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The Record Vault: Dark Tranquility – Skydancer

Dark Tranquillity is a Swedish melodic death metal band from Gothenburg. They are considered one of the pioneering acts of the Gothenburg metal scene, which also includes bands such as In Flames and At the Gates.

The band was formed in 1989 and in August 1993, the band released this album.

And they never stopped releasing music.

But when you look at their catalogue of releases, it’s like this album doesn’t exist.

Wikipedia describes “Skydancer” as a “very weird album and there really isn’t anything else like it – for good and bad. Most of the songs contain 20+ riffs that never are repeated in the same way, and the integration of clear vocals and acoustic guitars were extremely unorthodox for its time, as were the advanced use of counterpoint and recurring musical motifs”.

And I agree.

If you got into the band, post 2010, the debut album would be very strange to your ears and you would be questioning if it’s the same band.

The recording process was stressful. They only had a budget for 10 days of studio time, and working with studio engineers who were clueless about extreme metal. Which tells as the production is definitely demo like.

The band for the album is Anders Fridén on lead vocals, Niklas Sundin on lead guitar, Mikael Stanne on rhythm guitar, backing vocals, Martin Henriksson on bass and Anders Jivarp on drums.

Vocalist Anders Fridén either left or was fired after this album as he joined In Flames and was replaced by then rhythm guitarist, Mikael Stanne on vocals.

And recording history would have it that Mikael Stanne was the lead vocalist on the first In Flames studio album, “Lunar Strain”.

And for all the accolades of being a melodic death metal band, this album is part of the death metal genre.

Nightfall by the Shore of Time

Well it starts off with a guttural scream of the word “Nightfall”. And for the almost 5 minute song, the riffs move between fast thrash riffs, tempo changes and melodic Maiden like riffs.

With guttural singing.

Crimson Winds

It’s mid-tempo rock intro has a sing-a-long melodic lead. Then at the 1 minute mark it goes into a progressive like riff reminding me of Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden and the guttural vocals kick in.

The interlude/solo section is so Maiden like.

A Bolt of Blazing Gold

It has an acoustic intro that sounds like it came from a Spaghetti Western. At about the minute mark, distortion guitars kick in. And 90 seconds in, guttural vocals kick in. At approx. every 30 seconds there is a change in music or tempo or time signature and that’s how this song progresses.

At 2.40, it goes back into a slower doomier tempo and we get clean tone vocals along with the guttural vocals.

In Tears Bereaved

This one is fast. Blast beats everywhere, tempo changes, time changes and guttural vocals.

Musically, there are some cool bits but overall, it’s a skip.

Skywards

Its relentless, with riffs crashing into each other, guttural vocals everywhere and hard to follow.

Through Ebony Archways

It’s a classical guitar piece at the start, almost waltz like. The acoustic riff changes as the song moves into clean tone vocals.

Shadow Duet

There’s some good riffs in this and the singing moves between growling and melody.

My Faeryland Forgotten

Chaos is how I describe this song.

Alone

A slower more doomier groove for the album closer.

However the release I have has the 1994 EP, “Of Chaos And Eternal Night” added to it. And the sound is remarkably improved than the debut.

Of Chaos and Eternal Night

You can hear the fast melodic metal riffs more prominent in this track.

With the Flaming Shades of Fall

This one is a mid-tempo track and the riffs are excellent.

Away, Delight, Away

Press play just to hear the intro as the guitars play an open string lick in harmony that reminds me of “Wasted Years”.

Alone ’94”

An updated version with better production.

If you like melodic vocals, then you will hate this, as the vocals are more growling than singing.

If you want to hear youthful enthusiasm and creativity by putting in as many riffs as possible into a song, then press play.

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7 thoughts on “The Record Vault: Dark Tranquility – Skydancer

    • I agree. A lot of riffs just for one song.

      I listened to “Atoma” afterwards and so different in song structure and how the verses are delivered in a clean tone voice with an aggressive Chorus.

      Then again “Atoma” came out 23 years after the debut.

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