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Your thoughts on the Martin Henriksson takeover

Discussion in 'Dark Tranquillity' started by farren, Jan 22, 2013.

  1. farren

    farren Member

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    Maybe this thread has been done before and I'm late to the party, but I think it deserves some discussion.

    What are your thoughts on Martin Henriksson becoming de-facto band leader around Damage Done? I love Damage Done and think it's one of their best albums (though The Gallery has always been my favorite). It was very fresh when it came out. However, I think everything they've done since then has been too much in the vein of Damage Done, often watered down by comparison. DT has felt stale to me since the release of Fiction with the first signs present on Character.

    I miss the days when there seemed to be more collaboration, or at least before Henriksson had the final word on everything. Song credits may indicate little changed with respect to writing, but interviews state otherwise. I know the band is happy with the system that has been in place since roughly 2000, but sadly I'm not. I can't blame everything on Henriksson--the band has been around a long time, and Sundin wrote a lot of We Are the Void--but to me his increased control over the band at the very least correlates with what strikes me as a creative decline, though I doubt this is the sole agent of causation.
     
  2. Dark_Silence

    Dark_Silence Member

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    i haven't read or heard any interview, do you have some links?

    i haven't been much into music lately because i have too much to do for college, but i could never really get into Fiction and We Are The Void. The songs don't sound different enough, i found these 2 last CDs sort of boring. I have to say that i didn't give them a good try.
     
  3. Naglfar

    Naglfar As Naglfar devours us all

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    I am going to be an old fogey and reference an old Metal Maniacs review of Haven that I read circa 2000ish. One of the post-Gallery complaints of many reviewer is this notion of "song distinction," which might simply mean... can I tell the songs apart without great effort?

    I've always thought this was sort of a lazy way to describe something that they couldn't quite express about the composition of each album, but when I first listened to Character (my least favorite DT album), I kinda began to feel that way, too.

    It's obviously an unfair criticism on a certain level... I mean, what the fuck is song distinction, anyway? That being said, I think that criticism is an expression of a wider discontent with heavy metal in general. A friend argued to me a long time ago that there's only so much you can do with a four or five piece band. He's only right in theory, of course, because in practice there's so fucking much you can do that it's hard to fathom.

    BUT... I don't think many metal bands aspire to do all that much, with notable exceptions. Does that I mean from my vantage I can tell DT "hey guys, can you mix it up a bit? Maybe throw in a few fucken bagpipes or something. A guy yodeling here and there would be the bomb, too."

    They are a pretty talented group, and while I don't want them to pull an Opeth and do something boring just because it's different, I was not very enthusiastic about the Damage Done to Fiction phase. We Are The Void was kinda neat, and I appreciate them being "masters" of a certain genre.

    I would like to see them branch out a bit, give us heavy but give us something new, too.
     
  4. farren

    farren Member

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    I should have included some quotes:

    There's another interview I read somewhere that points towards Damage Done as the as the album where Martin took on more of a lead role, though some year estimates they've given point to Haven. Regardless, I think most would agree that DD was sort of the beginning of this phase of DT, if they're fans of it or not. It's grown a little stale for me and I find it hard to be optimistic about future efforts personally...
     
  5. Dark_Silence

    Dark_Silence Member

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    Thank you for posting the interviews.

    that is exactly what i felt with the more recent albums as well.


    :D i can just imagine that :p o_O you made my day!
     
  6. farren

    farren Member

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    I also agree with the perceived lack of song distinction... Songs like My Negation, Terminus, Misery's Crown, and The Mundane and the Magic certainly stand out on their respective albums as unique tracks, but besides those and a few others, the last three albums seem rife with filler.

    Hate to say it, but I see a lot of parallels with Katatonia and In Flames. I love Damage Done, Viva Emptiness, and Colony, but all three albums in retrospect seem to have been harbingers of less interesting things to come (and varying degrees of enhanced commercial success for each band--make what you will of that correlation)...
     
  7. Naglfar

    Naglfar As Naglfar devours us all

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    Hey now, let's not be mean. In Flames basically ran out of anything good after the 1990s. They haven't released anything worth listening to since Colony, and I say that as someone who has such a low bar on musical satisfaction that I once saw the post-Danzig Misfits on purpose perform live.

    DT still puts out good stuff, but I'm not sure it's their best stuff, get my drift? There's a je ne sais quoi missing that I can't put my finger on, but the "song distinction" bit is more like me saying they're good enough to try some risky business in their songwriting.

    Whereas In Flames just has an an awful singer who would never sing for Dark Tranqui... err... ahehe.

    The musicianship gap between the two bands is just too wide. Apples and artificial apple-flavored candy made in Taiwan, my friend.
     
  8. Villain

    Villain Doctor BenQuillity

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    I disagree on almost every level.

