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Before Veland's departure, Tristania brought forth this master work of their early says. Having outdone their kindred Theatre of Tragedy on their first try, they proceeded to make the best gothic metal album possible on their second. This album is rougher and darker than their later World of Glass, which would take gothic metal into a more orchestral, choral realm. A novice goth would find this one too hard to handle no doubt, but in those vicious attacks on the ears are hidden the truly sublime.
Each track here goes deeper into dark territory. From the beginning we are granted a work depressive and sinister in tone, that opens suddenly into sequences of beauty and orgasmic operatic heights, only to steal that away and continue an assault of fog and beasts. Nowhere in this variety of tones does the album slow or stagnate, never are we given anything to latch onto and hold like a leitmotif. Nothing here will seem catchy until maybe the 5th listening, and then only in the way that leeches catch on: This is not Andrew Lloyd Weber, this is a twisted dark group who know what they're doing, and don't hold back.
This album never degenerates into the hokum possible with utter Norwegian darkness or gothic fiction, it maintains it's place just above, always in view of the darkest most beautiful sounds, but never falls into it's possible pits of overdone potential (I'm looking at you, Therion...) If you have any interest in gothic music, this is surely as good as music gets.