Dark Tranquility are one of the leading exponents of the Gothenburg melodic death metal movement and almost twenty five years after their inception the band is as vibrant as ever. Construct, their latest album, marks quite a departure in their trademark sound. Vocalist Mikael Stanne reveals to Ghost Cult the secret to a quarter of a century of success…
Construct is quite a different album in terms of sound and artistic direction. How come?
It came out of necessity. We were totally worn out after the writing sessions for We Are the Void, because of all the endless arguments, bickering and whatnot. Eventually the album came out great, but I don’t look back with fondness to that period. By the time the touring cycle for that album was completed we decided a different approach was necessary. This time around we wrote the album in the studio and not beforehand like we did with the previous albums. The bulk of ‘Construct’ was written by Anders, Niklas and Martin. When that was done Martin Brandström and I came in for the finishing touch.
How did the recording process go?
We were much more focused as a band. The base of each track and its purpose was clearly defined. All the excess parts were removed from the songs. This stripped-down approach was really liberating for us. The material became also more melodic because of this.
Did the departure of Daniel Antonsson have any influence on this?
Not really, because he was never really a part of the creative process within Dark Tranquility. Over time it because clear for us that his mind wasn’t with the band anymore and that we were growing apart musically and creatively. He also wanted to focus on playing his guitar again and play different types of music.
How was it for Martin picking up the bass guitar again?
He was really excited. He hasn’t picked up a bass guitar since 1999 and in the studio he came up with some truly interesting bass parts. It worked really well with the rest of the music.
Martin still plays guitar in DT’s live setting. How are you going to remedy this?
For the short term we’ll ask some friends to help us out. In the long term we’ll organise auditions for a new bassist. We’ll see how things work out eventually.
There’s also quite a story behind the album cover. Care to tell?
Yes there is. The cover is made by Niklas, who also did the artwork for our previous albums. Initially he didn’t want to do it, but he got so inspired by the album title I sent him, that he made the cover for ‘Construct’ literally overnight. We’re really happy with it. There are actually three different covers for each of the different versions of the album. The cover for the deluxe edition is much more elaborate by the way.
Is there any deeper meaning behind the album title?
Absolutely! A “construct” is type of belief system or thought that we as humans use to protect us against the harsh reality of everyday life. We use it as an excuse for our behaviour. Some people conduct the most horrible acts and a great many of them simply don’t know why they’re doing it. I want people to be skeptical and be able to think for themselves. The herd type of behaviour of many I find quite disturbing.
Would you say you’re a man with a message?
Yes, I am. I like people to be pure and unbiased and free any preconceptions when they encounter other people. The utter ignorance and bigotry of some people really gets to me. We have the tendency to be selfish and we don’t know even why. When I witness that I get upset and I use it as a source of my inspiration for my lyrics. At the end of the process I’m screaming about it in my microphone on stage in front of people, haha.
You don’t seem to be too hopeful about mankind as a whole…
Take a song like None Becoming. It’s about people who desperately want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They lose any sense of individuality when they’re a part of it, it’s almost like they simply fade away. Nothing lasts forever and that’s why I want to live life to the fullest before my time comes. That notion gives me hope and solace.
Do you have any tour dates booked already?
Yes, we received plenty of offers to play on a lot of festivals. We’ll tour Tunisia, Dubai and Istanbul as well. I’m really looking forward to visiting Dubai, because we’ve never played there before. That’s always something special. In the fall we’re going on an extensive tour in the US and there’s a lengthy European tour in the works as well. We approached a lot of bands to come touring with us and we’ll soon announce which of those will actually come with us.
Dark Tranquility has been around for almost 25 years and you’re a huge inspiration to many younger bands out there. How does this make you feel?
It’s actually awkward for me to think about that. We’re proud of what we’ve achieved so far and we’ve never strayed too far from our original sound. Back in our formative days we did something new and many people deemed us to be too strange and melodic. We were surprised that people actually liked what we’re doing. It really means alot to me when bands list Dark Tranquillity as a source of inspiration. It really does.
How do you keep things fresh and interesting for yourself?
You need to diversify things. Variety is key really, just like we did on our new album. That also goes for touring. As we got bigger as a band we came more and more in control of the whole touring aspect. We don’t get picked up at the train station anymore like on our first tour. We make sure that other bands that tour with us are picked up at the train station. Seeing your band grow and evolve is a great stimulant for me.
What is the secret behind Dark Tranquility’s musical relevance and longevity?
We always did things on our own terms and that brought us to where we stand as a band today. We don’t necessarily have to stick to our musical roots. We like to evolve and try new things and create the type of music that makes us feel good. When other people like what we’re doing that’s great as well. We don’t like to be restricted in what we’re doing musically, so who knows what the next album will bring.