It’s been a long time between Aussie beers for Dark Tranquillity, bearers of Gothenburg’s melodic death torch. Nine years, in fact. “We’re sorry we’ve been absent for so long,” says their flame-maned vocalist Mikael Stanne. “We can’t wait, it’s going to be awesome. Hopefully we can make it up to you guys.”
His rich baritone glides through the air, even when speaking. Dark Tranquillity don’t merely speak, though – they roar. Originally named Septic Broiler, Dark Tranquillity pioneered the mid-’90s Gothenburg sound. Stanne and lifetime friend Niklas Sundin seized upon the heat and fire of death metal, tempering it with classic twin-guitar harmonies, acoustic flourishes and clean, classically trained singing.
Alongside fellow Swedes like At The Gates and In Flames, Dark Tranquillity’s melodic death metal stands like a proud pillar of heavy music. Proving so popular, it’s unsurprising the band notches up its quarter century in 2014. Pondering the milestone, Stanne admits, “I get a little stab of anxiety. Actually, it doesn’t feel like 25 years at all. It’s something that I’ve been doing for more than half my life. I can’t do anything else.”
Stanne was 14 when he founded the band, solely as a guitarist. He then filled the vocal spot of Anders Friden – now of In Flames – when Friden left in 1994. “It immediately became like the most important thing in the world, like there was nothing else,” Stanne recalls. “[The band] grew up together. We lived on the same street. We discovered metal music together. We listened to the same albums. We copied each other’s CDs, vinyl, cassettes. Went to the same shows. The fact that it’s been 25 years, it’s just been incredible.”
Indeed, Stanne has known a life on the road from an age when most kids are used to riding their bikes to school. “The fact is, we have to travel,” Stanne says, chewing it over. “We have met so many awesome people, seen so many great things, travelled the world, and even had opportunities to relax. It’s the best thing in the world. We’re lucky that we can still do this. We feel very thankful to the people who still support us, come out to our shows, and buy our records and all that.”
When Stanne says records, he means records. Vinyl records. Despite the band blooming just as vinyl’s staple years tailed off, Dark Tranquillity demanded releases on wax. Throughout their career, their albums arrived in an array of colourful and enticing formats. One such extravagance is their live album, Where Death Is Most Alive, a whopping 180-gram, three-LP set. True to form, they’ve recently issued a new seven-inch for sale exclusively at their North American shows.
“I’d love to go record shopping on this tour but I can’t really do that,” Stanne says, crestfallen. “Our seven-inch was supposed to arrive today…” He excuses himself for a moment. “Hey! I’m holding it right now,” he gushes, like a father with his newborn. “It’s red and splattered – it feels good to hold it in my hands. I’m kind of sad for people who never even bought CDs. Now they’re just losing out. [Buying records is] a form of pride as well. I like to show off my album collection at home to my friends.”
Metalheads hoarding rare collectibles feels kindred with geekdom-at-large. Stanne is no stranger to all things nerdy. “Oh, we’re huge Star Trek fans,” he confesses. “Very much so, all of us.” (His favourite series is The Next Generation, by the way.)
“I think metal is something a lot of people are really passionate about, so they get obsessive about it,” Stanne points out. “We do these meet-and-greets every day and the people who come have really interesting questions that sometimes we can’t even answer. We’re like, ‘What? What? No, I don’t remember that!’ They’re really, really passionate about us. I love that.”
Construct out now through Century Media/EMI.