THEATRE OF TRAGEDY is a band most commonly known for their massive contribution to the world of Gothic Metal back in the early 1990’s. But what is Gothic Metal exactly? Well, it’s not a genre that’s easily defined, with examples ranging from TYPE O NEGATIVE to MOONSPELL, all the way up to bands like PARADISE LOST and MY DYING BRIDE. So it’s a broad church without a doubt, and if one were to place THEATRE OF TRAGEDY somewhere in this shadow-cast collegiate, they would probably reside amongst other artists of a Death/Doom-oriented sound. This owing largely to the lumbering pace utilized in much of their early material, coupled with Raymond Rohonyi’s vicious death growls, which provide an excellent contrast to the often serene melodies on show.
What’s most striking about THEATRE OF TRAGEDY’s 1993 album, “Velvet Darkness They Fear,” is the beautiful female soprano vocals leading every track; Liv Kristine really puts the ‘beauty’ in ‘beauty and the beast,’ particularly throughout tracks like “Fair and Guiling Copesmate Dea” and “The Masquerader and Pheonix.” The album also has a brilliant dynamic range, with wonderful pseudo-medieval melodies/poetic old English lyricism exploding into crushing guitar sections and guttural roars. Imagine a slower KATATONIA with female vocals for the latter, and you wouldn’t be far off.
The album succeeds in avoiding this potentially tedium-inducing template, however, with songs like “Seraphic Deviltry” which adopt a much faster (almost poppy) tempo and “On Whom the Moon Doth Shine” switches vocal roles, with Raymond singing clean and up-front. The infallible atmosphere conjoined with truly captivating melodies make for an undoubtedly passionate and finely crafted piece of work.
“Velvet Darkness They Fear” helps you to your feet just as quickly as it knocks you down. It’s a long way back into THEATRE OF TRAGEDY’s discography, but it remains as fondly cherished as it was almost two decades ago. To find fault with an album possessing such solemnly enchanting qualities as this would be sheer heresy. One of Doom Metal’s greatest records, it shall be remembered.
(Online February 22, 2011)