Dark Tranquillity - Where Death Is Most Alive (DVD)
Century Media
Melodic Death Metal
Disc 1: 21 songs () Disc 2: 29 songs ()
Release year: 2009
Dark Tranquillity, Century Media
Reviewed by Alex
Major event

I have long professed my undying fandom for Dark Tranquillity. It is because of this unqualified affection that I have been recusing myself from reviewing any of their new material on this site. I am such a fan that I own all of their releases, quite a few of them signed at the shows by the bandmembers themselves. I don’t think I ever missed any of Dark Tranquillity tracks across the US, whenever they got to be anywhere near Detroit or Cleveland. In a sign of the ultimate recognition, on their latest visit in 2008, at Peabody’s in Cleveland, when we were trying to make our way closer to the scene towards the end of the show, Niklas Sundin spotted and waved to me during the song. The wall in my office is graced by my photo with Niklas on their 2006 pass-through, the photo snapped by my brother-in-law, who is a very good amateur photographer, and presented to me on my 36th birthday. He could not have thought of a better gift …

So, while you don’t need my opinion of the Dark Tranquillity next full-length, I have allowed myself, from time to time, to chime in on my favorite band’s special releases. Their latest, and second ever, DVD Where Death Is Most Alive is a Christmas come early. Well, I said it when Live Damage (2003) came out, but, truthfully, Where Death Is Most Alive is a ten-fold improvement on every level.

The band themselves are in the same top form performing their best material, but the camera views, sound, scene setup, crowd reaction – all of that has changed to the better. Instead of quick, frantic, rapidly shifting camera angles, there is more thoughtfulness which went into the filming of Where Death Is Most Alive. All of Dark Tranquillity members got their due, and have been shown when appropriate, when “their” moment to shine comes within a track. Tue Madsen has been the find for Dark Tranquillity. He has moved and modernized their sound on Fiction, without compromising it, and he manages to deliver a powerful live version of Dark Tranquillity on the DVD, where all of the riffs and leads are recognizable and heard, and Mikael Stanne’s vocals do not periodically fall down and out of the mix. The overwhelming stroboscopic lights have been replaced by proper, story fitting projections on the back screen. Whether Italians have more passion for Dark Tranquillity than Poles, but the Milan crowd seemed to be much more into it, everybody knowledgeable and screaming the lyrics, not just a few folks in the front row headbanging when prompted by Stanne. He, the ultimate frontman, does not have to cajole the crowd into action as much as he did in Krakow. The scene is much closer to the crowd, so he even goes for a stage dive during Misery’s Crown. The concertgoers are overheard screaming right into his microphone, which is now close, providing the sense of truthfulness to the band-crowd connection.

When you have so many good songs on so many good albums as Dark Tranquillity does, putting together a setlist must be a difficult task. While filming in Milan, the band was still on the Fiction tour, so the latest album is represented rather heavily. The Lesser Faith comes even more of a headbanger live than the studio version, Nothing to No One is one of those album openers Dark Tranquillity knows how to put together and Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive) rings true of Mikael Stanne promising that the band will go on and write new songs to come back with. The Mundane and the Magic sees Mikael performing his duet with Nell Sigland (Theatre of Tragedy) and she is absolutely given her due in the mix, and Theatre of Tragedy is lucky to have her. (She absolutely revitalizes Insanity’s Crescendo as well.) Whenever I watch Inside the Particle Storm with my 5-year old son, I always tend to hug him a little tighter, the lyrics and the stark picture of apocalypses painted so boldly and vividly by DT. Just about every chapter of Dark Tranquillity storied history is represented. Damage Done contributes a pair of up tempo show constants The Treason Wall and Final Resistance. Character is showcased with more accessible The New Build and Lost to Apathy, as well as an absolute must My Negation (I will never forget how Stanne practically dropped to his knees, all contorted, while singing it a few years ago at Harpo’s in Detroit). FreeCard (a rare occurrence) and ThereIn remind us of the boldness of Projector, the album well ahead of its time. In one of my conversations with Stanne I mentioned how I enjoy his clean vocals, romanticism and all, despite what many hardcore fans said at the time (not that he cared much for my isolated opinion). The Wonders at Your Feet off Haven could not have possibly been left out, but the band went way back in history dusting off Edenspring (The Gallery) and Dreamlore Degenerate (The Mind’s I) for a couple of energetic numbers. The more “regular” classic tracks, Lethe and Punish My Heaven, are here, but Punish My Heaven is now preceded by the ancient-made-new intro from the first EP track Yesterworld. I have heard several Lethe versions, and Stanne is absolutely on this time around, sounding totally desperate when he needs to be.

True to themselves, Dark Tranquillity want to give value in their special releases, so Disc 2 is a 47 min documentary on the band’s history, plus just about all of their videos and another 21 tracks from Live Archives, most of them never been released before. The Archives trace the band history from practice sessions in Mikael Stanne’s grandparents’ garage in Billdal playing old school death metal to first appearances in underground Swedish venues to playing in front of huge crowds at several European festivals. Not much expected of the sound in these, the Archives trace the band’s trajectory throughout its existence. If Out of Nothing documentary is to teach us anything, the humble beginnings still persist in the way Dark Tranquillity approaches their music today, and such humility seems to be engrained deep within the psyche of this band. They are grounded, they are friends first and bandmates second, they practice a lot, and they are always extremely critical of themselves. We learn that Anders Jivarp was one step away from the Swedish national soccer team, and that Michael Niklasson (formerly on bass) left on very friendly terms and, unfortunately, has diabetes (good luck with that!). A word to new bassist Daniel Antonsson. Yes, by moving from Soilwork you had to jump from guitar to bass, but, man, you just joined a much better band. Dark Tranquillity managed to modernize melodic death sound, adding progressive touches along the way, without losing any aggressiveness which is a true trademark of their style. Formula or not, and even if it is, their formula has been working for me for the last 10+ years or so since I discovered the band, and I am confident it will work for me that much more.

Where Death Is Most Alive will not disappoint any of the hardcore fans, but it should give Dark Tranquillity more exposure to those who were only cursorily interested in the band. Century Media does not have much left on their roster and Dark Tranquillity is by far their crowning jewel.

Killing Songs :
An excellent live performance from a classy band
Alex quoted no quote
Other albums by Dark Tranquillity that we have reviewed:
Dark Tranquillity - Moment reviewed by Alex and quoted 75 / 100
Dark Tranquillity - Atoma reviewed by Alex and quoted 88 / 100
Dark Tranquillity - Construct reviewed by Jared and quoted 65 / 100
Dark Tranquillity - Zero Distance EP reviewed by Chris and quoted No quote
Dark Tranquillity - The Mind's I reviewed by Goat and quoted 77 / 100
To see all 16 reviews click here
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