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Listening to the entire album for the first time provoked a certain uneasy feeling deep inside, knowing these are the same people who masterfully crafted three beautiful records, beginning with the self –titled, Velvet Darkness They Fear, and Aegis. It seems unfortunate that Stavanger’s Gothic doom household has now turned on its head, becoming a mere parody of itself.
Now, fifteen years after its initial release, Musique is certainly an offering that one has grown to either love or hate. Consensus across the board seems to indicate a uniformed pattern of shock and contempt at the drastic change in style. Ask around any metalhead about this record; it is a safe bet that they will most likely jeer at this album. However, one man’s abomination is another man’s art. It eventually grows on me like some benign tumor that poses no threat due to its miniscule size. At the same time, I am awaken to the reality of trying get rid of it while it is still infancy. While there is not much to be treasured from this release, “Machine” is certainly a memorable opener. In all intent and purposes, this is no longer a Gothic metal album. Liv Kristin shifts from singing like a siren in despair to all-out pop queen. Afraid not, her trademark voice is still here to stay but she has explored a new singing style that is surprisingly pleasant after a decade and a half later. On the other hand, Raymond now sounds ever so monotonous and digitized thanks to the voice synthesizer. He sounds awful, like pretentious almost. Although I can’t exactly blame him for his performance but his breath is funky from the prospect of getting more money. Yes. Liv is the reason this album being a not so disastrous in my long list of bands whose change in style gone completely wrong.
Personally, this record holds a certain level of aesthetics that is so foreign even to the band members but it is not without redeeming qualities. Picture the song “Crash / Concrete” being used in scenes where Wesley Snipes is slicing his way through a crowd of vampires in the next installment of Blade film series. “Image” is however nothing short of sexually flirtatious and it will not work with the previously mentioned scenario. On its own, the song is one of my immediate favorite and it is a perfect choice for a single. There is nothing particularly fantastic about this track other than its clever use of synthesizer, upbeat tempo akin to classic rock fused with danceable electronic tunes. Have you watched the music video? The monochromatic texture befits the song very well and it is by no means surprising to see just how alluring Liv is. The rest of the guys look rather hilarious though what with the emo-esque eyeliner.
Another highlight of the album is “Retrospect” which is surprisingly pleasant to say the least. Its slow, trance-inducing verse section is notable for bringing back the listeners to the band’s Gothic heyday. It is a moving experience that somehow sums up the band’s metamorphosis, yet the process retains the basic DNA that makes Theatre of Tragedy who they are. This is also the track where the guitars are more upfront with computerized sound effects toned down to minimum. Consider this song as a self-conscious farewell note to their old style that Raymond deemed to have grown sick and tired of repeating. Next, we have the near-instrumental “Retrospect” followed by “Space Age”. The latter track finalizes the electronic transition on most somber notes, neglecting what the band has stood for in the past while their hearts are somehow itching to relive the good old days. To some, Theatre of Tragedy seemed to have made the bed that they now sleep in but pre-departure albums disproved otherwise; both “Storm” and “Forever is the World” recapture the emotional high commonly associated with their Gothic doom sensibility during the early years.
“That’s it, Theatre of Tragedy commits suicide” is exactly what I thought when Musique first came out fifteen years ago. Yes. Back then, I didn’t even bother listening to this album after one session. I was deeply disappointed. Today, I am now able to appreciate what they do and I respect their decision after purchasing their last two records. Once thought to be dead, the band is alive and kicking, only to depart once again but this time, they are totally gone, never to return. “Musique” is for the most open-minded metalheads. Majority of the tracks are quite boring. Only a handful of songs are listenable and they are surprisingly good which makes this album a skip-worthy record, suitable only for the die-hards and collectors alike.
The letters W, T and F are thrown around all too much these days, but seriously- WTF? The masters of gothic metal made this? No, no it's just so wrong. It's electropop. Even the infallable Wikipedia knows it. This is electropop and with a couple tracks exceptions, it's bad electropop. Commute and Machine are rather neat in a catchy sort of way but the title track is hokey beyond hokey. "I need more rhythm"? Clicks and beeps? This is the kind of lyric and sound that KMFDM would throw away, let alone what a band who previously wrote wholly in old english and sang like opera.
I gave Assembly 75%, and did so because techno though it is, it is good, catchy fun techno. Musique is not. Musique is hokey lame crappy club techno that could only be appreciated on a whole lot of drugs surrounded by glow sticks and 16 year olds on E. And I don't mean the note. Speaking of notes, there are two on this album: high and higher. The light featherweight tones and repetative yet unmemorable songs are too long 3 minutes. And after Aegis! Aegis was slow, dark, sad, somber, beautifull, memorable, elegent, smart, everything that the word gothic means. And then this had to happen. It's like watching a marathon runner trip on a banana peel, and sounds much the same. If you want good electrpop wait for their next album. If you want gothic metal stick to their first three. If and only if you want their complete works for the sake of obsessive complusive disorder, buy Musique, but if you do for the love of god don't listen to it. Life is just too short for that.
