(SPV/Steamhammer) Enslain Magazine Volume 2, Issue 1 I've always been a little undecided about Tristania. There's a lot to take in when listening to a 7-piece band, and their final product has always seemed a bit unfocused for me. Their newest effort, "Ashes" begins strong, and dark as the title may imply. It was really exciting to hear the progress they've made just in the opening track "Libre". It's very melodic, full, and heavy, and some of the guitar harmonies are almost Opeth-influenced. The main vocal on this track is Kjetil Ingebrethsen's powerful growl. Semi-isolated progressive sounding keyboards, and soft female vocals, add their influence to the track and make it more original.
As the album continues, they lose sight of this dark melodic mastery, and shift to slow, accoustic gothic rock. This slowdown is also coupled with more predominant female vocals from Vibeke Stene. Although her voice is pretty, this mixture lacks any power. Following this is something of a prog/black metal song, which is just completely unnatural if you think about it. The guitars are almost black metal toned, the setting is darker, and the vocals are a little more screechy, and then the cello, prog keys, and three-vocal-style chanting kick in, and it just confuses everything. Most of the rest of the album shifts back to the slower side of Tristania, less complicated and less interesting.
It's difficult to get a concept of who Tristania is by listening to this record. Their style is seemingly undecided, and is less consistent than their previous works. Each song you hear, and even different parts throughout a song, sound like a different band is playing. If they could blend all their influences into one strong style, and develop that sound like they did on "Libre", their vision would translate much better. The musicianship is strong, and it is obvious that they can write a good song, but too much of the album is slow and uninteresting at best.
This release has been heralded as something of a phenomenon, and response has been overwhelming. But for me, it took a while. The musical aspects of it are near genius, the atmospheres are vivid, imaginative, and previously unexplored, and somehow amidst the beauteous melodies and tranquil auras, it comes back attacking with harsh, fast black metal riffing and double-bass pounding. So with that said, what took it so long to catch? Perhaps the naked chicks on the cover? Hah, no, I'll let that aspect slide. I think foremost it's the much used soprano vocals and choirs that, for me, take away a bit of the dreariness of the darkness, which the deep male singing and growling does well to uphold. But once I got used to that, it still took multiple listens to get used to the range of sounds present here, which don't stay long enough for you to grasp them. Though "Beyond The Veil" has a rather bombastic start, it gets simpler and more common as it continues. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; some of the simpler moments are actually a bit easier to enjoy. But I'd have liked it to keep that strength that it began with, and devoted the time to let it catch on me, than to hear it weaken and repeat some of the same sounds.