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"Rubicon: a limit that when exceeded, or an action that when taken, cannot be reversed; point of no return."
I think listening to the full album I've simply wasted nearly a hour of my life: Tristania has crossed the Rubicon indeed, and it would be unexpected a great album, after this very shallow release. This album is a mess, and left me very disappointed; even if I wouldn't even try to compare it with the older albums it still is awful.
"Rubicon" is just a compilation of empty and uninspired songs. It all starts with the first single, "Year of the Rat", which, sadly, displays the overall feeling of the album: mediocrity and loss of ideas. It is a generic songs, nothing well composed nor well executed, it gets even boring - and what's worse, it displays that the band is not the same band anymore. How could we pretend the same quality by a band that has no more the biggest part of its original members? It happens just when the genius is all in the same songwriter, but that's not Tristania's case.
The following songs are just like the first, there are some bearable parts and passages, but the rest is all filler and void. The "best" songs are "Illumination", which is anyway overly long and repetitive, and maybe "Amnesia" - good violin on there, but I'm not saying they are good songs. It's not just the lack of good songwriting that ruins this album, but it seems that there is a lack of effort too: the instrumental parts and the vocals are loathsome.
Let's start from the instrumental: overall, the sound of the album is quite soft, but that's not a problem. The problem is the instruments are not well played and the arrangements are those a punk-pop band would have (with the exception of the violin solo, which are one of the highest point on "Rubicon").
The guitar riffs - wait, I wouldn't even call them riffs - are just generic dull notes with no real purpose but to fill the rampant emptiness among the tracks; the keyboards are cheesy and way too unoriginal; the bass isn't even played and the drums are terrible and monotonous - the same rhythm all over the album with some nonsense fury which sometimes takes place.
It's sad to hear such arrangements from a band which always had awesome ones.
The vocals are another big problem. It's the most horrible exhibit of this album, and they're the worst Tristania has ever had (not surprisingly). It's not due to the Vibeke's departure, it's for the way they are written and sung: they are very annoying, and they get even worse if you look at the lyrics, which are saying something nonsense that no one will ever understand. You could follow more easily a baroque poem.
Mary's vocals make me nearly cry, and that's not a compliment, they're horrible. But they're not even the worst, Ktejil vocals are way worse than any other I've ever heard, even a deaf would understand they're awful; as for the other male vocals - the "wannabe harsh" growls - lack of energy and substance, like all the rest of the album.
Could it be more terrible? Yes, the way they are assembled, the choral arrangements are even worse than the instrumental ones and the vocal lines are just cheesy. You can listen to an example of ugly choral arrangements on songs like "Vulture" and "Patriot Games". An example of cheesy and uninspired ballad is "Protection", it makes really sick.
Many of the songs' choruses makes me want to skip them, but if I do I would skip 45 of the 50 minutes of the album! Throughout "Rubicon" you can listen to many types of vocals, from the badly arranged choruses to the already heard and monotonous verses, and even some even-cheesier bridge.
I really cannot understand what the hell this band was thinking while composing this album. "Rubicon" is not just a decline - it is a total failure. Not even worth a penny, nor a minute of your life wasted on it. Even the cover artwork is awful, it seems to be a fashion magazine one.
It's not Vibeke's fault, nor Morten's (we've already seen that the band could be great even without him) - so they just can't be blamed.
It's the "new" Tristania which is to blame - if you really want to call this release's band Tristania. It's to blame for the lack of effort and for the shameless way they published an album like this ruining all of their past of gothic metal pioneers. Evolution is a really good thing, but this is just involution, and I think I'm being generous giving it a 12/100, just for some of the violins.
As far as I'm concerned, "Illumination" has been the last Tristania album.
Requiescat In Pacem Tristania [1998 - 2007]