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Tristania is one of those bands that I’ve always shared in common with my Gothic female friends (I have an aversion for the female Goth look, although I myself don’t really look the part). It is easy to hold long conversations about their music because it is lyrically deep and structurally complex. Although their lyrical subjects deal with the cliché images of a witch longing within an autumn blighted forest or a person deep in the grips of despair, the words used and the vocal delivery is quite unique, and would come to be plagiarized by many other subsequent metal outfits.
There are essentially 2 stars to this divine tragedy that take prominence in its several acts, the principle hero being Morten Veland, and his female counterpart and tantalizing beauty Vibeke Stene. The interplay of their voices is essentially a play on the Beauty and the Beast scenario, contrasting harsh yet intelligible grunts with an angelic and operatic soprano range. The music that surrounds these two voices is heavily atmospheric, drawing heavy influences from Progressive rock outfits as well as the original metal pioneers Black Sabbath. The songs tend to be quite long, mix together simple themes and counter-themes, and build a rather dense texture out of a variety of sounds and ambiences.
This release is essentially a new edition compilation of Tristania’s 2 EPs “Midwintertears” and “Angina”. Unfortunately the original releases of these EPs have become difficult to track down, but suffice to say, the overall production of these 2 collections of songs is vastly improved from their earlier incarnations. The difference is especially notable on “Angina”, where the dimensions of the songs are much clearer and the individual parts can be scrutinized much easier. As these 2 EPs are radically different from each other, it is necessary to deal with them as separate entities.
The Midwintertears EP is a beautiful collection of slower and more sorrowful songs, highlighting a lot of strength in the melodic department. The instrumental prelude “Sirene” has a charming acoustic guitar intro with a folk feel to it, followed by a rather powerfully orchestrated section of keyboard and piano dominated music. “Midwintertears” is a slow and heavy song dominated by a few simple riffs and Veland’s beast-like voice, though Vibeke does make an appearance during a charming piano interlude at about the halfway point of the song. Each section is given a lot of time to develop, resulting in a quasi-ballad metal track timing in at over 8 minutes. Although obviously not a radio-friendly track, it is definitely great music for those times when you wish to be alone with your thoughts.
“Pale Enchantress” is a bit more up tempo, but still falls within a more atmospheric doom mold, and has plenty of keyboard sounds to complement the minimalist guitar riffs. The piano presence on this one is also heavily increased, though the duration of the song is a bit shorter and the structure is a bit simpler. We don’t hear Vibeke on this one until 5 minutes into the song, and once again her role seems to be more of as a support singer. “Cease to Exist” is my pick for the best track out of the first EP as it highlights the two aspects of Tristania that make them truly unique; their keyboard work and Vibeke Stene. The vocal roles have been switched here as Veland is now playing support in the background while Vibeke’s solemn whispers and angelic notes paint a truly vivid landscape. Ironically this track is the only one from this EP that didn’t make it onto the majority of the releases of the first LP, and by itself makes picking up this release worth it.
The Angina EP is quite different from its predecessor, both in terms of production and style. The vocal duties between Veland and Vibeke are more evenly split, the texture now includes a large collection of backing choirs and solo violin work, and the tempo is a lot faster. “Angina” is a fit of sheer brilliance that is highly comparable to Veland’s current work with Sirenia, featuring a more riff driven approach to their brand of Gothic Metal, yet still making room for a lot of other sounds. Pete Johansen, who is well known for his work with other Gothic Metal outfits such as The Sins of thy Beloved, really puts together a melodic yet technical display on here as well. “Opus Relinque” is another fast one featuring a lot of harsh vocals and some more quality work by Johansen, in addition to some interesting quasi-techno sounds. “Saturnine” is a sort of compositional afterthought featuring a lot of keyboards and sound effects, as well as some backing choral work.
If you like the slow and dark quality of Doom and the keyboard steeped textures of symphonic metal, the first half of this will album will definitely please as it carries some similarities with the slower sounds of early Theater of Tragedy and The Sins of Thy Beloved, while the 2nd half is more a point of interest for fans of Sirenia and more up tempo music. I like them both equally and proudly recommend it as essentially listening for metal heads out there that like quality music and don’t mind long winded songs.
Now, I am not really into the whole gothic metal thing, seeing as how I am not a Goth, but I really like Tristania's music. A while ago I got a hold of some of their albums, which I reviewed, but I actually had the pleasure of buying this album in the stores. When I looked on the Metal- Archives to see which album it was, it was put under Best of/ Compilation. But it is not a best of album. It is just Tristania's two EP's (Midwintertears and Angina) put on one cd. So I will take time to review each EP again, because it is a little better than the original EP's.
Midwintertears features three songs on the EP. Sirene is just an intro song that builds up to Midwintertears, and build up it does. One of the reasons why I like Tristania is because of their atmospheric music, which is also very dark and heavy. Midwintertears is more of a ballad, ending up at eight minutes. It features a very interesting keyboard section and of course the cool distortion that Tristania uses on guitars. The vocals also shine on this song, showing two kinds of growled death metal vocals and a very clean beautiful voice (at 4:20).
The next song is Pale Enchantress which is another long song ending up at six minutes. Once again keyboards, and actually piano, make this song what it is. The well done vocals and guitar riffs add on to make a very dark song. Cease to Exist is a bonus, seeing as how the first three songs end up on the album Widow's Weed. Cease to Exist adds onto this dark ambient feeling. This song brings a better vocal performance and is worth listening to despite it lasts a little over nine minutes long.
All the songs on the Angina EP make it on the album Beyond the Veil except for Saturnine. The first song is Angina, and you can tell there is a distortion change. It sounds louder and is a lot heavier. There is also a lot more emphasis on the vocals. The two pairs of growled vocals go at it and sing together, while the female vocal shows off her amazing talent. They even do some choir like vocals, which definitely add to the music. It also seems that there are some kind of violins, maybe that are distorted, could be my imagination though. At least these songs aren't as long as the Midwintertears EP songs.
The second song is Opus Relinque, the Radio Edit, whatever the hell that means. I doubt any radio station would play this, unless it was really underground. The piano plays a more important role on this song, as do the keyboards. This song is unique, and sounds like a mix between the Mortal Kombat theme and something from one of the Castlevania video games. The last song on this album is Saturnine, which again is a bit of a bonus. It is just a two minute instrumental, which adds very weird keyboards and snyth sounds. Its hard to describe this song, it is very different that is for sure.
So over all we have two good EP's slapped on one album. Nice to do when you can't find the original EP's on cd. Plus the production is better on here than on the original copy.