Rating:
7.7
Tristania - Rubicon
25 August 2010


01. Year Of The Rat
02. Protection
03. Patriot Games
04. The Passing
05. Exile
06. Sirens
07. The Emerald Piper [Limited Edition bonus]
08. Vulture
09. Amnesia
10. Magical Fix
11. Illumination
12. Caprice [bonus]


Tristania is for one more time in the controversial eye of the cyclone. The first time was when Morten Veland ceased to be a member of the band. The second was when the charismatic and adored by the fans of the band (and of gothic metal as well), Vibeke Stene, left. But the flames of controversy hadn't risen that much, not until recently when their 6th full-length album came to the surface, the 1st with Mariangela "Mary" Demurtas on the female vocals. Yet, this isn't the only change on the line-up, only two of the founding members remain in the ranks of Tristania, Anders Høyvik Hidle and Einar Moen, although Osten still partakes as a guest vocalist which is very welcome, he has also written half the lyrics of the album.

First of all, I didn't enjoy that much the cover artwork, it's not the first time Tristania had a person-centered cover and I understand they wanted to promote their new female singer, but this time it seems kind of cliché with the lust-implied stare and stuff like that. Of course we won't stay on that, it's just that inspired and beautiful covers are always… beautiful covers! And Rubicon's cover ain't one.

Rubicon is one of those albums that a band composes after severe changes in line-up which prologues a more commercial course in the near future, may the times prove me liar, but Rubicon is a pre-commercial step for the band with Mary trying her best to fit in, something she succeeds in. One could say that she's present only for the interpreting part, yet, she plays her role in the song-writing and the lyrics as well, that being a big plus for her. Concerning her voice, it's beautiful, yes, she's talented, otherwise she wouldn't have been in a band like Tristania which focuses on this kind of interpretation. Yet, her voice is not that unique, you'll find quite enough sound colours as hers in the female-fronted metal scene. Vibeke made the difference, Mary doesn't, but I still like the variety of emotions she comes across and the way she presents them. She's not alone in her task, there are three more people accompanying her, you'll find Anders' limited grunts, Kjetil's clean, melodic (with a lunatic touch at times) interpreting, even Osten as well! I think the band did its best in order to make Mary feel like home and “protect” her, maybe more than needed sometimes.

In my obscure kind of mind, I find Rubicon being a concept album, the lyrics have a sense of war, at times straight-forward, at others in a more esoteric way, depicting the broken and twisted reality of a soldier, being not able to judge by himself but waiting for orders to “think”. There's a disgust on war, a cry upon non-breathing braincells, a denial on order, a will for planet earth to finally move on and leave the “burning in water, drowning in fire” past far behind.

My thoughts on the album are very positive, I listened to Rubicon a lot to finally conclude in enjoying everything it has to say, writing down my thoughts was not the most pleasant experience, I was feeling more confused than confident. And in the end, I like the utter harmony that lies somewhere between dynamic and fragile passages, with few outbursts that escalate the atmosphere, or more heart-rending moments that leave you speechless. The violin's role this time is more limited, but that's the magic about it, whenever it appears you appreciate it wholeheartedly, especially since its parts are very inspired and overflown with emotion. The riffing once again is very good, there are also gothic rock chords and of course acoustic harmonies, offering a variety on guitar expression, blending well with the rhythm section. The keyboards play their part as well, either having a more important role, or a more accompanying one, in terms of atmosphere, but sometimes they tend to “vanish” behind Mary's “walls of sound” and that's the part of the production I didn't like that much, sometimes she stands more than required in the foreground, overshadowing instrument(s) and/or co-interpreter(s), but that's probably part of Tristania's masterplan on how they view the album.

Coherence, yes, that's the magic word, the link of the chain between the compositions in terms of atmosphere and Tristania succeeded in it. The dynamic and melodic at the same time “Year Of The Rat” and “Protection”, the twisted “Patriot Games”, the shivering “Amnesia”, the fragile “The Passing” and the overwhelming “Illumination” could be the songs that appeared to me the most, but I liked the album as a whole, except for one or two (probably being “The Emerald Piper” and “Magical Fix”).

