Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tristania - Darkest White (2013)

If anyone is a fan of symphonic gothic metal, chances are they’ve at least heard of Tristania. While not as mainstream sounding as Within Temptation or Sirenia, they have definitely built a strong fan base. With  the release of “Beyond the Veil” in 1999, Tristania made something that was hauntingly beautiful and completely unforgettable. It was almost the perfect album with it’s harsh male vocals complimented by lush soundscapes and gorgeous female vocals. They hit the proverbial high mark with that album, but everything after wasn’t bad either. “World of Glass,” “Ashes,” and “Illumination” all had their fair share of incredible songs. It’s when the band saw the departure of the lead vocalist, Vibeke Stene, that they started to falter. On “Rubicon” it was very clear they were going in a different direction than previous efforts. Mariangela Demurtas wasn’t trying to imitate Vibeke Stene in the least, and that change in vocal style really brought down the appeal of the band. The vocals went from operatic and grand sounding to an almost monotone sound that had no dynamics. “Rubicon” wasn’t a bad album per se, but it in no way stacked up to anything they’ve previously done. Now, three years later, they’ve released their new album “Darkest White.” Again they’ve missed the mark and created something that’s more woefully boring than anything they’ve ever done.

Right from the very start of the album with “Numbers,” the band sounds extremely bored. It’s all over the place, sounding like three different songs in one. It’s also one of the most repetitive on the album. Not a good way to start it off. The next track, “Darkest White,” has a chorus that almost sounds like Tristania of old. Too bad it’s stuck in the middle of ho-hum verses and repetitive riffs. The album trudges along the next four songs with the only thing standing out being the chorus on “Diagnosis.” It’s ethereal and enjoyable. Too bad the rest of the song isn’t like that. The album really hits an awkward stop with “Night on Earth.” The beginning riff sounds like something off of Tool’s “Lateralus” and then goes into something that sounds like it belongs on the radio. The song is so mind numbing, boring and out of place on an album that’s already full of out of place songs. The next track, “Cathedral” is one hell of a saving grace on the album. It’s a good song that’s catchy and has a great chorus. “Lavender” is sleep inducing and won’t be missed by the listener if it’s skipped. The album closes with “Cypher” and “Arteries” which are the two other good songs on the album. “Arteries” is probably the most dynamic song on the whole record and a good way to end it. It opens with a face smashing riff that leads into the best chorus on the album. If this is what they can achieve, why couldn’t the rest of the album be this good?

It’s hard to compare this album to “Beyond the Veil.” They are so incredibly different, that the band should have changed their name with the release of “Darkest White.” I don’t think a band should keep churning out the same album again and again; change is good if it’s done right. In this case, the new sound they were going for just came off lazy and very sporadic. Still, underneath all of this muddle and filler, there is still talent that can make another mind-blowing album. They have what it takes with the new members to create something extraordinary next time.  As it is, “Darkest White” is just an unfocused, Frankenstein monster of an album with good parts sewn together here and there.


- Brian DuBois

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