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Tristania: Illumination

So-called gothic metal has always confounded me, especially the kind that features beautiful and sexy female vocals and cold-as-frozen-steel male vocals. More often than not, I get this weird aural image of a band like, say, Lacuna Coil, sharing a stage with the Pet Shop Boys. In the case of Tristania's Illumination expected to boost the Norwegian band's North American profile even more than 2005's Ashes these 10 songs succeed without really altering that bizarre image for me. Vibeke Stene's powerful voice (thankfully) doesn't go over the top as much as it could, and it rarely veers into claustrophobic Tarja Turunen territory. But her presence is tempered by the dour delivery of guitarist/vocalist Anders Hoyvik Hidle, who occasionally resorts to parched death-metal gasps. (Listen to "The Ravens" to hear what I'm talking about.) The vocals of Stene and Hoyvik Hidle are backed by dark metal that's often atmospheric, mysterious, muscular and always evocative. Standout tracks include the pounding opener "Mercyside," the epic "Open Ground" and the haunting "Destination Departure." Some of the songs do tend to sound the same, but that can be said about most gothic metal. At its essence, Illumination seeks to define (read: not redefine) the genre. If that's good enough for Tristania, that should be good enough for me.

Track Listing:
1) Mercyside
2) Sanguine Sky
3) Open Ground
4) The Ravens
5) Destination Departure
6) Down
7) Fate
8) Lotus
9) Sacrilege
10) Deadlands

Added: January 30th 2007
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official Tristania Web Site
Hits: 3538
Language: english

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Tristania: Illumination
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-01-30 15:36:16
My Score:

With Illumination it seems that Norway's Tristania has decided to move deeper into the Gothic side than ever imagined as this release serves fans a quasi-Evanescence feel - but with a lot more depth and dramatics than that outfit seems to provide. There aren't much of the Dark Growling vocals that were once delivered by Kjetil Ingebrethsen; as the singer left the band in mid 2006 to pursue other interests. Instead, that style is provided by guest vocalist Vorph (from Samael) and used sparingly this time around. For "llumination, the band shifted gears a little and as result the whole release is now a brooding and dark piece of music with textures that both chill and warm the blood at the same time. Singer Vibeke Stene provides siren like melody and operatic styles to the sullen and deep words of her male counterpart Osten Bergoy and this pairing seems to work even better than it did before. The opening track of "Destination Departure" just grabs you with the overall groove it has to it while "Mercyside" is perhaps the albums most captivating sing based on the big operatic choir it uses as a chorus. Surely both of these will be among many of the fans favorite tracks. Their US debut was Ashes (also on SPV Records) but it was an album that was slightly different for that that release focused a lot more on Kjetil instead of Vibeke. On Illumination, she is really showing to be the focal point of the group instead of just being their female bonus member or ornamentation. Vibeke is also a stunning beauty and together with her incredible voice she is bound to become a star that will be worth watching. The lineup of Tristania is quite large with a full seven members in its roster making this music come to life. Joining Vibeke and Osten are Anders Hoyvik Hidle (guitars), Rune Osterhus (bass), Einar Moen (keyboards), Kenneth Olsson (drums) and Svein Terje Solvang (guitars); perhaps the large membership roster is what makes this band come off as a little fuller than others who choose this genre.

The Gothic Metal style seems to be growing in popularity and thanks to efforts from bands like Moonspell, Type-O-Negative, and Draconian there is just so many good ones that it can be taken seriously and take sufficient growth steps. The bands decision to blend additional elements of Doom (the very Black Sabbath inspired style) to their brand of Gothic makes this a recording that stands out a lot more than others of its type. Having compared this to other Tristania releases I think this is the release that will break new ground for the group and offer them a promising future. Truly the dark never looked as bright before now.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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