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I'd heard a lot about the band Theatre of Tragedy, but never really bothered to look into them before now because they weren't really the kind of music that I'd normally listen to. Having enjoyed listening to Serpent & Seraph though, a band that falls into the same genre of music, I thought that perhaps I should finally give it a shot.
First things first, the vocals are quite clearly the main theme in this genre. I can safely say that the cleans done by Liv Kristine are of a very high order, and indeed they do fit the music very well. Very operatic - which normally isn't something I'd enjoy - but also very enjoyable. Unfortunately the harsh male vocals aren't as fitting and indeed they actually aren't even that great when you think of them put against something else either. This isn't something I'll say often, but they shouldn't really have used the unclean vocals at all.
That aside, the music is very atmospheric to fit the operatic cleans in. It's very slow for the most part, and there always seems to be either a keyboard or a violin to add to the eerie sounding music. Once again a little out of my comfort zone, but it's actually a lot nicer than I'd expected it to be. The music doesn't sound quite as tragic as some other bands (which I tend to find a little over-exaggerated), but it's quite obvious that it isn't meant to be an upbeat and happy tune.
An interesting thing about the lyrics (which I don't generally care too much for) is that they're all written in Shakespearean English. Unusual to say the least, especially considering that this band isn't even from an English-speaking country. I guess it was probably obvious and I'm just being a dumb-ass, but it adds to the general theme of the album. The only song that doesn't follow this pattern is Der Tanz der Schatten, which is written in German. Unfortunately my German isn't good enough to understand the whole thing, but that song is definitely my favourite on the album.
Minor niggle that you might have seen coming: I find the songs too long. Sorry guys, but I'd rather have another five tracks in the same space of time like Astarte manages with Demonized than the eight long tracks that Theatre of Tragedy do with this record. They all start to get a little old near the end and you start to count down the time until the next track starts, knowing that the same thing is going to happen again. I'll admit that it puts a bit of a dent on the overall feel of the album, and to be honest that's a major shame.
As I said earlier, Der Tanz der Schatten is my favourite track. The harsh vocals actually sound good when he's growling in German, and the music is a little more guitar-based (although that's still not the driving point of the band). Added to the other features that have been present the whole way through, the music just comes together that bit better than the other tracks do. It's also the one track that doesn't tire after the five minute mark, which is obviously a bonus.
Overall I'd say it was a pretty good experience for the first full-length gothic/doom/death metal album I've listened to. Reading the other reviews I'm clearly being broken in easily with this record, but perhaps this genre will continue to grow on me.
I probably won't say anything that hasn't been said before about "Velvet darkness they fear", but so what, i love this album so much. It's one of these albums that grip me and, every time I listen to it, I'm still amazed by how good it is.
It's gripping because it really has an atmosphere. I don't mean atmosphere like what atmospheric music artists do, I mean things like moods and emotions, and even the ability to take you into the band's imaginary world. Already with the little piano notes on "Velvet darkness they fear", the instrumental intro, you get a dark and disquieting feeling. I guess "eerie" is the right word. Then, as the heavy and slow doomy riffs, the ethereal voice and the growls start, you're falling even deeper into darkness.
I call this album dark because I can't really find another way to describe it in one word. Contrary to the stereotype about gothic metal, it's not exactly sad. It's not happy either, but it's not "My girlfriend is dead so I want to die too". Actually, the lyrics, from what I can understand about this weird Victorian English, are the conversation of 2 characters who inexplicably want to make each other suffer. And unlike what you could expect, the female seems more aggressive toward the male than the opposite. That without growling or singing in a satanic 80's thrash style. Take a look at lines like "This tender and loving pest I to thee bequeath" or "Bear this torture and maim with decorum", both from lovely, innocent-looking blonde Liv Kristine. In fact, if this album is so good, it's because it manages to convey all negative sort of negative emotions with a music that sounds just as negative, if not even more, and yet listening to this is not a bad experience at all. You don't like it in a "It's hard to listen to, but I still like it because they say what they want without softening anything" kind of way, you just like it. "Evil never tasted this good".
Because there is something in this album that makes it just great to listen to. It could be that mysterious and beautiful old English used for the lyrics. It could be the vocals, who are close to perfection on this CD. The growls are very guttural and evil-sounding. The clean vocals sound beautiful and innocent. Although "ethereal voice" has been said so much that it doesn't mean anything, it's really the best description for her vocals. Sure, "beauty and the beast" has also been done so much it's not interesting anymore. But Theatre of tragedy have much more class and talent than all of their clones. With this band, the two vocalists are equally good. The music and the mood really ask for these vocals (again, for the beautifully evil atmosphere). But the music in general also has a fascinating, hypnotic feel. You accept to dive into this eerie world and, as horrific as what awaits you there could be, you'll still love it.
So this was my first positive review, I hope it wasn't too much like " excessive fangirl gushing". I know I described the feeling more than the music itself, but... well, it's music that gives you feeling, not just music that sounds good. But I can say it sounds very good.
