Tristania - Illumination review
|Release date:||January 2007|
02. Sanguine Sky
03. Open Ground
04. The Ravens
05. Destination Departure
10. In The Wake [bonus]
11. Ab Initio [bonus]
Tristania - a band name that used to (and indeed still should) stroke the libido of any self respecting gothic-metalhead. Mr. Veland left the band a long time ago, and shot me down in flames if you wish, but I have no problems with that. For me "World of Glass" outshone "Beyond the Veil", and even "Widow's Weeds" in terms of diversity and songwriting, and Tristania remained a force to be reckoned with.
Of course "Ashes" brought a newer sound to the band, and "Illumination" continues that thread. Anyone who has seen Tristania live knows that this is not a group in the format of Female frontwoman and awesome musicians around her. Here there are usually three equally important vocalists (female, clean male and extreme male) and enough band to fill a moderately sized train carriage. "Illumination" breaks this trend a bit however, in that the extreme male vocals take very much the back seat. Now yes, they are still present (this isn't a sudden loss like with Theatre of Tragedy or Within Temptation) and used to good effect when they are implemented in tracks such as "The Ravens" - a very, very good song, and possibly my favourite on the album.
"Illumination" is a showcase for Vibecke Stein, and it delivers. Her vocals are different from the other leaders of the genre, in that she is much more choral. There is no opera here and no powerblasting vocal extravagances - just very good, very professional soaring vocals that have always complimented Tristania's style. "Illumination" shows more of Vibecke's talent than any other Tristania album to date, but the problem is that now there is little balance between her, harsh vocals and strong changes in tempo. It just seems that "Illumination" follows the same trend throughout the album, with continuous guitar drives overlain with female or male song lines. And yes, this is what Tristania has always been to a certain extent, (and dear gods they do it well) but where are the latin choruses? The sudden breaks before guitar crunches? The sheer drama that "World of Glass" or "Widow's Weeds" had? It is a shame for me that the most interesting break in the album comes as the bonus track "In The Wake". Listening through the album I came to realize that musical punctuation is what it needed a bit more of. Something to remind us to sit up and pay attention, which sadly waned for me in the second half of the album! I've never grown tired of a Tristania release, even "Ashes", which I see as an album that works far better live than as a studio album. I'm worried that "Illumination" is a bit, well, moderate. Don't get me wrong, the slower tracks are stunningly beautiful, and the harsher tracks are wonderful. But there's just no balance here.
The other revelation to "Illumination" (a pleasant rhyme, no?) is that it won't be heard live as written, since Vibecke has now left Tristania. Whether the songs will stand up to Tristania's previous works live, like "Ashes" certainly did, will be determined by the public opinion of the new vocalist (reminiscent of we all know exactly what…). I'm not going to say my hopes are high though. So yes - a good album, a perfect reminder of Vibecke's talent as a vocalist, but certainly not Tristania's best release. Check out "Down", "the Ravens" and "Deadlands" - tracks worthy of your love.
|So, Tristania have changed their face more than Joan Rivers -- we all know that. That being said, their 2007 release Illumination is probably the best sampling of the various flavors the band has offered during their 14-year run. Tag-team vocals range from guttural growls to Østen Bergøy's clean-yet-sinister sneer, while Vibeke Stene's angelic trills float above the fray with virginal vulnerability.
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