    First of all, I think you're misreading Martin's role: he's not the one who ultimately decides what the band does (they've always said there's a simple democratic process within the band for that) - he's just the one who has the authority to get the others to work hard to get something ready. Being the artists they are, they have a tendency to tweak things over forever (see Iridium, for example) - without Martin pushing them we might not have seen one or two DT albums finished in time (or the albums might be significantly shorter, with multiple songs being left out as unfinished). At least this is the impression I've got from multiple interviews and several discussions with most (if not all) the band-members during the past ten years.

    As the above interview alludes, the fact that Martin has also written the majority of the songs during that period is not the reason he has taken the role as the band leader; in fact it's the other way around: he feels he can't tell the others to work hard unless he works even harder himself, so as a result he ends up producing a lot of material. Even though Niklas was the main song-writer on Void, I'm pretty sure Martin still had that role of a leader while they wrote and recorded that album.

    Now (especially if you don't like their past couple of albums), you might argue that such a forced approach to creating art is wrong and it might be better if they just let it all come naturally whenever it comes, no matter how long it takes. In an ideal world, I'd probably agree. However, we cannot deny the reality: DT already has a very slow release-schedule with long breaks between the albums - if they had, say, not released Character at all, what do you think are the chances that the band would still exist? Apparently, the band-members themselves think those chances would be rather small.

    Personally, I really like the albums they've released since Haven and I think the progression from DD to Character to Fiction is spectacular, with each album being better than the previous one (yes, I honestly think Fiction is the best DT album ever). There are similar approaches in some songs, yes, and I kind of understand the complaint about "song distinction" (even though I don't have any trouble distinguishing them myself), but I think the albums as a whole are incredibly strong and can stand repeated listening just as much as The Gallery or TMI. Sure, it's all a matter of taste, but I really don't think any of their newer material is any less inspired or fresh than what they did two decades ago.

    That said, I was a bit worried after Fiction - I was certain they couldn't top that album if they continued on the same path and felt they had to do something different this time. Luckily, the band felt the same way and they took a small but significant step on a new path with WAtV. It was still very much a post-Haven DT album with many recognizable DT-trademarks, but I think there were also lots of new and different elements that pushed the boundaries of what the band had done before. I think the "jump" between Fiction and Void was much bigger than the one between Haven and DD, meaning it was the biggest change we've seen from the band in a decade (and still some people complained it was too similar to Fiction...)

    I don't think Void is a particularly great album (especially when compared to the greatness of Fiction), but I think it was a promising start towards bold new things. And that's why I'm looking forward to Construct with great expectations.

    -Villain
     
  9. La Rocque

    La Rocque I am that I am

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    all praise to Master Villain
    he knows his sheeeet -

    :worship: :worship: :worship:
     
  10. farren

    farren Member

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    I understand what you're saying, but I suppose we have different interpretations by a matter of subtleties and degrees. Martin has taken more of a leading role in the band's creative process, if it's that he's the mature, focused motivator-in-chief in the studio, or something more like an influential producer in addition to being a contributing band member. There's no doubt there are still democratic processes in the band, but as most members of bands in general become more relaxed with age (yes, most are not like Dave Mustaine), the chance of other members not being cool with one member taking more of a leading role is diminished. Whatever the case, I think his influence has grown since switching to guitar, and we can probably agree on that much. I don't need to "blame" him for anything as taste is subjective and many people, seemingly most people here, like the DD and beyond stuff more than The Gallery, but I did want to post to note the correlation and suggest a little bit of causation.

    Regarding the In Flames comparison, I mean only that with Colony and DD I got a first taste of a more accessible In Flames and Dark Tranquillity to come. I don't hate Character, but I do hate Clayman and beyond, so the comparison is really only based on my opinion that each seem to be, in retrospect, a sign of what was to come from each band. I hate to use the term, but I do feel like Clayman was a "sell-out" album, a la Metallica's Load, and I certainly would not accuse DT of selling out as they've merely evolved.
     
  11. Defiance

    Defiance I vårens ljusa kvällar

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    I think this is a stupid thread. There was no "takeover", it was a decision in the band. That alone suffices for not even paying attention to this thread. And please, PLEASE no more effing comparisons with In Flames. What is this, 2005? Jeez.

    PS: I agree with everything Villain said *like*, thousand-fold.
     
  12. Naglfar

    Naglfar As Naglfar devours us all

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    I don't think the thread is stupid. But it bears correcting that not every instance of someone else taking over songwriting duties is a member takeover, like what went on with Slayer, Metallica, or most spectacularly for those of us who used to listen to death metal, when Dan Swano tried to kick out all the other members of Edge of Sanity and they kicked him out instead. Off topic... he won, in the end, because they released one so-so album and broke up, and he released Crimson II using the name years later. Now, returning to the matter at hand...

    So, I mean, now that the OP knows there wasn't a hostile takeover of the songwriting duties, it's really an instance of what direction they've taken the band.

    That being said... I want to distill something from Villain's post. Would I prefer Character to no Character at all? No. But not at the cost of the band breaking up. I would have preferred waiting two more years for a better album, "better" being the subjective preference for an album not being produced against a clock.

