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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews



Review by Gary Hill

While this is Tristania’s third album, it was my first exposure to them. The comparisons to Lacuna Coil are obvious as this band’s style of split female and male vocal performances laced over the top of music that combines epic metal and gothic sounds certainly calls to mind that band. I’d have to say that I like Lacuna Coil better, but it’s not because of any lack of quality in these guys. The real culprit is that this music just tends to blend together after a while. They need more variety. Yes, they do have mellow sounds and heavy sounds – and they mix them up frequently. The thing is, other than those variations, there are just not enough change ups going on here to really give a unique identity to the various songs. All of that taken into consideration, this is a good album from a band that seems capable of creating great albums. It’s heads and shoulders above a lot of the stuff out there. It’s just that it feels like these guys aren’t pushing themselves as far as they could and producing the masterwork that it feels they have inside of them.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
They pound out right from the start. As they move it through the verses it feels a bit like we might be wandering more into the Goth realm and less metallic. When it powers out from there, though, death growls remind the listener that this is a metal album. On the chorus we are treated to the female vocals and this cut runs through the variation of the sounds to keep it on track. It makes for a solid, if not earth-shattering opener.
Sanguine Sky
A more stripped down approach leads this off, feeling a bit to me like mid era Queensryche, but with female vocals. After a time in this mode they power it out into more modern metal sounds. As it drops back down to the male vocals this reminds me of more Gothic acts like The Cult. These varied modes make up the bulk of this piece and, while I wouldn’t consider it to be as successful of a marriage as the last one was, this works pretty well.
Open Ground
To my mind this probably should have been the disc opener. It seems higher in energy and far more dramatic. This track seems to deliver on the promise of the first two cuts. The problem is, with a lot of listeners if you don’t hook them with the first song or two, they’ll never make it this far into the disc. This killer number has an epic metal texture and the dual male and female vocals are purely wonderful. There is even a drop down to mellower territory that makes for a nice change of pace.
The Ravens
A guitar ballad texture starts this off in dramatic tones. After this introduction, though, they launch out into a crunchy segment that again reminds me musically of Queensryche a bit. As it drops back to the more balladic for the first vocals, though, that comparison disappears. This track is one of the highlights of the CD as it moves forward. Layers of vocals and other instrumentation build in intensity and emotional power to create an incredibly wonderful mood and tone. What this one lacks in metal fury it makes up for with powerful vocal arrangements and exceptionally meaty textures. They pound this out later, though and the death/goth growls compete with the soaring female vocals in a nice way. A cool riff segment takes over from there and eventually ends the piece.
Destination Departure
Sedate tones with the female vocals start this off in a nice contrast to the last number. Rather than turn this truly metallic, they power up this progression to create something that somewhat resembles progressive rock and the layers of vocals are purely awesome here. It isn’t until after a verse of male vocals that the band turns very metallic. Even, then, it’s a melodic, epic metal balladic styled guitar solo segment. This takes the track back to the earlier modes to carry forward. While some metal heads might not think of this as “heavy metal,” if you give it a chance it’s actually one of the strongest pieces of music on show here.
As the female vocals begin this, it feels almost like a metallic version of Annie Haslam and Renaissance to me. Of course, after a verse or so like this, they pound it out into pure metallic fury to move forward. It is another smoking example of the great epic metal that this band produces.
Acoustic guitar tones start this one off. It evolves out in epic metal balladic format. This stays much more sedate than a lot of the material on show here for quite some time. Eventually they do power it out, but only about half way through the track. Even then they still maintain a melodic approach to the sound. This cut is more about mood than substance.
If the last track was sedate, this one is nearly asleep. Mind you, I mean that in terms of the volume level, not in terms of the entertainment value. The first segment of this track contains some of the most mellow music on the disc, but they eventually power this out into more trademarked Tristania sounds as they move this one forward. They also manage to pull some retro sounds into this one later. Those minor changes are good because by this point the band’s sound is starting to wear a little thin – so any variations help.
They begin this with an acapella choir sort of sound – feeling like it could have come from some sort of sword and sorcery movie. When they power it out, it’s with some of the most frantic riffing of the whole disc. This song, with its dramatic contrasts is definitely a highlight and a bit of a change up when we drastically need one. They even turn it a bit prog like with the keyboard laced instrumental segment later.
An acoustic guitar ballad texture leads this one off in stark contrast to the fury that ended the last number. It’s over a minute into this track (the longest on the CD at over six and a half minutes) before they power it up beyond this basic musical premise. When they do it’s with a melodic and potent texture that’s one part epic metal and one part progressive rock. It runs through in this manner for a time and then drops back to extremely sedate sounds to carry forward. They alternate between these two types of sounds, but rework and recreate them over and over, bringing more intensity to the song as they do so. While this might not be the most obvious choice for a disc closer it is a very strong piece of music and works pretty well in that slot.
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