Who would have thought Theatre of Tragedy would create an industrial metal album with touches of electro clash and EBM? Well, they did, and it’s pretty a good album, too, despite some of the angry fans have to say about it. “Musique” was the second ToT album I purchased. A friend played “Assembly” for me and I wasn’t too impressed with it overall, although I did enjoy the sound. I wasn’t sure what to expect from “Musique” since I had also been exposed to the band’s earlier offerings. But I was surprised and pleased when I sat down to listen to it. Having been a fan of both industrial metal and EBM for some time, I was instantly at home with it.
This CD is primarily hard riffs, the band’s signature contrast of Ray and Liv’s vocals, heavy synth work, and many electronic trimmings. The keyboards definitely play a central role in deciding the direction of the tracks. This is a big contrast from the near doom like quality of ToT's first two releases. The pace of the songs is very upbeat and relentless. The songs are also shorter and much easier to get into. Almost every single one of these songs is a winner for me. Fragment, Crash / Concrete, Machine, Reverie, Cummute, and Image are where the album shines in my mind.
Theatre of Tragedy have always been a band that is hard for me to figure out. I found the lyrics in their previous albums so corny I almost couldn't take it. I couldn’t tell if they were admitting to gothic metal’s cheesy over use of “thee,” “thou,” and “hast” or if they were serious about it. And with “Musique,” I find myself in the same dilemma. Image is such a sultry song, and when Liv keeps going and going with the dirty talk it’s really too much. Lyrics in some of the other songs seem to border on the satirical. At times, the robotic tones of voice really get on your nerve, and at other times they fit perfectly with the music. The lyrics have a transhumanist / cyberpunk feel throughout and this is only supported by the excessive electro pop touches.
I don’t know what it is about metal, but every time a band undergoes a dramatic genre shift as with the case of ToT, there is always a group of fans that throws a fit and writes said group off as betraying the cause or whatever. “Musique” is a CD you have to approach and listen to with an open mind. Anything less will prevent you from enjoying the good album that it is. For me, this was easy since electronic music is another big part of what I listen to. For others who are more diehard when it comes to metal, I imagine it will be hard if not impossible to overcome their prejudice. This album is worth the buy if you’re into industrial metal and don’t mind excessive dependence on electronic elements.
I must admit that I never expected such a change from Theatre of Tragedy. They went from gothic/doom metal to industrial metal. This change, however, isn't bad. If you don't compare this to "Velvet Darkness they Fear" or the debut, this will sound like a very well done experimental album.
"Musique" has a techno-like sound mixed with industrial metal. It's quite mellow, despite the fact that it's labeled as techno. It has a very futuristic sound that goes perfect with the lyrics that talk about future and technology. However, the flaw that I find in the lyrics is that they're talking against techno music, and at the same time, they're playing it. One line I can think of is in the title track; "Electric music resounding all around". It is clearly said in a sarcastic way, yet "Musique" is electric music which is doing what the lyrics are talking against. However, given that I never really understood the lyrics to their previous albums and I still love them, it won't be fair if I considered any of the lyrics here.
However, not everything changed. The vocals are still the same (to a certain extent). Liv Kristine is still in the band. Even though her voice doesn't sound like it did on their previous 3 albums (or the next album, for that matter), it still contains the same power and serenity. In "Reverie" her voice is amazing during the chorus. Raymond Rohonyi is also a vocalist (like he was in every album). His voice is very techno-like and sounds like a speak-and-spell (which is the same kind of voice they make fun of in "Machine"). However, he sounds much better than on "Assembly" and "Storm".
"Musique" is also very varied. Every song is different than the other and no track is below average (excluding the bonus track, which I will get to later). If I had to pick an absolute favorite track, it's without doubt "Reverie". There's something about that song that makes me want to keep on pressing the previous button (you will too). Although "City of Light" and "Crash Concrete" are also clear highlights.
My only complaint is the ending. Whether you have 11 tracks or 12 tracks on your version, the two songs aren't fitting for the end. "Space Age" is a very good song (weird, but great), yet it lacks Liv, which doesn't make it a good summary for the album. "The New Man" is also a very bad ending, seeing how it should be among the pop crap on "Assembly". It's a song that reduces Liv’s voice to ashes and makes the whole album sound like a complete joke. "Reverie", on the other hand, would've made an excellent closing song, seeing as it doesn't stop instantly (it has a long outro), and it combines every element of the album. However, "Space Age" isn't a bonus track and it's found in every version. Just stay away from the version with "The New Man" unless you enjoyed "Assembly".
So, overall, "Musique" is a great album. You just need to view it as an album from an entirely different band because you won't be able to enjoy it if you compare with their earlier doom metal releases. In fact it's probably my second favorite Theatre of Tragedy album (after "Velvet Darkness they Fear"). I know it sounds crazy to hear a gothic metal fan liking techno, but it's just too addictive. However, don't expect to like "Assembly" if you liked this because they're very different (this is obviously much superior).
One last note; if you like "Musique", make sure to buy the two singles ("Machine" and "Image") because they both contain amazing remixes of the tracks here. It's a bit more techno and a barely metal, but you'll love them if you enjoyed this.