Um, what happened? This is almost the exact same album (with slight production changes). The only visible difference is the cover art, with some lady draped in purple velvet looking very sexy (tits and all). Anyway, like I said the music is largely unchanged from the debut. The drums sound has been fixed to sound less ‘80s and more full, while the riffs themselves don’t really pack as much of a punch as they did on the first album. The mix of everything is great, except Kristine who’s vocals still sound anything but angelic: processed, fake, high-pitched, etc.
Some songs feature more pounding guitar work and others cater toward the more gothic side of things. I prefer the doom side much more because it doesn’t involve the female vocals: the riffs are deafening, the bass booming, and the drums very rapturous. I just find it much more enjoyable when the rest of the band is churning out a mournful riff with a hard-hitting rhythm. They balance both sides well to keep one from gaining dominance, but I myself would have preferred the favored side.
While the gothic side isn’t cheesy or anything, the doom / death side just has more emotions running through them; why take lame female vocals and a key line over charring bass, catchy drum rhythms, sorrowful / melodic riffs, and a beastly death growl? It’s just so much more worthwhile and the band pulls it off so convincingly. The moments where they work a stronger here than they were on the debut, so it’s an improvement that’s worthy of noting.
However, it’s still a case-by-case deal and doesn’t surface throughout the album like one would hope. It’s a flawed style that the band sacrificed – they could have easily kept their gothic elements, avoided hiring a female vocalist, and continued to churn some haunting doom metal. Again, this album still retains the same somber mood, medieval atmosphere, melancholic style – everything is pretty much the same, so if anything they could have decreased Kristine’s role. I’m making a big deal out of this because her vocals just make me cringe – I’ve heard some awful female vocals, but these ones are so artificial that it takes the beauty out of beauty and the beast.
This album overall is better than the debut thanks to better moments with the doomy side of things (“Seraphic Deviltry” and “Der Tanz Der Schatten” are your best bets) and the more solemn atmosphere, but it’s still hampered by a bitch that takes the soul out of everything.
Any fan of true gothic metal will go nuts for this great, nearly flawless, epic work of old fashioned castle and damsel gothic iconography and melody. From the samples of Masque of the Red Death with Vincent Price to the beauty and beast vocals that made their first album, Theatre of Tragedy are at their finest here.
Every track has its peaks and valleys, brutal moments of fierce speed and noise and gentle segments of light flourish and false hope for a gentler more serene sound, all crushed under the dark and heavy pounding of true Norwegian metal. When this thing is hard, it's hard. When it's soft, it's a pitiable little soul, a thing to be heard in the saddest of moods by the gloomy mooded sort who enjoy the genre (me). I hate samples, I really can't stand people from random movies talking through Children of Bodom songs but this is not a work with samples- this is the score to a Roger Corman film. This is music inspired by and written in the language (old english) of Shakespeare and in the spirit of his most violent works. those aren't samples you hear, they're it's soul.
It sounds like Theatre's debut album: Rough male vocals, operatic female vocals, sung in duet or in opposition to each other. There are symphonic and choral passages performed on familiar metal instruments, Lyrics about demons and lovers and all matter of subjects suggested by the velvet and nude on the cover. How seductive, how subversive and dangerous this music feels- Like a mysterious cloaked figure you let into your ears, knowing it will betray you with a pounding auditory rape, but one remains inable to resist it's charm. Sorry, too poetic, not enough about the music- It's sounds like Paradise Lost but with more feeling and power, like doom metal that's too much fun to be doom. It is the core of gothic metal. It is the kind of music that makes you think in poetry. Bad poetry in this case but you may fare better.
You cannot call yourself a fan of gothic metal or claim to know anything of the genre unless you have heard, loved, and vivisected this album. It is the fulfillment of the promise they made with the cheaply produced but amazing debut. It is absolutely gothic and absolutely metal, absolutely operatic and absolutely brutal. It is Theatre of Tragedy's finest hour (52 min).
Theatre Of Tragedy is a gothic doom metal band from Stavanger, Norway. They formed in 1993, and have released several albums that could be considered major influences on bands like Tristania, Lacuna Coil, Within Temptation, and Novembers Doom. The band is also one of if not the first band to use the contrast of male and female vocals, having both deep male singing (with frequent death growls) and soprano female singing that we later see running wild in the gothic/ darkwave metal genre. On this album, Velvet Darkness They Fear, along with their two previous albums, the bands lyrics consist mainly of early modern English writing. By the release of their album Musique, the band took a drastic change to industrial goth rock, abandoning all early modern English, death growls, and doomy atmospheres. The band's front woman is most well known as the female vocals on Cradle Of Filth's hit song Nymphetamine and is also the front woman of the band Leave's Eyes.
The first track on the album, Velvet Darkness They Fear, is a one minute long intro track, preparing you for what is to follow with the album. With gothic ambiance and dark keyboard riffs, the intro track immediately tells you that the album is going to be dark, atmospheric, and haunting. Fair & 'Guiling Copesmate Death begins with Liv Kristine's haunting vocals and heavy, doomy guitar riffs. When the male vocalist come in, the mood is changed from haunting to brutal as he lays down some brutal death growls onto the constant strums of the guitar. A sudden silence filled only with gothic ambiance comes in only to burst back into another aura of slow paced, heavy guitar riffs and haunting female vocals. The song then goes to another silence occupied only by a faint violin strum and the male vocalist speaking in Norwegian. The song has a very heavy and atmospheric feel, and definitely sets the standards for the rest of the album.