    I understand the professional need for this kind of pressure, as someone who writes very slowly without end-of-the-world deadlines. But my own view of their releases since Haven is that they are very talented but very conservative song writers. It really grates against my brain when someone describes their music as "perfecting" a certain sound or "masters" of a certain style. There's no such thing, so why whitewash the fact that they don't experiment very much with their style?

    If there were an anti-progressive rock band, it would be Dark Tranquility. I say that loving this band, but that's their musical personality to me.
     
  13. stizzleomnibus

    stizzleomnibus Decisively Human

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    I just want to say first of all that I whole-heartedly agree with Villain's post.

    I think the real debate boils down to the point made about song distinctiveness and the accusation of stagnation in the band's recent albums. I think Naglfar does a good turn by pointing out the limitations of the genre; a metal album necessarily occupies a certain sonic space, and it is unrealistic to expect wildly variant songs outside of that.

    What I would point out, however, is that the entire keyboard works of Bach were written for solo instruments, whether organ, harpsichord, or the revisionist choice of piano. Seriously, listen to an entire organ work all the way through. It's endless minutes of soaring tones, with no dynamic variation. When you consider the repeated melodic motifs and structural patterns which are typical of Baroque music, it is the ultimate in homogeneous, non-distinct music. It is also some of the greatest, most innovative music ever written, whether you personally enjoy it or not.

    There is definitely a Martin Henriksson-era formula, comprised of the monotone grinds, medium- to fast-tempo melodies, and very distinctive bridges. Songs in this formula make up the core of the albums being discussed (somewhat DD, but very much Character and Fiction). Forgive my arrogance in referencing my own work, but I feel like I've argued fairly thoroughly in other threads about the technical genius in DT's music. I would submit that there is a lot more to be gleaned from these albums with a bit of listener effort, much like you would apply in a formal educational setting when studying a traditional work (like a baroque or classical piece). While there is certainly a strong presence of "convention" and a certain set of sounds and techniques (i.e., "genre"), there is a great deal of distinctiveness to be found in and among the songs on these albums.

    I would also note that a lot of the less-formulaic comes from Niklas. One of the standout tracks on Fiction fits our purpose here: Inside the Particle Storm. The song uses a much longer buildup than typical, and the bridge section is uncharacteristically quiet, returning to the truly solo guitar heard in the intro before building all the way back up. People loved it, and I was personally really excited to hear all of the cool new material that Niklas contributed to WAtV. People may not be keen to admit it now, but the reception to that album was kind of lukewarm. I was putting in a lot of listening hours at the time (you can tell), but the album didn't really blow people away.

    So, in conclusion, I think there are two distinct critical camps on the forum: people who don't really enjoy the conservative, hyper-technical DT of DD forward, and another camp that didn't respond with much enthusiasm to the return of more experimental elements on WAtV. I'm not entirely certain people in either camp will ever really be happy, and they're entitled to their opinions. However, I think its unfair to the band to miss the amount of magic that they've poured into every single album since at least Projector. A lot of exciting new gimmicks come and go, but there aren't a lot of metal bands that have been performing and releasing at this level of quality for this long.
     
  14. Naglfar

    Naglfar As Naglfar devours us all

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    Ironic, considering that is their most compelling album in many years.

    I just want to make a correction, in case I was misunderstood. I said there's only so much you can do... in theory... with the four piece band. In practice there's probably more than humans will ever accomplish. And, as stizzle mcnizzle pointed out, this is true for even a single instrument.

    Except the accordion. Fuck that instrument. Ugh.
     
  15. Defiance

    Defiance I vårens ljusa kvällar

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    I KNOW!!! Absolutely mental to play.

    The problem I've with this thread is the use of the word "takeover", as there was none whatsoever.
     
  16. DE4life

    DE4life 'ello treacle

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    I really disliked We Are The Void, it lived up to its name as to me, it was void of passion or creativity. DT on autopilot. Initially I felt the same about Character and Fiction, but both grew on me. WATV never did. I'm hoping they show us something fresh with the next record.
     
  17. Defiance

    Defiance I vårens ljusa kvällar

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    Sucks for you! I think it's great, and I like it more than Fiction nowadays; it's very much a grower, and it has some of dt's best songs ever, Iridium. Her Silent Language is excellent as well, quite innovative.
     
  18. DE4life

    DE4life 'ello treacle

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    It does suck for me, as I really wanted to like the album. I console myself with the knowledge that at the very least, even in their worst hour, DT could never release anything as bad as A Sense of Purpose :D
     
  19. Naglfar

    Naglfar As Naglfar devours us all

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    WATV is one of their better albums, imo. It certainly was their best effort since Haven, as far I'm concerned (although I'm glad they remastered Haven, cuz it needed sum luvin').
     
  20. Defiance

    Defiance I vårens ljusa kvällar

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    I actually prefer WAtV over Fiction now, but not over Character or DD. And yes, most glad about the remasters; 'twas about time they got some McLuvin'.
     

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