By Adrien Begrand
For a band that’s been around as long as Dark Tranquillity has, there’s never been a proper DVD retrospective that’s properly done the Gothenburg greats justice. Granted, we did get the decent Damage Done from the good folks at Metal Mind way back in 2002, but after more than 20 years and with a ninth studio album on the horizon, there’s no time like the present to serve up a fan-pleasing set, and they’ve finally done so with the comprehensive Where Death is Most Alive. Packed to the gills with live performances, archival clips and documentary footage, it’s an immensely gratifying look back at one of the most consistent bands in all of metal.
The centrepiece of the entire set is Live in Milan, a complete concert shot in the Italian city in October 2008, during which the sextet plows through 20 songs over nearly two hours. This being the tail end of their tour in support of 2007’s Fiction, more than a third of the tracks are from that record, but they still treat the fans to a bevy of older tracks, ranging from such popular cuts as “The Wonders At Your Feet”, “Lost to Apathy”, and “Final Resistance” to more rarely performed nuggets like “Edenspring” and “Lethe”, both from their landmark 1995 album The Gallery. For a show captured in a small venue, it’s beautifully shot, the multiple hi-def cameras (including a crane) capturing both the band and their interaction with the audience without ever getting in the way. In addition, the audio mix by the ever-reliable Tue Madsen is superb, presented in crisp five-channel surround. Sleek and professional, this is how to capture a metal club show on DVD, and other bands would do well to follow Dark Tranquillity’s example. The performance has also been released on double CD, but while Madsen’s good mix is front and centre, folks who buy it are missing out on the tremendous visuals of the DVD, not to mention all the extras. It’s best to spend your money on the full package and find a good rip of the CD online instead.
For all the merits of Live in Milan, most fans will get an even bigger kick out of the second disc. The Live Archive features 21 videotaped live performances, eight of them dating back to 1991-92, when Anders Fridén was the lead vocalist prior to joining In Flames, and those early clips are indeed fascinating, as we see a bunch of young pups hammering out old tunes by their former band Septic Broiler in guitarist (and eventual frontman) Mikael Stanne’s parents’ garage in Billdal, Gothenburg, with blankets muffling the drum kit and barely any room to move. The 47 minute documentary Out of Nothing is very well done, as we hear from nearly every member of the band, current and former, as well as several of their hometown peers, such as Tiamat’s Anders Iwers and At the Gates’ Tomas Lindberg, all providing insight into the genesis of Dark Tranquillity as well as the history of the fabled “Gothenbug sound” as well. Although Fridén is not interviewed, it was very gracious of him to allow all the old footage with him in the band to be used. As the documentary points out, it’s remarkable how a group of kids in the same small neighbourhood could form a band before they even owned instruments, and then go on to become not only a highly influential band but one that is still going strong today. You’ve whetted our appetites, guys, big time; now bring on that new album.
DVD Rating: 8
CD Rating: 7