(02 September 2002 updated 02 August 2009) To some audiences there is no need to introduce the Norweigan band Theatre of Tragedy.
Few bands can take credit for leading the aesthetics of the so-called gothic metal/rock to such a plain perfection as they have done. Many bands tried walking in their footsteps over the years. In 1995, their first self-titled album was considered a stepping-stone in gothic metal and Theatre of Tragedy rapidly lived up to the meaning of overnight
sensation. The latest output from the band is a eleven-track collection entitled Assembly (Nuclear Blast (USA) NB 711-2, 2002). The band is fronted by the stunning vocalist Liv Kristine Espenæs.
Some would even say that Theatre of Tragedy were the inventors of the extreme contrast between the well known male death grunt-type of vocals and crystalline female angelic singing. The band was able to create a totally new style with what they were doing, not to forget about the beautiful, romantic-depressive lyrics by singer Raymond I.
Rohonyi, which were written in old English. They succeeded in becoming a very unique band, which of course soon found many imitators.
The must have numbered limited edition digipack of the album (Metal Mind Productions (Poland) MASS CD 1296 DG, 2009) includes three remixes and an improved version of the accompanying booklet. Also at this writing the band have also released a numbered limited edition digipak of Musique (Metal Mind Productions (Polsan) MASS CD 1297 DG) with three bonus tracks and a gorgeous booklet.
Their song "A Hamlet For A Slothful Vassal" from their first album became a cult classic, which so far still counts to the most important tracks in every repertoire of any Indie/Gothic-disco, but the band soon should reach new heights. The second album Velvet Darkness They Fear (1996) turned out to become one of the most successful gothic albums ever, and their club hit "Tanz der Schatten," helped them to reach an even bigger audience.
With their third album Aégis (1998), the band began to cross their own borders, and showed their real potential. Many fans were a little frightened at first due to the untypical, electronic and silent aspects of Aégis and the new way how the duets between Raymond and Liv were
performed. But as time passed by, it turned out to be the right and logical step. Not only have they been one of the few bands that were able to escape the restrictions of their genre showed that they had won a lot of new fans.
Theatre of Tragedy soon discovered that their full potential couldn't be supported by their old record label, so with the help of a new management, a deal with East West Records for Germany and Nuclear Blast for the rest of
the world was secured. Musique, the first album for the new companies, was a perfect mixture from the well-known Theatre of Tragedy trademarks and the electronic influences they already practiced on Aegis. The electronic part was stronger than on the previous record and so the band found a lot of new fans and followers. The outstanding videoclip to the major hit Image had
airplay on nearly every important station worldwide.
On the new album Assembly the band have clearly found their own sound mixing memorable and accessible melodies with melodic metal. There were
a lot of sound changes in the last couple of years, but it always was typical Theatre of Tragedy. And so is Assembly! Together with their new guitarist
Vegard K. Thorsen they have produced a true masterpiece. Produced by Hiili Hiilismaa the band again shows the world their amazing talent and potential in writing songs.
The songs include typical Theatre Of Tragedy metal-edged rockers ("Automatic Lover," "Universal Race," "Episode," "Envision," and stunning "Flickerlight");
tender edgy ballads ("Starlit" and "Liquid Man"); memorably accessible numbers ("Play" and "Superdrive") and dance-metal tracks ("Let You Down" and "Motion").
Album standouts include "Superdrive" where Liv's vocals blend perfectly with the instrumentals and Raymond's harmony vocals; the moody and ballad-like tune "Starlit" is another standout.
The band is able to vary between the sounds of Nightwish, Within Temptation and blend sounds all the way in between.
Although it's not comparable to what they did in the past, Theatre of Tragedy managed to maintain their own, unique sound. Self-confident, matured in all terms, Liv Kristine Espenæs' voice has
become to one of the most important characteristics of this band. But not only she, but also the rest of the band seems to be a little more relaxed and ready to take the next big step.
Read further reviews listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here.
Theatre of Tragedy's Assembly is available in the standard eleven track version but further editions with bonus tracks are also available.
Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey for melodic metal and alternative progressive enthusiasts, Assembly is a must listen!