Tristania - Illumination
22 January 2007

01. Mercyside
02. Sanguine Sky
03. Open Ground
04. The Ravens
05. Destination Departure
06. Down
07. Fate
08. Lotus
09. Sacrilege
10. In The Wake [bonus]
11. Ab Initio [bonus]
12. Deadlands

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.

Performance: 8
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 8
Production: 9

Band profile: Tristania
Album: Illumination


written by velvet | 20.02.2008

Guest review disclaimer:
This is a guest review, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.

Guest review by

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.

published 07.05.2011 | Comments (0)


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Katatronik - 20.02.2008 at 21:18  
Agree with you man, great review!
good songs, but surely not their best one... I prefer Ashes...
Pale Enchantress - 22.02.2008 at 09:35  
ashes sucks Illumination owns
HolyandFallen - 19.06.2008 at 20:32  
ashes and illumination both suck! You should listen to their early stuf like Widows weeds or World in glass. That's what i call true metal!!!
Metal Symphony - 25.08.2008 at 00:15  
ur right!!! widow's weeds is their identity....but unfortinately they changed their style:S
Jason W. - 01.12.2008 at 09:48  
Hmm... well commenting on their live performances, well, I'll never know, because their touring of the US never happened in the 10 years I've listened to them - so hearing it live really never mattered much

But, regarding the review here... I agree with some points, but I must have found the real core of what Tristania wanted on this album, because I simply cannot get enough of it! I also think that "Ravens" is one of the best tracks on the album - the beginning just sucks you in, calms you in a way; some real emotion is everywhere in that song...

But I just have to disagree with you on your need for Latin choruses, or punchier breaks to emphasize certain parts of the songs. If the band kept using them each album, it'd almost become a cliche for them, and I think the result of that is what has been seen in later Sirenia albums - it's just not interesting now. Instead, "Illumination" is another evolution for the band - something any great band must do I think. And if it alienates the Morten fanboys/girls, so be it!!
Kuurslight - 09.02.2009 at 13:36  
I lost interest after ashes personally. I really like this album. Marys vocales are a good change IMO.
annodomini - 12.08.2009 at 16:38  
Written by Guest on 09.02.2009 at 13:36

I lost interest after ashes personally. I really like this album. Marys vocales are a good change IMO.

Its not Mary its still Vibeke on this album.
Vonpire - 11.10.2010 at 17:37  
... Just singing at a different record than previous albuns...

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