Dark Tranquillity - Skydancer review
|Release date:||August 1993|
01. Nightfall By The Shore Of Time
02. Crimson Winds
03. A Bolt Of Blazing Gold
04. In Tears Bereaved
06. Through Ebony Archways
07. Shadow Duet
08. My Faeryland Forgotten
When Dark Tranquillity released "Skydancer", there pretty much wasn't anyone sounding quite like this at the time. Carcass were releasing "Heartwork", Carnage had done "Dark Recollections" in 1990, Dismember were an active project already, but surely this took the idea of inserting melody into Death Metal to a new level, even if Dark Tranquillity would only be glorified by it with "The Gallery". Then, Anders Fridén, was the lead vocalist, and Michael Stanne was on rhythmic guitar, and it's interesting to think they'd go on to become two of the main figures of the genre they helped create but in different bands, nowadays exploring different directions, sonically.
"Skydancer" is really "Proto-Melo Death", you listen to it and you realize why it set the basis for it all, but at the same time, I think the identity of the genre has evolved, and even Dark Tranquillity's music is now more multi-dimensional and better produced. Anyhow, this album is very creative in the way it distils all its influences into one singular style. If it's true that the aforementioned Carcass and Dismember are in some way omnipresent, the pounding and catchy sound of Iron Maiden and the like is very noticeable, and the incredible doses of melody and fast paced riffs make "Skydancer" already a varied and intense listening experience.
What impresses me and puts me off a bit, simultaneously, is the band's eagerness to show their talent. This album is too complex for its own good, and it's no wonder that one may think it gets boring here and there. When the opener "Nightfall By The Shore Of Time" kicks in, it's a real slap in the face, with Fridén screaming and the guitars coming in immediately, but soon other songs come up and in them Dark Tranquillity tries sometimes to play faster and make even more tempo-changes, and the harmony is lost. Thankfully, Dark Tranquillity would trim all the excess for their following album and in terms of song writing "The Gallery" is far better executed.
Despite that, Skydancer has other merits, and it's great to discover details that would be reinvented in the future. Take "A Bolt Of Blazing Gold"; it's over seven minutes due to several acoustic passages that evolve brilliantly into the band's blend of melody and catchiness. There are female vocals halfway through, in tracks 3 and 6 (done by Anna-Kaisa Avehall, schoolmate of some of the band members). "Alone" is the kind of slower closing that really elevates the album's range to a different level, and it's no surprise that it's one of my favourites.
I'm very fond of the more spacey and economic (if still highly versatile) Dark Tranquillity of recent releases, like "Character" and "Fiction", the band has found a balance between all the elements they spent the beginning of their career trying to combine together. Skydancer is impressive from a technical point of view, and I think there are some palpable melancholic undertones, which is what has always made me commit emotionally with Dark Tranquillity's songs and even Stanne's lyrics, but the band would go on to top everything they do here. Skydancer reveals Dark Tranquillity at its rawest and possibly most aggressive, and as groundbreaking as it was, it is not without its flaws.
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