All too many people look at this band and see them as one of the forefathers of Gothic Metal, truth of the matter is that TRISTANIA aren’t by any means veterans in the field. Since making their album debut in 98, the band has only produced three full-length albums. Since loosing primus motor Morten Veland (now in SIRENIA) and releasing “World Of Glass”, many Tristanian followers feared the worst. “World Of Glass” was deemed a below average release from the start among people who were into Gothic Metal, could the band really go on and better themselves without their main songwriter?
This question has lingered for four years and now it has been answered with the word “Ashes”, the name of the band’s fourth album. With so many changes within the band, the title illustrates perfectly how the Norwegians have managed to rise above the smoke to take on another route that’s not commercial or clichéd.
The new TRISTANIA can be described as primal yet open minded, they’ve moved into an intriguing, experimental, more Metal induced sound that’s completely their own. Expanding their vocal front with an extra singer, the three vocal formation is equally emphasised, which is positive as the female vocals usually end up getting more and more space to fill the songs with accessibility. The harsh screaming of Kjetil Ingebrethsen and catchy OPETH flavoured guitar chords in “Libre” weren’t exactly the first things I thought I’d run into, the song is rich in guitar tracks, guitarist Anders Hidle has a way of making his arranging detailed and it definitely works and adds personality to the album.
Overexposing keyboards come in secondary, Einar Moen chooses with more thought when selecting the sounds of his tool, he kinda has to because the guitars have a dominant character and are extremely varied, both composers of the band (the other being Anders) have definitely worked hard with this album and have come out with fresh results.
“Equilibrium” builds upon the tracking of three guitars or more to form a swirling mass of dreamlike gothic beauty laid beneath the haunting qualities of the gorgeous Vibeke Stene and the softly spoken words of Østen Bergøy. Don’t close your eyes for too long, though the album may be experimental, mellow and more romantic in nature, “Ashes” certainly has some intimidating moments in songs like the seven minute “The Wretched”, the avantgardish “Circus” and “Libre”. “Cure” is another lush ballad that weaves an intricate web of celestial clean guitars walking beside Vibeke’s adoring whispers and lonely harmonies, I’m all lost in this track, the contrasting atmosphere amazes me more with each listen, a strong favourite of mine along with the progressive tinged “Endogenisis”.
I see no retirement for the Norwegians just yet, “Ashes” is a declaration of gothic avant-gardism, TRISTANIA have come through and delivered one of the freshest sounding Goth albums I’ve heard in recent years, period. (Online March 27, 2005)