themed record filled with adventurous tales about the mythical North tens of thousands of years ago,” he explains. “The lyrics tell of an ancient time when man wandered to these abandoned boreal frontiers after the ice age. While describing the revival of a seminal culture in a world of new opportunities, I also try to reach the sempiternal forces of the human mind.”

Thirty-one years after their inception, with uncounted global tours under their belt and fourteen albums deep in their career, Amorphis still proves to be the musical fountain of youth, an extraordinary band constantly reinventing itself without abandoning its mystical roots. With “Halo”, they deliver an astonishing album that deserves to be played everywhere, transcending the realms of metal and rock by its sheer profoundness and musicality.

Fires In The Distance