Earlier this year, the Gothenburg pioneering Melodic Death Metal act Dark Tranquillity announced they were returning to North America for another full-fledged tour in support of their forthcoming eleventh studio album, Atoma. Their first trip back to this side of the Atlantic since the earlier part of 2015, performing in honor of 2013’s Construct. Consistent through the years, offering one unique album after another, Atoma delivers as strongly as the Dark Tranquillity efforts which came before, generating its own fury and providing enough of an adrenaline shot to keep even the most exuberant fan satisfied.
With an entire month of touring ahead in North America, Dark Tranquillity simultaneously celebrated the release of Atoma on the day they kicked off the tour on Friday, November 4, 2016. Fittingly doing so in New York City, Lead Vocalist Mikael Stanne arrived a few days early into the city to gear up for the exciting reveal which led up to the release party at Gramercy Theatre. Additionally, their touring support consisted of a unique blend of bands that included Finland’s Swallow the Sun, Sweden’s Enforcer, and Chicago’s Starkill.
Early on, prior to the list of national support, local Brooklyn act Fin’Amor warmed up the stage. An Atmospheric Doom/Melodic Death Metal outfit, formed back in 2008, they consist of Julian Chuzhik (guitar), Benjamin Meyerson (vocals), and Nodar Khutortsov (keyboard). An incredibly special night for them, they were opening up for Swallow The Sun and Dark Tranquility, two acts they are clearly influenced by. Curtailing their excitement to present themselves in a professional manner, they ripped into their grim-like set as Meyerson held onto his skull microphone. Offering a near thirty minutes of endless despair and impending doom, their dark tunes surprised many in the audience with songs that included “Departure.”
Jam-packed with talented bands, before the blink of an eye it was time for Starkill. No stranger to New York, they supported Epica back in January, Ne Obliviscaris in July, and Arch Enemy back in October of 2014; they are band on the rise. Releasing their anticipated third studio album, Shadow Sleep, via Prosthetic Records the same day of this show, it was also a time of celebration for Starkill.
As the lights remained dark and mysterious, Parker Jameson (guitar/vocals), Spencer Weidner (drums), Tony Keathley (guitar/backing vocals), and Shaun Andruchuk (bass) rushed onto the stage. Knowing that it was a tight set, as well as the first night of the tour, they managed to show New York nearly everything that they had. Continuously moving around, Andruchuk was in high spirits, offering a range of facial expressions, all while maintaining his delivery. Meanwhile, Jameson headbanged vigorously while shredding on guitar and belting out an aggressive range of vocals. All entertaining and clearly into their performance, despite the set feeling incredibly short, they delivered a tight performance of songs including “No Savior,” “Shadow Sleep,” and “Cloudless.” Hopefully Starkill will return soon enough, but in the meantime, it is recommended to pick up a copy of Shadow Sleep.
Changing the Metal winds, it was time for more of a Thrash dosage with Enforcer. It was the beginning of this year when Enforcer co-headlined with Warbringer, and since then, they have been quite busy in South America and Europe before now returning to North America. A campaign in support of 2015’s From Beyond, banners displayed on both sides of the stage before Enforcer brought their brand of modernized classic Heavy Metal to the table.
Perhaps the most bright of all the acts to perform, seeing most were within the Doom and Death Metal realms, Olof Wikstrand (vocals/guitar), Jonas Wikstrand (drums), Joseph Tholl (guitar), and Tobias Lindkvist (bass) ran onto the stage in all their Rock-n-Roll glory. With little verbal interaction, they solely focused on the music as they played new songs “Destroyer,” “Undying Evil,” and “From Beyond.” Reminiscent of classic ’80s Metal, including the leather attire, they continued to shred during “Mesmerized by Fire” and “Take Me out of This Nightmare,” from 2013’s Death by Fire. Then, even though it felt that they just were getting started, it all ended with “Midnight Vice.” Enforcer proved there is still room for straight up classic Heavy Metal.
While there was a moment of bright lights and charismatic grooves in the set prior with Enforcer, it was time for the evening to morph into a more dark and ominous setting with Swallow the Sun. Formed at the dawn of the new millennium, it was their 2003 debut album, The Morning Never Came, when the band made an impact on the European scene. Since expanding their sound to greater highest, offering more clean vocals with each passing album, in 2015 they put out an epic triple album, entitled Songs from the North I, II & III . Simply unheard of nowadays to do such a daring record, Vocalist Mikko Kotamäki, Guitarist Juha Raivio, Guitarist Markus Jämsen, Keyboardist Aleksi Munter, Bassist Matti Honkonen, and newest Drummer Juuso Raatikainen disregard marketing strategies and just want to stay true to musical vision. With the new material out and sunk into the psyche of audiences, it seemed only fitting that the guys from Jyväskylä would return to North America for a full tour for the first time since 2012.
