The three prior releases to We Are the Void saw Dark Tranquillity expanding on a strong songwriting formula following the synth-heavy melodic death metal aesthetic of Haven. There is no need to elaborate on Damage Done, Character, or Fiction, each tied to one another stylistically. Yet, they are still marked with distinctive qualities to easily identify, and so is the new album.
We Are the Void is a logical extension to the previous three albums, but it also harkens back to the atmospherically dense Haven. The album utilizes heavier use of synths in all the songs, as Martin Brandstrom's keyboards and electronics define each composition. Guitars are implemented in the mix as a supporting element to his keyboard patches. The raw aggression and fierce riff work of previous albums has taken a secondary role. Here, guitars help enhance the predominantly synth-based tracks with sparse use of rhythms and shorter lead phrases. This is not to say there aren't any good riffs or leads on the songs. It's just that they are integrated into the songs more deeply, rarely taking centre stage.
Unlike Character and Damage Done, however, Mikael Stanne continues to implant some clean vocals, as he did on Fiction. That said, the clean vocals are better suited to the music -- they have been placed at more strategic moments to texture the music. His deep, almost gothic-like clean voice on "Her Silent Language" suits the quieter passage of the piece perfectly. Shifting in subtle movements from faster-paced sections to calm, peaceful moments, his clean voice certainly adds to the atmosphere. Likewise, "The Grand Accusation", possibly the album's highpoint, benefits greatly from his clean vocals. At face value, this song may seem pedestrian, yet upon further listen, the elaborate interplay between the instruments and contrasts between the slow verses and exploding choruses attest to its diversity.
New bassist Daniel Antonsson, formerly of the very underrated band Pathos, contributes unconventional ideas to the group's sound. "Dream Oblivion" which he wrote is quite unsettling given its dissonant flow and unusual intro. The keys and guitars are blended almost jarringly, as pulsing electronic beats lend the song an unnerving effect. It is only with a great-toned guitar theme and Stanne's distinctive vocals that it recaptures the classic Dark Tranquillity vibe. Antonsson also proves he is a talented guitar player, as he lays down the leads on two tracks, namely "Shadow in Our Blood", complete with futuristic synths and ultra-fast tremelo picking; and "At the Point of Ignition" where Stanne's voice drops to a haunting whisper covered by series of synth tones.
Dark Tranquillity closes the album much like they did their previous releases, with a relatively more melancholic and longer piece. "Iridium" sets cold acoustic guitars against a tapestry of melodic guitar riffs and a smooth, liquidy synth patch. The song rises and falls, and once again Stanne's clean voice adds to its melancholy, given the shift from his raging growls to his funereal monotone. The drawn-out coda may recall later-day Moonspell or even Dimmu Borgir to some, but it's a similarity that will wane with repeat plays.
The cover art is definitely inspired (if not copied) from Floodgate's Penalty album, only with more digital effects. I am not quite sure, but the lyrics of some songs may be referencing the buildings displayed on the cover ("Things beyond these windows" | "You have always been between another set of walls" | "Your name on the door").
Were there greater use of guitars and tasty riffs on this disc, the production would feel out of place. However, for this type of music, it is simply flawless with an increased sonic clarity and more space for the keyboards to achieve atmosphere. As a matter of fact, sonically this could be their best work.
With all that said, I would rank We Are the Void below the three previous releases, simply because I have always favoured the band's heavier, more aggressive songs punctuated by the occasional synth or acoustic breaks. This one seems to be an experiment in the opposite direction, but it is still an experiment that works.
- Shadow in Our Blood
- Dream Oblivion
- The Fatalist
- In My Absence
- The Grandest Accusation
- At the Point of Ignition
- Her Silent Language
- I Am The Void
- Surface the Infinite