Reviewed: March 2005
Released: 2005, SPV
It’s been almost a full three years since we last heard from these Norse masters of gothic metal. At that time, they had just released WORLD OF GLASS, their first album without ex-main man Morton Veland. It was a success, but it did not reach the heights (or hype) of its predecessor, BEYOND THE VEIL. That album was the one the introduced many listeners to Tristania’s brand of melodic, deathy, goth-metal and gave the band worldwide acclaim. Personally, that album didn’t do a whole lot for me, as I find this style to be overly pretentious and self-indulgent, and intensely boring. Since them, the metal world has largely turned away from goth-metal, with bands like Theatre of Tragedy changing styles (and firing their only useful member), and wannabes like The Sins of Thy Beloved thankfully disappearing into the ether. With all of that said, how does Tristania’s music work in 2005?
Well, despite my misgivings, the answer is surprisingly well! This genre will never be my favorite, but the power and catchiness of songs like “The Wretched” cannot be denied. Vibeke Stene has a captivating voice and her tradeoffs with the screamed vocals work very well. The clean male vocals are not as impressive, as they are nothing more than standard deep Dracula dronings.
The two best songs on the album are its polar extremes: the heavy, crunchy swing of “The Wretched” gets me every time, as does the ballad-like quality of the ethereal “Cure”. Everything else falls somewhere in between these two, both in quality and interest, though the album does start to peter out somewhere around the halfway point of “Circus”. After awhile it all just starts to sound the same to me.
So count me dutifully impressed by ASHES, as I figured Tristania’s time had come and gone like so many other flash in the pan artists. Instead they have delivered a very good album that fans of goth-metal can snap up without fear.
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