Contrary to the popular belief and the fame that I have out there in cyberspace (of which I’m not responsible in any way), I’m not a clairvoyant. And even though I managed to successfully predict some little things, there are things that only time can reveal and that I would have loved to predict. For example, predicting that a band can reborn after more than 15 years of their creation and record an intriguing and rich album, an album that, besides being able to reunite the band with its old fans, can also win new ones with that appealing new smell. I can’t say that Darkest White, by Tristania, is completely a masterpiece. All I can say is that it is certainly captivating, vividly dark and above all, leaves no doubt that Tristania is back, reloaded and unstoppable.
Tristania is a gothic metal band from Stavanger, Norway, formed in late 1996. After several lineup changes, the current members are the Italian singer Mariangela Demurtas, Kjetil Nordhus on the clean vocals, keyboardist Einar Moen, guitarist and growler Anders Høvyvik Hidle, guitarist Gyri Losnegaard, bassist Ole Vistnes and drummer Tarald Lie. Darkest White is the seventh studio album of the band, the second with Mariangela and Kjetil, and watch out… It may also be one of their best albums to date.
I have to confess that I lost track of the band a little as soon as the lineup changes began. It’s not that it bothers me, but it is undeniable that the band wobbled a bit musically for a while. The proof of this, their previous album Rubicon, the first without the soprano singer Vibeke Stene had just a lukewarm reception, and yours truly, had listened to it only a few times. But because I’m stubborn as a donkey, I would not give up my love of this band so easily.
[lightbox group= title= link=”http://www.ladyobscure.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Portraits_Mari_a_01.jpg”][/lightbox]Well, we might say that my stubbornness was not in vain, because as in earlier times the band seems to have returned to their home bases, to this strange way of exploring metal in its darkest and most virulent veins. Darkest White weaves in its black spider web the threads of their new songs and that heart-stopping darkness of which Rubicon irremediably lacked, this darkness can surely drive crazy those fans that have been following the band from the Vibeke era. Listening to the album the first thing I noticed was a brutal rawness, mainly because the atmospheric keyboards have been reduced almost to a minimum and that the growls have been dosed with more than the usual generosity throughout the album, thus achieving a disruptive and violent sound. It took me a few more spins to appreciate the essence of the fragile melancholy and rich scenario above which Darkest White is built up.
The highlight of the band is tightly attached to its three singers, whose voices contrast as if they were an elaborated set of lights on stage. Mariangela’s task is not easy, because as it happened with Nightwish, fans naturally tend to make the way of anyone who dares to replace the founder kind of difficult, especially when their singing styles are complete opposites. Mariangela here, much more than in Rubicon, has managed to break through these prejudices and prove her individuality and contribution to the band’s sound with grace, showing her warm timbre and versatility, winning the match against the unbelievers without losing her personal stamp and, let’s say it like this, without tearing her hair out. That said, we can also establish that, happily, the lights are not only pointing to the female member of the band, but her parts are rather skilfully embedded in key places of the compositions, and sometimes doesn’t even appear, giving more attention to the growls of Anders H. Hidle, combining and harmonizing the clean vocals of Kjetil Nordhus wisely, making a clever balance between darkness, anger, fragility and feelings. It is the work of a true artists to dose the emotion in perspective, without exaggerating or turning corny, and it is basically this what the band seems to propose on this album, making tactile their return to the doomy sound that characterized their early albums but adding delicately the weight of experimentation and innovation.
[lightbox group= title= link=”http://www.ladyobscure.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/portraits_2013_Mari_Kjetil_01.jpg”][/lightbox]Speaking strictly in a personal way, and from the bottom of my heart, some songs have been running through my head and I enjoy them very much, but a couple of songs here just don’t work for me, I will not reveal which ones because as I said, it’s a matter of personal taste. There is, in my humble opinion of course, an Achilles heel here, and it is that I can’t seem to find a real order in the songs, I mean, we could take the tracks and listen to them randomly and it would not be messier than now. I believe that the fact that there is no proper intro and the album just explodes violently on the ears is also something that bothers me a little; and yes, I admit I can be a neat freak sometimes, but despite the discomfort it causes me this apparent mess, Darkest White has been able to fulfil my expectations, and dig into my mind and leave me here, craving for more. Anyway, If we focus only on the music and not on my neurotic mania for tidiness, Darkest White is a great album, with excellent songwriting and in which the innovation is pleasantly prominent.
Anyone who like me has been a fan of Tristania in its early years, or those who are approaching to the band for the first time, will find in Darkest White, more quality and darkness than any other gothic metal album can deliver. While I fear the sound of Beyond The Veil, Ashes, or World of Glass is not coming back, the trademark of the band is back, and with it, also the fans returned, including me. Darkest White did the job for me, and reached my heart and brought memories, nailing that sweet stab in my chest, the kind of stab you feel with the first kiss, and this kiss tells you that there is much more to come.
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