Last Tuesday evening, I had traveled up to Clifton Park, NY with some good friends of mine to attend a metal show like no other. It was the second of two nights in which two tours of metal bands of many different varieties converged into a seven-band show. The headliner that evening was power metal legends Sonata Arctica, who’s tour package included Leaves’ Eyes, and Omnium Gatherum. The other tour consisted of Gothenburg legends Dark Tranquillity, with support from Swallow The Sun, Enforcer, and Starkill. Before entering the Upstate Concert Hall, I had the grand opportunity to speak with band members under the Century Media record label. The first one was none other than Mikael Stanne, vocalist of Dark Tranquillity. We discussed in detail DT’s new album Atoma, which as of now has hit #1 on the Swedish Metal chart and #2 on Sweden’s general album chart, their current tour, having an long-time friend finally join the line-up, and what it felt like playing on the evening of an unprecedented presidential election.
On Current Tour:
It’s been great so far, this is the fifth show. It’s been kind of crazy leading up to it, putting together a setlist and all of that stuff. But so far the show’s been amazing, and really really cool. The tour package we thought was awesome just because it’s some of our favorite bands, but it’s always hard to determine “How’s it gonna work?” or “Will it work?”. We have some speed metal, some thrash metal, and us. We’d wonder how it would work but every band’s been amazing. And we’re happy to be here and meet a lot of cool guys that we haven’t met before, so we’re making good friends. And today we’re clashing with another tour for a total of seven bands, which is crazy but kind of cool too because we’re seeing some of our old friends such as Omnium Gatherum whom we toured with many many times.
It was crazy yesterday because it was their first day of their tour, so hopefully today it goes a little smoother.
Atoma just came out a few days ago, how are the first weeks sales doing?
I honestly don’t know. Back home in Sweden it’s been doing amazingly well. Just crazy actually, the amount of copies we’ve signed is more than we’ve ever done. And while record sales are going down it seems people are still buying vinyl. We’ve been signing so many vinyl records it’s incredible. It’s looking good, maybe we’ll be number one for the first time in our whole career in our home country. It’s looking great in America as well. The reviews have been great and I couldn’t be more excited.
How has Anders been as your new bassist?
Amazing. He’s one of my oldest friends. We grew up together in the same suburb outside of Gothenburg. He started in a band pretty much the same time we started. So we’ve always been friends, hung out, played shows together, but he was in a band called Ceremonial Oath, early on with Oscar from HammerFall. Of course his brother Peter I knew very well and played with in In Flames. So it’s just like part of the family, but we’ve never played in bands together except for a few projects we’ve done over the years. Finally we get to tour together and share the stages together. He’s never toured the States before, which is surprising but so much fun because we get to show him around. I get to introduce him to our audience here and he’s having a good time, and I couldn’t be happier having him in the band.
How did you cope recording an album without Martin for the first time?
The recording was kind of difficult. Not in terms of not having him there because he wasn’t such a big part of the last album Construct. He was kind of burnt out, and he just couldn’t find the creativity, so he was like “you guys handle that, and I’ll handle everything else”. And that’s pretty much what he did this time as well. So musically it wasn’t that much of a difference. But emotionally, his leaving caused us to re-evaluate the band and start thinking “What the hell is going on?”, “Why are we still doing it?”, “If he doesn’t feel it anymore, how do we feel about it?, “Are we the same?” “Are we just going through the motions and not caring about it?”, “Is this something that we really want to do?”. That reinforced our passion for music and passion for playing. So it ended up being a positive thing for us even though it was difficult at first. It was a rough recording for a while for sure.
What are some good relatively new bands coming out of Gothenburg today?
In terms of new bands. There are a bunch of cool bands that I like. And what I love is that there are so many genres. Some of the best bands of each of these genres are from my hometown. I don’t know why that is. The last several albums I’ve been listening to are Gothenburg bands. Like Monolord, I listen to a lot. I like Blues Pills which is totally different but amazing. There’s a band called Goat which is psychedelic, really evil weird band that I love. So it’s still happening even though it’s not always melodic death metal as you would expect, and I love that.
Deals Death. Awesome band as well. We actually have two-fifths of them playing for us tonight.
Fifteen/Twenty years ago, did you ever see yourself blending clean vocals as frequently as you do today?
Maybe not as I do today. But we did it on the first album, like we had a ballad that I sang on Skydancer. So it’s always been there. We considered, why not try this out a little bit. And then of course we did a little more of it on Projector in 1999, which was a big change musically for us. And I just considered whatever the song needs that’s what I’ll do. And it’s interesting and challenging where you have a song that is more emotional and has something different in terms of melody that lends itself well to melodic vocals as well. For me it’s a different way of expression as well, like you can write different kinds of songs when you have that option to mix it a little bit. For me it’s a challenge and I love it but I don’t want to overuse it. We just do it so that it’s more accessible, commercial or whatever you want to call it. It’s just about the song.
Speaking of Skydancer, do you get requests for any songs from that album? Do you miss those songs or have you moved on?
We always move on. And of course we get requests, but it’s not that often honestly. It’s really hard to play those songs now because they were done when we were so inexperienced and crappy musicians. So it’s like going back and playing shitty.It’s weird you know? Even I played guitar back then. But we’ve done a few songs over the years just to surprise people a bit, give the old school fans something special. But as a band we always try to move forward and not dwell on the past. And we’ve been fortunate enough to have fans that accept that. They go with us wherever we want to go and are not like “You guys suck now, why don’t you go back to The Gallery“. It’s never really been like that. Like on this tour we’re playing 6 songs from the new album and I’ve heard no complaints yet. To me that’s the greatest review of an album you can have.
What’s it feel like playing on election night in the U.S.?
Scary. I’ve been following the election closely for the last year and I never thought we’d be here. This is just insane. Like the campaign that’s been going on. I’ve never seen anything like it. To me it’s entertainment almost, even though it does affect Sweden as well but not as much. But of course, whoever is in charge affects the rest of the world, being from the most powerful country. But I remember how all of Europe reacted when Bush was president. How we all laughed at you guys, and now maybe we have to do it for another 4 years, if worse comes to worse.
What is your desert island album?
I’ve been going back and forth on that kind of question among friends. But I think, Close to the Edge by Yes. It’s one of my all time favorite albums. And I still find new things that I love about it every time I listen to it. I remember walking into a record store where Anders works now. Been around forever, like the first record store I went to when I was a kid. And I saw the inlay thing of the gatefold LP of Close To The Edge and was like “Woah that is the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen. I need to buy that album and I don’t even know what it is”. And I’ve been a huge yes fan ever since. So that would be it.