In the shadows, Kotamäki appeared on stage with his face obscured as he stared downward underneath his hat. Wasting no time, the Doom engulfed the room immediately with “10 Silver Bullets” and “Rooms and Shadows,” from 2015’s Songs from the North I, II & III. It was bleak and dry, yet brilliant, moments of light beamed out with atmospheric keyboards to match the annihilating riffs. As some fans elevate themselves to crowd-surf, it was time for “Hate, Lead the Way” before “Cathedral Walls.” Spending little to no time to engage the audience, Kotamäki was locked in the music most of the set, minus a few times to encourage fans to give a massive “hey” shoutout. Not the type of band which needs to rev up their crowd, the clear objective was the full emotion of the music with other songs such as “Silhouettes” and the vast guitar sounds during “New Moon.” Completely entranced by Swallow The Sun, the spell was abruptly broken after “Descending Winters” as the band reached a well-deserved round of applause.
Swallow the Sun’s return was everything dedicated fans could have hoped for. It is just a shame that there was such a long layoff between visits from the band. Need not worry though, because they will return come March of 2016 when they team up with country mates Amorphis for another tour.
After four culturally different acts performed, the time came for Dark Tranquillity. Certainly the unsung heroes of Swedish Melodic Death Metal, a label that bands such as In Flames and Soilwork once fell under, but branched out, Dark Tranquillity’s style is expansive, yet respective to their roots. Of course much has changed since the early days of albums such as 1995’s The Gallery, with experimental periods such as 1999’s Projector, or the nearly flawless Melodic Death Metal mastery of 2005’s Character, but somehow this band still finds a way to keep their music fresh. Sustaining some of their biggest changes of late with long-time Guitarist Martin Henriksson stepping down to spend more time at home, they still plugged through to create Atoma. As stated, an album that will please their fans, it was just a week prior to the US tour that Guitarist Niklas Sundin had taking a break from the touring lifestyle to focus his time on his child. Promising to leave the band in good hands, Deals Death Guitarists Erik Jacobson and Sebastian Myrén team up to fill in his spot joining Stanne, Anders Jivarp (drums), Martin Brändström (keyboards), and Anders Iwers (bass).
Shifting to a moody, blue lighting, Stanne ran out to begin “Force of Hand,” “The Lesser Faith,” and “Atoma.” Feeding off the crowd energy, his impeccable coarse vocals ignited an adrenaline rush of excitement through the plethora of instrumental breaks that Dark Tranquillity offer. Moving at a rapid speed, they moved into older songs such as 2002’s “The Treason Wall” followed by the new tune “Forward Momentum.” Taking a moment to breath, Stanne asked the audience how they were enjoying the night, which was met with screams of joy before 2013’s “The Science of Noise” while some fans created a chaotic mosh pit on the floor.
Including some crowd-surfing, bodies soared high when “Terminus (Where Death is Most Alive)” came before “The Silence in Between.” Complemented by a screen in the backdrop projecting a visual landscape showcasing a mix of recent music videos, and song lyrics, new visuals continued to display throughout each tune. This addition only added to the overall feeling of the night, and in between all the emotion, Stanne took a moment to thank the audience for “being amazing” as he announced Sundin’s absence due to having to take care of his kid. Introducing Jacobson and Myrén, the tour members received a roar of approval as the set moved into “The Pitiless” before Stanne dedicated “What Only You Know” to his brother Brian.
As Stanne continued to shine with raw human emotion in his performance, the crowd continued to be engaged through “Monochromatic Stains,” older favorite “The Wonders at Your Feet,” and “White Noise/Black Silence.” Quite proud of the new material, they were pleased to celebrate its release with “Neutrality” and “Our Proof of Life” before Stanne looked into the crowd with a coy smile and said, “Friday night in New York City, it does not get any better.” A mutual feeling, they wrapped up the main portion of the night with “Final Resistance” followed by the emotive “Therein.”
Yelling for more, after a short break, Dark Tranquillity returned for an encore that began with “State of Trust.” Still causing a frenzy on the floor, Dark Tranquillity dished out “Through the Smudged Lenses” and concluded it all with the anthemic “Misery’s Crown.” Quite an opening night, Dark Tranquillity once again did not disappoint. Their live shows are an experience like no other with Stanne baring his soul each and every night on stage. Their sound is more than just Melodic Death Metal, it is drenched with much more. Be sure to check out Atoma for one of their most accomplished records, and do not miss this tour.