Bring For Ye Shadow is another dark track, with melodic guitar and bass strums to start it off, it quickly goes into punishing guitar riffs and brutal death growls, creating a dense atmosphere of gothic madness. The song has some very catchy riffs and bass lines throughout, along with some good breakdowns with soft female vocals and steady drum lines. Probably one of the best tracks on the album, and a good example of what doom metal meets darkwave music should be. The next track, Seraphic Deviltry, also has a soft intro that ascends into some greatly distorted guitar riffs and a grooving drum line. The song is much like the previous in vocals, but Liv Kristine also does a lot more back ground vocals to add to the atmosphere and giving the song great flow. This song is a lot more straight foreword then the previous two tracks, and even contains some chugging riffs to top it off.
The next track is And When He Falleth, which has a great piano opening. The song then picks up into a steady drum beat and beautiful female singing, before going into a chugging guitar riff and deep, brutal death growls. The song has a breakdown near the middle win which soft guitar strums are played anc characters of the song's story speak to each other. The song doesn't have the most even flow, but has a great feel to it and is overall one of the better tracks of the album, and the heaviest vocally. Der Tanz Der Schatten is another great, dark track, with deep organs and ambiance in the beginning, the song then jumps into a very Brave Murder Days Katatonia-style riff. Both death vocals mixed with haunting female opera dominate the track (as they do most of the album). The song then breaks down into a German dialogue before returning to the all out doom fest of brutal death growls and dark keyboard riffs. The song out of all the other tracks seems rather jumbled and doesn't flow the way it should with the album, but still a great track overall.
Black As The Devil Painteth begins with melodic guitar strums and light, doom style riffs that are fueled with brutal death growls. Surprisingly, the male vocalist dominates most of the track. The song is another heavy track with plenty of chugging riffs, brutal growls, and solemn chants in old English. On Whom The Moon Doth Shine is what I can describe as a Lacuna Coil track only 'brutal brutal brutal'. Another tack full of dark, mystical keyboard and ambient atmospheres and beautiful soprano singing from Liv Kristin, though interrupted by heavy male vocals and chugging riffs. The song switches back and forth from heavy chugging riffs, to slow and dark ambiance to sweeping guitar melodies, making for a very diverse and progressive feel.
The Masquerade & The Phoenix ends the album on a much softer note. Focused mainly only soft guitar strums, light drum lines, and bass riffs, creating a very soothing atmosphere. The song's melody is interrupted briefly by death growls and sweeping guitar riffs and melodies before going back to it's soft, innocent sound. After a bunch of sweeping guitar riffs and keyboard melodies, the song goes into an orchestral sound with ascending drum lines and organ sounds. Ending with avery heavy death vocals and guitar riffs, silencing into dark chanting that slowly fades, ending this brilliant display of gothic doom madness. Overall, the album is a near perfect solid 5 star album, with brilliant musicianship and technique and a unique style of both gothic ambiance to near Isis heavy riffs that kept me on the edge of my seat through and through.
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR SPUTNIKMUSIC.COM
With Velvet Darkness They Fear, Theatre of Tragedy continues in the path of excellence that was created with their astonishing self-titled debut. This album is by no means a radical departure either unlike some of their later albums. They maintain their traditional sound but have diversified enough to make to give this album its own distinct outlook. Theatre of Tragedy continue too write timeless gothic doom with unforgettable elements of beauty that made their first album such a success. The passionate, angelic female vocals of soprano Liv Kristine Espenas combined with songwriter and male growl/spoken vocalist Raymond Rohonyi made Theatre of Tragedy one of the most interesting metal bands in their time. What never ceased to amaze is how this group created such an alluring atmosphere with such a simple sound.
What stood out to me more on this recording are Raymond’s improved lyrics (soliloquies, poems etc) as well as the overall production of the album. That being said, the atmosphere created by synthesizers, guitars and piano is still amazing but I feel it lacks a bit of what Theatre of Tragedy’s renowned self titled possessed. This is still considered by many to be Theatre of Tragedy’s best album and an essential for any gothic doom metal collection and worth a listen for anyone interested in hearing the beautiful gothic/doom metal this band is capable of producing.
Standouts include Fair and Guiling Copesmate Death, Seraphic Deviltry and On whom the Moon doth shine but make no mistake. This is not an album of fillers. Every track is at the very least great. My apologies to those who enjoy using the skip button! Even the short piano introduction with just some of Liv Kristine Espenas touching vocals is one the most beautiful tracks on here. In conclusion, if you are a fan of their self-titled, you should eat this incredible album up as well. Everything said this music isn’t for everyone, but it is worth a listen if you find any elements of this review interesting and further discovery if upon listening you are intrigued by this great band.