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Dark Tranquillity :: Decoding The Gothenburg Sound

Dark Tranquillity :: Decoding The Gothenburg Sound

By Cullen Poythress

As far as I can tell, Gothenburg, Sweden did for melodic death metal what Seattle did for grunge. It’s probably a bold thesis for someone who’s never been to either city, but it’s certainly fair to say that both of these obscure rock capitals laid the sonic foundations for what would become two very distinctive musical subgenres. While early ’90s Seattle rock bands like Alice In Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney, and Melvins were busy carving out what would eventually be known as “grunge” or “the Seattle sound,” seminal Gothenburg metal acts like Dark Tranquillity, At The Gates, Dissection, The Haunted, and In Flames were headlong in redefining the sound of death metal. This new breed of Scandinavian metal replaced the down-tuned speed picking, percussive blasts, and guttural vocal stylings typical of traditional American death metal and European grind with catchy, melodic riffs, soaring harmonies, choppy backbeats, mid range screams, and even the occasional synth—yielding an entirely new sound and musical experience. Like Seattle’s effect on alternative rock, the new sound emerging from 1990s Gothenburg had a rippling effect around the world that would forever alter the sound of metal music to come.

If it’s Nirvana that holds the throne for Seattle grunge, it’s Dark Tranquillity that holds it for Swedish melo-death. With 25 years of music under its belt, Dark Tranquillity is largely credited with originating the so called “Gothenburg Sound”—and they’re still at it.

Last week, Dark Tranquillity-along with Finish contemporaries Omnium Gatherum and local Whittier, California rippers, Exmortus-performed in both San Francisco and Los Angeles to crowds of eager metal fans thirsting for a taste of authentic Gothenburg-style metal. Below are a few images of the show.

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