I found Rubicon a good album, others will hate it, others will adore it, others will find it a good one as well, all I know is that with more than ten spins it has grown on me and I couldn't condemn it, despite my first thoughts finding it quite mediocre. The band has been reborn, but has the phoenix risen from its ashes? Only time will tell.

"So you slipped into the fire, I was watching it transpire."

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


Band profile: Tristania
Album: Rubicon


 



Written on 13.09.2010 by
DerRozzengarten
"It is myself I have never met, whose face is pasted on the underside of my mind."
More reviews by DerRozzengarten ››



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nb - 13.09.2010 at 15:26  
Yes, the cover art is awful. She seems pretty, but that is not a good metal cover artwork.
corrupt - 13.09.2010 at 15:30  
Good review. It's not often you see people put the feelings you have when listening to a reformed band of old and really can't decide whether you should laugh or cry. Even without listening to the album I think I can tell that for the most part I would agree. Maybe I'll be more put off by the new sound than you are. I didn't like Illumination for it, and that one was still powered by Vibeke. The thing for most of us with Tristania is the emotions that come with every mention of the name. The impact they had in their early days, the magnitude of their early creation and the steep decay afterwards. I can't let the old days behind me and listen to their recent stuff objectively. I somehow managed to do so with Ashes, which took me a while but I really like it. But with Rubicon I don't even want to try anymore.
Elyar S. - 13.09.2010 at 16:22  
Songwriting, Performance and Originality are overrated in this review I think. And the average says that its has to be more than than 8 in total. Maybe it was because of cover art I dont know but all in all IMO this album doesnt deserve any compliment. If it was Lacuna Coil or Evanescence I would say its a good album not for Tristania for sure.
Dominus - 13.09.2010 at 16:39  
Not bad. I think it exceeded my expectations.
annodomini - 13.09.2010 at 17:19  
Wow, at last a review, and quite positive - Great! I had another opinion on Tristania's reborn. I believe they came back with Illumination, which was also very good.

Here's my review, may more positive, but in General I agree with everything you said here
http://cabinofart.blogspot.com/2010/08/tristania-illumination.html
annodomini - 13.09.2010 at 18:00  
Written by Guest on 13.09.2010 at 17:30

I think the songwriting should be the highest grade and performance the lowest.


And what's wrong with performance? All 4 vocals are done amazing, guitars are played brilliant from acoustic to electric, than keybords and drums are in its place too.
Susan - 13.09.2010 at 18:06  
A very honest review. While reading this review I understand perfectly what you mean by, "writing down my thoughts was not the most pleasant experience, I was feeling more confused than confident."

I'm excited to hear this album and very much want to like it. I don't expect it to be better than any previous Tristania albums, but I expect it to be enjoyable.

Sad that Mary's voice isn't very unique. That seems to be a disturbing tread with more popular metal bands.. trading in their unique female voices for a more generic one. I guess generic ones are easier to sell to the masses, and easier to sing along with.
annodomini - 13.09.2010 at 18:20  
Written by Guest on 13.09.2010 at 18:11

Written by annodomini on 13.09.2010 at 18:00

Written by Guest on 13.09.2010 at 17:30

I think the songwriting should be the highest grade and performance the lowest.


And what's wrong with performance? All 4 vocals are done amazing, guitars are played brilliant from acoustic to electric, than keybords and drums are in its place too.

Pretty much just the vocal performance. Vulture has the only intriguing vocals. About the new singers; the other one is boring and kinda spluttering and mariangela is just someone from the streets with voice not big enough nor unique enough.


Well then we have different ears, because what makes this album special for me is vocal lines, truly amazing.
Jeeers - 13.09.2010 at 19:47  
A very big dissapointment for me is this album. I liked all of previous ones, but this ... this is so mediocre and popsy, that it's hard to say something positive about it. The the greatest dissapointment for me is Mariangelas vocals - don't get me wrong she can sing and she does, but the voice is so generic and in some parts it can even become annoying and irritating. Not a good choice in my opinion for Tristania - great bands should have great singers. Chick looks good and sometimes creepy (Year Of The Rat video), but more important for me is the music and the voice. I don't really need Vibeke, but I kinda hoped and prayed for somebody her level who could fill her shoes (not necessary in the same singing style).

