This, our final battle in the Round Of 32, is a classic clash between something old and something new: the eleventh album from Gothenburg sweethearts Dark Tranquility versus the debut from Ben Weinman's supergroup Girrafe Tongue Orchestra.
DT's Atoma starts off without preamble or straying far from their winning formula. Tight production, flawless musicianship, and a cloudy atmosphere have ever been hallmarks of the band's sound, and all three are in full effect on this album. This has always been at the core of DT's strengths, but it's also one of their weaknesses; theirs is a career-spanning consistency that at times borders on monotony. That's not to say that Atoma lacks variation; songs like the title track and Force Of Hand demonstrate modest ambitions for musical evolution and experimentation. But those moments are captivating exceptions that prove the rule, and the homogeneity of Atoma makes its 49 minutes a bit of a slog.
GTO's Broken Lines exploits that weakness uniquely; this debut from alumni of DEP, Mastodon, AIC, and The Mars Volta has no baggage to draw from, and yet still benefits from the myopic expectations that those bands engender. Put another way: by focusing on combining those different elements in various ways, GTO all but guarantee a novel and interesting sound. This is more a remix of a parlor trick than any kind of breaking of new ground, but it works often enough to be entertaining. William DuVall deserves special props for effectively stepping away from his Layne Staley-channelling day job, adding a level of cohesion that is otherwise hard to find. Broken Lines nudges out Atoma by being more unpredictable and worthy of note this year, and heads off to the next round, where they'll battle with Anthrax.
We've culled our thirty-two contestants down to sixteen. Tomorrow, the next round of competition begins, with Textures and Testament. Innnnteresting.