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Symphonic gothic metal classic - 99%

Diplomate, February 11th, 2019

It astonishes me to see this album rated at only 85% when it usually wins most Tristania fan votings, so I believe such a low score is completely misleading. It is probably a result of the extraordinary acclaim this album has received, in fact Widow's Weeds is widely considered as one of the best albums of the gothic metal genre (or at least the beauty and the beast variety of it), which possibly attracted reviewers who are not really into this kind of music. I can't find any other explanation for such a low rating received by the album since there's no way a person interested in gothic metal could possibly not enjoy it.

Yes, the production is bad, but in my opinion that works in Tristania's favour since it makes the sound darker and gives it a black metal-esque vibe. Compared to future Veland's albums, such as Beyond the Veil and At Sixes and Sevens, the riffs and the overall guitar sound may not seem as tasty, but it's not really the kind of music that requires extreme technicality, you should pay more attention to the atmosphere instead. The atmosphere is unmatched and you simply won't find anything like this in any other album. The closest matches are the creations of Theatre of Tragedy and The Sins of Thy Beloved (which you should definitely check out if you liked Widow's Weeds), but with all due respect I believe Tristania managed to beat them with their very first release (demo not counted). Widow's Weeds may not have created a new genre or have been a great breakthrough, but it is just in every way superior to all similar offerings. The atmosphere is more doomy and gloomy, the symphonic elements are more fitting and well-executed (this is probably Einar Moen's best keyboard work despite being his first album, Pete Johansen has also done his job with violins well, although some may prefer his work on Lake of Sorrow since he's even more prominent there), the vocals are more diverse and beautiful, and so on and so forth.

Riff-wise it's mostly death-doom with stronger doom influences compared to future Tristania's works, although there's also a little bit of black metal thrown around (especially in Wasteland's Caress and My Lost Lenore). Goth rock is obviously another source of Veland's inspiration, although it's only prominent in Angellore. I am not a fan of goth rock but this song is really impressive and it only proves how varied this band's approach actually is. You never get tired of any element since there's just too many of them.

Speaking about the vocals, I can't add much to what has already been noted by other reviewers. They are the best thing about Tristania and their diversity is what makes you instantly recognize Tristania from other bands. Even though Vibeke doesn't really occupy a lot of time on this album, when she does sing you are absolutely mesmerized by her voice. The other vocals are great too, so you don't just sit and wait for Vibeke to show up, but it's impossible not to highlight her when she's literally the best singer in the genre. I haven't seen a single person who would say he doesn't like Vibeke's vocals, so it definitely tells you something.

It's hard to pinpoint the exact songs since the whole album is a masterpiece and there's not a single filler moment to be found here, but my favourite one has to be My Lost Lenore. When I first heard it I already knew I was in love with the band. This song, meseems, is some kind of a litmus test for this band, if you like it then you are surely going to love Tristania, otherwise this kind of music is probably not for you. I understand that this music genre has a niche appeal and is not for everyone, but it's still buried too deep under a pile of pop goth rock and mallcore bands with a commercial sound that are getting labelled as gothic metal.

Overall this review might seem a little bit biased, but there's no way this album deserves anything less than 90%, at least if you are a fan of beauty-and-the-beast symphonic gothic metal. I haven't heard a better gothic metal album yet and I am afraid this is not going to happen in any observable future since the genre is pretty much dead. There are not many pieces of music that I could say deserve to be rated as 95%+, but Tristania's Widow's Weeds is a no-brainer for me.