Mariangela is so much less - that is a FACT.

Look for example at Flowing Tears or The Gathering - they have decent replacements for their original singers.

Of course this album has it's moments - my favourites are "Vulture" and "Illumination", "Year Of The Rat" is good and promising at the beginning, but refrain is fuckin' annoying. "Sirens", "Protection" is at least decent, but the rest is crapppy and unemorable (it's judging from my 12 days ago listening, so it's hard to remember every song).
At first I thought - this is PURE SHIT!, then I decided that I must be wrong and forced myself to listen carefully for about 10 times, but then I quit...
Resume - mediocre, weak, dissapointing, but bearable and in some parts even good.
Couldn't decide what vote to give "5" or "6". Gave "6" after comparing my votes for other bands.
Still hoping for the next album to be better and capable of wearing the name - "Tristania"
Definitely the biggest letdown of this year!

P.S. - Nice review by the way!
P.P.S - Normal and decent cover art - that is the best part of this album - I liked it, if you will forgive me !
wormwood - 13.09.2010 at 20:16  
Good review.
i agree on the cover art, it sucks, such as Mary.
i don't like to trash on new singers, but Mary has nothing to do with the band. However, i don't believe it is her "fault" that new new album sounds much more comercial. compared to the others, Illumination was already much more mainstream, so even if Vibeke was still in the band, maybe the sound wouldn't be much more different from this Rubicon...just with a better singer.
Mary would fit Lacuna Coil, but definatly not Tristania.
annodomini - 13.09.2010 at 22:12  
C'mon guys Yesterday I was talking with one girl and she said the right thing "Mary's vocals sound absolutely the same as VIbeke's in Illumination" so whats the point in judging her? Her voice fits perfectly Tristania, IMO.
Jeeers - 14.09.2010 at 01:47  
Written by annodomini on 13.09.2010 at 22:12

C'mon guys Yesterday I was talking with one girl and she said the right thing "Mary's vocals sound absolutely the same as VIbeke's in Illumination" so whats the point in judging her? Her voice fits perfectly Tristania, IMO.

A bear has stepped on your ear! (or hers)
Lovecraft - 14.09.2010 at 17:52  
Mary's vocals are not bad at all, but they are generic and mediocre. She just doesn't fit with Tristania, imo. And yes, the review is very honest.
Ernis - 15.09.2010 at 20:45  
I would have liked to review this myself but now that I've read yours, I can surely say that I couldn't have done it as good as you did. The album is good, yes... altho, now that I think, indeed, Mary's good but now they sound more like Lacuna Coil than the old Tristania... then again, we never expected Tristania to remain the same forever anyway...
johnny_ - 19.09.2010 at 13:54  
In my opinion you have been way too indulgent. This album has nothing to do with Tristania. You could say that Illumination was somewhat of a concept album. The current album has nothing of the emotion or the atmosphere that previous albums had and gothic albums have in general. I for one would not be able to say "Hey, this is Tristania" after listening half of the album.

For me Illumination will be the last album I will listen from them and this new one is the end of Tristania. They've entered a new category, easy-to-listen-for-everyone category. From this point they can only go lower imho.

You review is sincere and well written but we probably have different taste in music. My grade for this album would be somewhere between 6-6.5 at most.
Elodie Artour - 23.09.2010 at 21:37  
@DerRozzengarten: This is a hell of a good review, man! Congrats on the great job!

On the whole, I found "Rubicon" pretty mediocre. I expected something way more horrible, though, but it still isn't anything special. Somehow, it reminded me a lot of Sirenia's latest release, "The 13th Floor." The compositions of "Rubicon" are repetative and nearly the same, lyrics are cliché, etc. Personally, Mary's voice has never managed to appeal on me. I simply love Vibeke and that's it! (Although I'm definitely not that biased if it comes to Mariangela.) Surprisingly, I discovered some exotic/oriental influences on the record. (Could be because of Mary herself.) I can listen to the album every once in a while but I'm pretty sure it won't grow much on me. Just facing the fact that when I started listening to the second song off the record, I immediately wanted to switch to "The 13th Floor," convinces me "Rubicon" is damn average indeed...

