The science of noise

Death metal legends Dark Tranquillity ready to reign in Columbus

By Gary Spencer

Photo: Dark Tranquility will perform on Feb. 11 at Skully’s Music Diner in Columbus; photo: Daniel Falk

Some bands are content to rest on their past glories and achievements. For Swedish metal-ers Dark Tranquillity, resting on their name and reputation alone just ain’t how they roll.Formed in the late-1980s by guitarist Niklas Sundin and vocalist/guitarist Mikael Stanne, Dark Tranquillity emerged from the Gothenburg, Sweden, metal scene to become one of the most influential bands in contemporary metal. Often credited by fans and critics as being one of the pioneering forces in the creation of melodic death metal as it is known today, Dark Tranquillity has been forward-thinking and not afraid of a little experimentation. This modus operandi is in full effect upon listening to the band’s 10th studio album from last year on Century Media Records, Construct. The new disc puts the group back on the map as one of the leaders of the international metal scene. Full of highs, lows, melodrama and atmosphere, Construct might be the darkest, yet most invigorating, release of their deep and heralded back catalog. That said, Dark Tranquillity knows a boss-ass riff when they write one and there are plenty of headbangin’ breakdowns and air-guitar worthy melodies throughout the newest disc.

Dark Tranquillity makes its long awaited return to the U.S. for a full-scale tour, with its only Ohio date taking place in Columbus at Skully’s on Tuesday, Feb. 11. I spoke with founding axeman Niklas Sundin regarding where Dark Tranquillity is, has been and is going to in the future.

Please tell me about the origins of the band.

The band started out as a hobby back in 1989. We were small kids with a passionate music interest that inevitably led us to the conclusion we needed to form a band of our own. Without any prior music experience, we went out and bought some instruments and convinced our parents to let us rehearse in their garage. The first few months were spent trying to figure out how to even play a song from beginning to end, but eventually our skills progressed to the point where we could start writing our own material. The idea from the start was to create something out of the ordinary and never settle for being just another band, and 25 years later nothing has changed in that regard.

– Niklas Sundin

How has Dark Tranquility evolved over the 25 years of its existence?

I guess we’ve never been a band to progress directly from point A to point B throughout our history. Every album is more like a snapshot; a representation of the ideas and goals present in the band at the time. Sometimes we’ve focused on complex and technical songs (like on Skydancer) and sometimes we’ve stripped the music down to the basic essentials (on Construct). Each recording is usually a reaction to the previous one, and this attitude probably helps us to stay hungry and focused on the music after all this time. -NS

Tell me about your most recent album Construct. What’s the reaction been like to the new record amongst both critics and fans?

The response has been excellent from fans and critics. The previous album We are The Void turned out a bit too similar to its predecessor, and both our audience and ourselves felt that it was time for something different. Construct has a stronger focus on atmosphere and mood, as opposed to intensity and aggression. Many people have compared it to our 1999 album Projector, and I can see why. They both show a darker and more introspective side of the band. -NS

Tell me about your upcoming U.S. tour. What’s different about your live show as opposed to what you do on record?

We put a lot of emphasis on visuals and have used background video projections as a way of accentuating the songs for a few years. I think the size of the venues on this U.S. run will differ quite a lot, which means some cities will see our full production, whereas in other places things will be more scaled down. The last time we played in the U.S. was back in 2010, when we made two separate tours, so it’s long overdue. Omnium Gatherum from Finland and Exmortus from California will be joining us on this run, so it’ll be a strong and diverse package. -NS

Dark Tranquility is often credited as being pioneers of the melodic death metal genre. How do you feel about that?

I’m a bit ambivalent to be honest. On one hand, it’s a big compliment and – to be a bit less modest – also factually correct. We helped pioneer a movement and an approach to extreme metal that influenced countless bands from all over the world. On the other hand, we never wanted our music to be pigeonholed or distilled into something with a specific label to it. This “melodic death metal” tag often comes with the implication one is sticking to an old and conservative sound that lacks innovation. -NS

What does the future hold for Dark Tranquility, both in the immediate future and beyond?  

2014 will be filled with a lot of touring. We’ve done a European headline trek and are currently in Latin America. After the U.S. tour, we head directly to Japan, China and Australia. Our only aspiration is to continue with the band for as long as we still feel that we have something vital and relevant to say, and whether that means five or 15 more years is impossible to tell. -NS


Dark Tranquillity will perform Tuesday, Feb. 11 at Skully’s Music Diner, 1151 N. High St. in Columbus. Omnium Gatherum and Exmortus open. Tickets are $18 in advance for patrons 18 and up. Doors at 7 p.m. For more information, please visit


Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at


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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at

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