Monday, 4 October 2010

Dark Tranquillity - London Camden Underworld - Tuesday 28th September 2010

As one of the founders of the Gothenburg melodic death metal scene in the early nineties one would expect Dark Tranquillity to be either gone by now (like At The Gates) or producing rafts of substandard material (like In Flames). Instead they are doing neither. Dark Tranquillity are the true kings of melodeath yet have never gained as much recognition as their peers. It is hard to understand why this is the case. Yes, At The Gates produced the masterpiece that is ‘Slaughter of the Soul’ and yes, In Flames pumped out the likes of ‘Whoracle’ and ‘Clayman’, but Dark Tranquillity gave us ‘The Gallery’, a record that trumps its competitors without question. Then, over a decade later, in 2007, they gave us the classic that is ‘Fiction’ whilst In Flames gave us the occasionally embarrassing ‘A Sense of Purpose’ and At The Gates reformed for a brief summer of reunion shows. Yet the band doesn’t seem to have any problems with its lot. They still tour as much as ever and reward their dedicated fanbase with passionate performances night after night. This show at the Underworld is the only UK show of the band’s ‘Where Death Is Most Alive, Part 2’ tour and is therefore heaving with metalheads. As if the band needed any help to put on a spectacular show, they’ve brought Finnish quartet Insomnium with them as support.

Undoubtedly a band to have taken great influence from Dark Tranquillity over the years, but also one with a slightly more progressive edge to their songwriting, Insomnium take to the stage to an already packed venue. Many of the crowd are clearly big fans of the band and so it doesn’t take long for the likes of ‘Where the Last Wave Broke’ to get a singalong going. Their set reaches fever pitch with ‘Weather the Storm’ when the band announce that they are filming the song for an upcoming music video and none other than Dark Tranquillity frontman Mikael Stanne joins the band on stage. Despite the crushing riffs and epic atmosphere Insomnium aren’t quite as good live as they should be. They are good but without ever reaching the triumphant level that the whole set feels as if it is building up towards and they are therefore a little disappointing.

Dark Tranquillity are anything but disappointing. Despite opening their set with the strange choice of ‘At the Point of Ignition’, a song off their newest album that hardly offers the punch in the gut that much of their back catalogue could bring to the table, and having technical problems that result in a five minute pause early on, the band rip through a set featuring most of their classics alongside fan favourites and the best of their new material. What stands out most of all is the quality of the songs; this is a metal band with melodies that worm their way inside your head so that by the last chorus of a Dark Tranquillity song you’ve never heard before you can scream your lungs out alongside the devoted. There are plenty of the devoted in situ tonight, made obvious by the fact that even newer songs such as ‘The Fatalist’ get loud singalongs. The best crowd reactions during the main set come during the towering anthem that is ‘Lost to Apathy’ and old classic ‘Punish My Heaven’, both of which get treated like the hit singles they would undoubtedly have been if metal ruled the mainstream music charts. It would be wrong, however, to get the impression that Dark Tranquillity rely on playing show after show to hardcore fans. This is a band that is brilliant at what it does. Mikael Stanne is an excellent frontman, making each and every audience member feel involved and repeatedly clasping the hands of the swarming front rows. The rest of the band don’t put much of a foot wrong and all seem genuinely pleased to be on stage and not at all frustrated with the lot of still playing small clubs in the UK twenty years into their career. Before closing the encore with a thundering ‘Terminus (Where Death is Most Alive)’ Stanne thanks the crowd warmly and promises to return to the UK again next year; hopefully for a proper tour rather than an isolated show in the capital. Although the band promise to stay around to sign autographs and pose for pictures, security puts an end to such a possibility and so the night ends with the conclusion of the set, one that is about as superb as the melodeath legends could have possibly produced. The only real criticism that could be levelled at the band is that they arguably chose the wrong songs to play from their new record (the superb ‘Arkhangelsk’ is noticeably absent) and that one or two genuine classics (‘Therein’ being the obvious example) are also missing. When a band plays as well as this however, and when the atmosphere is as fervent as well, then it doesn’t matter one jot; a fabulous evening of metal.

Insomnium – 6/10
Dark Tranquillity – 10/10

Insomnium setlist
Down with the Sun
Where the Last Wave Broke
Drawn to Black
Weather the Storm (ft. Mikael Stanne)
The Harrowing Years
The Gale
Mortal Share
The Killjoy
Weighed Down With Sorrow

Dark Tranquillity setlist
At the Point of Ignition
The Fatalist
Damage Done
Lost To Apathy
Monochromatic Stains
The Gallery
One Thought
The Wonders at Your Feet
Shadow in Our Blood
Dream Oblivion
Misery’s Crown
Punish My Heaven
Final Resistance
The Sun Fired Blanks
Terminus (Where Death is Most Alive)

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