P.S.: Otherwise, I totally agree with johnny_ on the following thing: This is so NOT Tristania!
Susan - 27.09.2010 at 01:10  
Wow I finally heard this album and LOVE it!!! It's incredibly good music and well performed. I must say that I'm quite shocked. I was expecting mediocrity. This is a pleasant surprise.

Tristania's biggest problem seems that people can't appreciate their evolution. If many fans heard this album blind they would probably love it, but knowing it's Tristania means you're expecting the first two albums rehashed. This band evolves beautifully. Why is that so difficult to hear?

Also, I really dig Mary's voice. I was also expecting mediocrity here, but she definitely brings something special, a cut above many other female singers in metal today. More importantly, ALL the voices mix so well together. It doesn't feel to me like the boys are trying to "protect" her but instead that this band has great chemistry together vocally and musically.

@Elodie- this most certainly IS Tristania!! It's such a natural progression from Ashes to Illumination to Rubicon. Unless you were expecting Beyond the Veil II and I sincerely hope that NO ONE is still expecting Beyond the Veil II, ever.
fade - 27.09.2010 at 23:52  
I want to like this album but it just reminds me to much of that terrible wanna be goth band that starts with an E. It's better then that but all I hear in the female vocals is E.

This is my state after hearing it twice. Maybe it will change after I listen to it more... I owe it that much judging from Lyrinan's post.
Susan - 28.09.2010 at 00:57  
Nah, if it's not your thing then it's not your thing. I just get pissed when people say it sucks because it's not like the old albums, or it sucks because it doesn't have Vibeke. But, yeah, if it's just not your thing then don't sweat it.
Tinsoldier - 10.11.2010 at 22:09  
"I just get pissed when people say it sucks because it's not like the old albums, or it sucks because it doesn't have Vibeke. But, yeah, if it's just not your thing then don't sweat it."

So do I. What I'm seeing is horrible bias, really. Bias because everybody still has their noses stuck in the "old" era, and because Mary is not Vibeke. Besides, Rubicon and Illumination in essence weren't very different at all, just the vocals.
And whoever said "Vibeke is unique in metal genre"... OH YEAH? Different from those 234234 other classically trained singers? Bitches, please. She's a great vocalist, but not very distinctive, so don't come to me with that talk.

Thanks much.
dismaleuphony - 07.12.2010 at 06:18  
This album will probably always be a moderate hard one for me to form an opinion on. On simply a Tristania level, it's a letdown from Illumination, which touched me quite deeply lyrically and within its soundscapes. And also, Rubicon has the worst Tristania song yet for me, "Patriot Games."

However, Mary is a competent vocalist, though her role is less important on this album than it would have been in past releases. This disc goes from good to horrible to intriguing to downright boring from song to song to me. I love the male vocal arrangements on "Vulture," which likely will be the song I play on its own for a long while. But falling asleep mentally in songs like "Amnesia" and being disappointed with the violins makes me lean toward only a middling opinion of the album.

An interesting release for me, but not really a memorable one. I just don't feel the cohesion between the tracks that the review suggests. But I do agree that the production is not advantageous to the album many times.
cluster53 - 02.02.2011 at 06:46  
A bad album
VaronoZz - 01.04.2013 at 01:58  
Written by corrupt on 13.09.2010 at 15:30

Good review. It's not often you see people put the feelings you have when listening to a reformed band of old and really can't decide whether you should laugh or cry. Even without listening to the album I think I can tell that for the most part I would agree. Maybe I'll be more put off by the new sound than you are. I didn't like Illumination for it, and that one was still powered by Vibeke. The thing for most of us with Tristania is the emotions that come with every mention of the name. The impact they had in their early days, the magnitude of their early creation and the steep decay afterwards. I can't let the old days behind me and listen to their recent stuff objectively. I somehow managed to do so with Ashes, which took me a while but I really like it. But with Rubicon I don't even want to try anymore.


you completely covered my thoughts

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