Tristania – Darkest White

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Review by Sophie Maughan

Napalm Records

This will be the seventh studio album from Norwegian / Italian goth-metallers Tristania and it marks a clear departure from the more melodic approach of 2010’s Rubicon. I was a big fan of the Vibeke Stene-era of this band with her incredible range and the atmospheric, almost dreamy soundscapes and rich orchestrations on opus Beyond The Veil. That said, it would be unfair to say that current chanteuse Mariangela Demurtas does not possess the vocal chops to really pack a musical punch on this offering.

I have to admit, I am totally shocked by the heaviness and aggression of album opener ‘Number’ – the male vocal lines (courtesy of Kjetil Nordhus and Anders Hoyvik Hidle) are primal, harsh and rasping. The drum kicks and riffs pounding and relentless. Lyrics are spat with vitriol and there is a nod to the BM scene that Norway is renowned for.  Demurtas’s soaring harmonies are the perfect juxtaposition to the brute force and the two blend well together.  Title track ‘Darkest White’ is a bombastic affair with its Dimmu-esque theatrics and very catchy (albeit a tad cheesy) chorus hooks. The standout track is definitely ‘Himmelfall’ – meaty riffs with a driving bassline, the vocals are clean and Mariangela’s entrance at 2:40 sees her really stamping her authority and she attacks those top notes with panache. I find myself hitting the “repeat” button on more than one occasion and the melody is still etched on my brain hours later. The songwriting is much more elaborate and effective this time around – it is indicative of a band who have grown in confidence following those lineup changes of previous years. They have found that common ground with one another in terms of what they want to say and how.

‘Requiem’ is a slow burning number which showcases Demurta’s sweet but powerful voice – you just need to get past the rather bland opening intro. At 3:21, the tempo shifts unexpectedly and for a brief 24 seconds, the track drops into a ferocious breakdown.  There are a few issues with consistency – the band create a real sense of darkness and intensity with ‘Scarling’ but it ends with a flop rather than a flourish, and ‘Cypher’ whilst full of powerful guitars and evocative  instrumentals, just doesn’t go anywhere. It plods along without ever reaching a real climax. The same cannot be said about album closer ‘Arteries’. It explodes with a cacophony of growls and thundering bass before giving way to a chest thumping, fist pumping chorus which will undoubtedly get the audience singing along in a live capacity.

There are some real highs on this album, particularly with the heavier tracks, more aggressive male vocals and the moody atmospherics combined with Mariangela’s nigh-on flawless vocals throughout proceedings. Whilst it may lack the composition of say BTW or the beauty and flow of World of Glass, it would be foolish to dismiss the six-piece as being past their prime just yet.

Tristania – Darkest White7 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Number
  2. Darkest White
  3. Himmelfall
  4. Requiem
  5. Diagnosis
  6. Scarling
  7. Night On Earth
  8. Lavender
  9. Cypher
  10. Arteries

 

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