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Starting their life the way many Goth Metal bands do, as a Doomdeath act, Theatre of Tragedy raised the bar a bit higher than many of their contemporaries with the addition of a female singer. This in and of itself isn't revolutionary, however, the fact that she had just as much if not more time singing than the male is.
Shortly after their third recording the bands leader decided to shed their metallic skin for a far more trendy/radio friendly synth-pop sound. A few albums later the female singer departed for heavier wears and Theatre was left with a decision. Thankfully they made the right one and returned to a more Metal sound.
On 'Strom' we hear an excellent Gothic Metal release with more than a few passing nods to 'One Second' era Paradise Lost (specifically in the Keyboards). The production is very good, and overall there is little to get upset about. The worst part of this is male vocals which are nothing more than spoken word parts.
The guitars sound is if they are nothing more than amp overdrive. The bass is clean and drums are competent. The keyboards, while not as brilliant as on prior releases certainly hold their own, but they add an underlying pop feel to many of the songs (not a terrible thing mind you, but not necessarily what you would expect to hear).
New comer Nell has well honed chops of her own. She has a very different voice but it fits the music well. She certainly has a wide range that is a mid to high (almost child like at times) that adds an ethereal quality to the music at large.
The songs are in the verse chorus verse format and are mostly energetic love anthems. There are slight dirges of sorrow that are accented by Nell’s unique vocals. There honestly aren't any weak links here; this is a pretty solid release from these prodigal children. Here's to hoping they keep it up.
Theatre of Tragedy began with two of the finest, purest examples of gothic metal there are. With Aegis came a softer but equally gothic sound and then in the minds of most of their fans, it all went wrong. Musique brought with it the horror suggested by their previous terrible remixes: The lords of gothic metal turned to electropop. Bad electropop. The lyrics abandoned olde english in favor of computer terms, the crunching guitars and classic drums were exchanged for synth bubblegum and the vocals left behind the operatic and beastly poetry for... I can't even say it. But with a new vocalist came a sort of renaissance: They did not return to their roots, but they remembered them.
Storm sounds directly between Aegis and Musique. There are electronic elements but they do not take over the album, they subtly enter the gothic foundation of the work to enhance it, to augment it. The lyrics are modern but the subjects are smarter and more heartfelt than computers and cities of the future. The new vocalist sounds little different from the former, and most importantly- The quality of their early years is back.
There is not a great deal of variety, there are some highs and lows but I imagine which songs are which varies from listener to listener. Instruments sound the same throughout and tonality shifts little from the softer to the harder works. So what does this sound like as a whole? It sounds like Aegis's younger, quirkier sister. It's not as dark or somber, it's more playfull and lighter. Keyboards interweave in a Smashing Pumpkins sort of way, that Adore era folksy sad tune that fits in so well with it's electronic counterpoint that you would think 1850s Norwegians had a copy of ProTools. There are no rough vocals, or truly operatic ones, but all the words are cleanly sung in the Aegis style, both relaxing and soothing, but strangely ominous.
No it's not Velvet Darkness, but what else is? (Tristania and Darkwell, thats what is) Had Storm come between Aegis and Musique chronologically the descent might have made more sense. Storm is not an album that apologizes for the techno years, and it's not a full return to the true gothic metal origins of a true gothic metal band, but it is as good as we can hope for, and on it's own merits Storm is a good catchy fun dark gothic metal album that warrants several spins, and a hunt for the bonus tracks and b-sides.
Mediocre at Best
Storm marks yet another stylistic change for Theatre of Tragedy. Long gone are the days of eerie gothic metal with stunning piano leads and ethereal vocals marked by their debut album and Velvet Darkness They Fear. No more are the quite unpopular electro pop influenced productions Musique and Assembly. What stands in place is a ridiculously commonplace and accessible offering to trendy crowds who decide good “metal” is what the radio tells them it is.
This album is marked by crossfade after crossfade, the same vocal style utilized by Ray in the band’s previous two releases, and songs chock full of hooks and admittedly catchy melodies. Once again, a duet of sorts is forged between Ray and Theatre’s new vocalist Nell. Nell is quite talented at what she does and creates a soothing atmosphere in every track. Musically, I found Storm to sound like a cross between a crappier version of Musique and Aegis. There’s a lot of polished guitar work here, and while the electro influences have passed for the most part, the keyboards still play a large role in shaping the ambient structure of the songs.
Unfortunately, however, the songs pretty much all sound the same. Ray mumbling some stuff as a lead into a chorus, then Nell and the rest of the band kicking it up, playing some catchy hooks before letting Ray murmur some more lyrics. Tracks are usually completed by choral repetitions, then rinse and repeat. This formula quickly wears thin as there is virtually no variation between songs in terms of tone or composition. Within this mire of mediocrity a couple songs stood out to me. The title track is a strong opening and no doubt a favorite by many who appreciate this album. Debris is an excellent closer that still strikes a chord or two in me. Other than that, there’s not much to see here. After hearing one song you get the sense you’ve heard them all before.
While I can admit that there are some very catchy elements to this CD and some good melodies, I still can’t get over the fact that Theatre of Tragedy can’t seem to nail down a style they want to keep playing. Long time fans like me are no doubt going to be disappointed by yet another musical shift. We just can’t stop yearning for another Velvety injection of gothic metal goodness. But to those who are just beginning to know the band or the genre, then it’s a pretty safe bet you’ll enjoy Storm. Just don’t expect it to carry you away.
THEATRE OF TRAGEDY : Storm : AFM Records
Its a sad but true fact that you can't actually review this album without comparing Theatre Of Tragedy to both Within Temptation and Evernescence. Not that there is anything wrong with the former comparison (we reserve our judgement on the latter), in fact many a band would consider it an honour to be alined to such a strong outfit. The sad fact comes into play when you realise that Theatre Of Tragedy have been around for longer that either comparison and making head strong Gothic tinged Metal for a good few years.
As is always the case though, its never genre forefathers that reep reward, just the bands that follow in their footsteps.
By now you'll have a pretty good idea of how Theatre.... sound, but don't think they are a reinvented identakit offering. This is a band that have been pouring their collective hearts out for far to many years to suddenly start bandwagon free rides. The similarities are obvious in that the sound is full of hooks, polished production and a rather attractive front woman with a set of lungs that will undoutably seduce you into their world of big hitting choruses and hooks that will simply capture your very soul.
The album kicks off in fine style with the title track which sees a strong trade off of vocals between long standing member Raymond I.Rhonya and new girl Nell Sigland, who although having been in the band for some years makes her recording debut replacing Liv Kristine. Again comparisons are going to happen, but its fair to say that although Nell doesn't sound to different to Liv, she has added another dimension to the overall sound, making it all feel a lot warmer.
The vocal trade off's continue between Nell and Raymon throughout with neither overpowering each other, only succeeding in complimenting each other and of course the underling music which in itself is rich and full of flavour. The guitar work is strong and perfectly matched to an orchestrated keyboard set up that displays at times some supreme touches.
The pace is varied throughout, with only one power ballad which is practically obligatory in this day and age. All in all this is a very strong album and one that sort of took me by surprise. In saying that though with a pedigree such as the one that Theatre Of Tragedy display no one should have expected anything different.