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Dark Tranquillity Live Damage DVD

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Monday, January 26, 2004 @ 1:22 PM


(Century Media)

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American metal fans are only now getting well acquainted with Swedish technical/melodic death metal veterans Dark Tranquillity. The 14-year-old band’s music wasn’t readily available here until it signed with Century Media in 1999, and Dark Tranquillity didn’t perform in the states until it supported 2002’s Damage Done album. And then, the band was relegated to 30-40 minute set opening tours with Nile/Napalm Death and In Flames.

So for those who’s appetite for the band has been whet, Dark Tranquillity’s new DVD, Live Damage, arrives at an opportune time and with plenty to offer — a professionally recorded full concert, another 16 tracks of bootlegged live footage, a couple videos and an interview, all of which covers the bulk of the band’s career. In fact, the sheer volume of material here — three-plus hours’ worth — helps make up for some of the DVD’s shortcomings.

The focal point of Live Damage is a 21-track concert Dark Tranquillity filmed last year at a sound studio in Krakow, Poland — a favorite locale for this sort of thing, for some reason, as Behemoth, My Dying Bride and Dimmu Borgir have done the same there. But let’s hope this is the last, because while these studios allow for great sound and production value (lights, staging, etc), they also present a sterile environment that saps any energy out of the crowd.

So not matter how hard Dark Tranquillity, and frontman Mikael Stanne, tries — and the band does rock hard — it rarely musters much response from the shoe-gazing audience, which makes the show seem a bit flat. The bootleg footage, filmed from various vantage points at shows in Athens, Greece, Paris and Essen, Germany, actually gives one a better picture of the band live — even if the video/sound quality is rough at best. Here, though, at least you’ve got band and the crowd feeding off one another’s energy and aggression and it feels much more genuine.

That said, performance-wise Dark Tranquillity is spot-on during the “studio” show, deftly blending Niklas Sundin and Marti Henriksson’s intricate guitar work with Anders Jivarp and Michael Nicklasson’s ferocious rhythms and Stanne’s burly growl. The one-time pure death metal act has metamorphosed nicely into a sophisticated, yet still savage band who’s “Gothenburg sound” is unafraid of melody, but just as eager to rip your head off. More brutal older tracks “Punish My Heaven” or “Lethe” mix seamlessly with the newer “Monochromatic Stains” or “Final Resistance” and the sound is nearly flawless, bordering on slick – again, blame the environs.

For those unfamiliar with Dark Tranquillity’s history, there’s a 20-plus minute interview with Stanne that — if one can get past the interviewer’s spotty English and some irritatingly jumpy camerawork — is actually quite informative. And to fill in any leftover blanks, text biographies of the band and all six members included among the extras.

Live Damage paints a pretty complete picture of Dark Tranquillity, a band that – given the rising popularity of Swedish metal and extreme music in general – we’ll likely be hearing a lot about in the future.

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