Label : AFM Records

Review by Tony Cannella & Disgraced

For many – myself included – the Norwegian Goth Metal band Theatre of Tragedy was one of the first (co) Female fronted metal bands that I first got into, thanks to their seminal 1995 self-titled debut. They followed that up with the awesome “Velvet Darkness They Fear” which to this day, still ranks as one of my all time favorites; it is a true masterpiece (in my opinion). Since then their work has been a bit uneven and has included a controversial foray into the realm of Electronic Music. If nothing else, TOT has proven they are not afraid to go off the beaten path and set their own boundaries, for better or worse. Now, it seems that that path has come to an end, as the band has announced that they are calling it a day, with this, the double live album/DVD “Last Curtain Call” being their swan song. Recorded and filmed in their hometown of Stavanger, Norway, “Last Curtain Call” features 16-songs and almost 90-minutes of the band tearing through some of their best songs live. The set begins with “Hide & Seek” from their most recent album “Forever Is the World” and then the band reach back a few years on “Bring Forth Ye Shadow” from the “Velvet Darkness…” album. Most every Theatre of Tragedy album is represented with the exception of 2002’s “Assembly”. The band even performs three songs off the “Musique” album. “Fragment”, “Machine” and “Image” all sound good live and kudos to the band for giving each era equal time. The highlight for me, came on the track “And When He Falleth”, it was great to hear TOT bring out this one, as it is a classic in my opinion. Vocalist Nell Sigland proves that she up to the task in performing the classic Liv era stuff as well as songs from the two albums she recorded with Theatre of Tragedy. She is a huge talent that I am sure will be heard from again. If this really is the “Last Curtain Call” for Theatre of Tragedy, they have no doubt left us with an eclectic catalogue of music and a lasting legacy. Fare thee well…

Rating – 80/100

 

A final curtain falls down on the doom-gothic metal scene. A final curtain falls down on the doom-gothic metal scene. I still remember the first time I listened to Theatre of Tragedy back in 1999, when I bought their EP “A Rose for the Dead”; it was also the very first record I bought in this genre, as to pay homage to the tradition that says the Norwegians have been the real progenitors of a musical stream. A lot of time has passed since that brief all-black-cd-with-the-blond-dark-lady-on-the-back with that wonderful cover of Joy Division’s Decades – one of my all time favourite songs – and of course I later discovered also their previous releases, granting myself the pleasure of buying also their very first and ultrarare demo (!). So you who reads can easily imagine how I must feel reviewing this; plus, consider that I never had a chance to see them live. It isn’t always a wonderful life! 😉 Apart from jokes, you maybe already spotted the final mark I gave to this release but don’t take me wrong, full explanations will be given and objectiveness – or at least a try at it – is guaranteed. And don’t worry, I’m not going to write this in shakespearean English or Mittelhochdeutsch. First of all, it must be known a little about my personal opinions concerning the band and their songwriting skills, right to avoid any mockery or insult saying I’ve been paid by them: I always, firmly believed that they were great songwriters, meaning they had the ability to write good songs – whether it’s doom metal like on their first record (almost no gothic metal there at all), perfect gothic metal as on “Aégis”, electro-industrial like the one they played on their two most hated records and so on – something not so easy, believe me. Just think of the huge number of similar bands that followed (or even simply the many ones who righteously took advantage of the success Theatre of Tragedy and few other had) and try to point out how many could create songs as beautiful as “Cassandra” or “Siren” or “Debris”. They have been catchy and poppy to the limits someone who listens to alternative music can bear – yet always maintaining an obscure aura in the feeling and mood and a guitar with license to kill; they showed how to write complicated structures and vocal lines (don’t tell me it’s easy to sing along the first two albums and not only due to the linguistic difficulties) without playing intellectual mathcoreprogressive-whatelse. They created a blend in heavy metal that was surely new, or at least largely and massively unknown before – this because a new discovery doesn’t have much sense if no one knows it. They remained among the very few able to bring decadence and romanticism in a musical genre – gothic metal – that became faster and faster or “midtempo-er” through the years, and that’s thanks to their doom roots; last but not least we must remember the use of the English language they did until “Aégis” which is still unparallelled except for the work Dani Filth made on some of his band’s albums. I never understood why fans from all over the world loved “A Hamlet for a Slothful Vassal” so much: surely those mellow keys and the vocal weavings by Liv and Raymond did have a point but I always thought there were much greater songs on their s/t album – nonetheless, 99% of the readers of this review will then find a common favourite here, with a very faithful narration of this classic! Nowadays Raymond might dislike a certain singing style involving growls but what a nice surprise hearing him growling again so well! It really seems time has not passed since those golden days. Just to not bother the listener, the setlist goes from one classic to the other, jumping from middle nineties to latest 2000: a happy version of “Fragment” warms the crowd between two dooomy renditions of “A Rose for the Dead” and “And When He Falleth” (I dare every fan who never went to a desperate hunt for “The Masque of the Red Death” after having listened to this!). I must say “Storm” – the song – never impressed me so much, while most of the other tracks on the record are little masterpieces, I always found it rather an average song good for a single release and stop so this live version fails to grow on me as well. Personally I would have been ready to send them some money to have proper, HD recorded versions of “Senseless”, “Disintegration” or “Debris” instead of “Storm”. Or all of them. 😉 Luckily a firery interpretation of “Machine” is right behind the corner… first two minutes would make Rammstein die to deep envy and Raymond‘s interpretation just makes you want to shout at him calling him the mechman! I bet my legs many of you want to know about Nell, at this point. Well, she sings gorgeously. I regret they didn’t play “Illusion”, which she sings with so much passion on, because usually live records and collections are bought by many newbies, and that way they could’ve got a glimpse of how heartfully she delivers her voice. Now, the answer to the question in your head is of course yes. Some songs where Liv (who will always remain one of my best, favourite and most loved singers on this dying earth) had a major or particular role DO sound different when the same parts are taken by Nell. The ultrafamous final part of “Der Tanz der Schatten” DOES sound a bit weird and I prefer older lineup’s takes. And I’m glad they didn’t play “Siren” or “…A Distance There Is…” because I simply don’t think I would have liked them as with Liv, who – quoting an interview to a bandmember – had a perfect voice for what ToT were in the past but would have sounded out of place on newer material. After this due consideration I repeat that you’d better trust this band: apart from the fact that Nell has been an “actress” for many years until they split up, you won’t but struggle to smash your stereo, angry because they disbanded, after having heard the epicness of “Forever Is the World”, with its growing, cold melody or “Frozen”, another great track from their last album. This re-leads to our initial discussion about this band’s musical skills: I’m the first one who admits that when you love something very much, accepting changes or keeping on with that love is very difficult. Yet, like it happened to me with Tristania for example and unlike with some others, the essence seems to be still here. And considering it’s the last time, I think it’s a fair deal. But, the really first thing my ears noticed when I started to dive into this is the sound. Of course the production is perfect, able to pull the best out of the venue and the band itself; all instruments are so perfectly mixed you’ll think of a studio thing. I’m getting there: guitars. After all that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Even though this is not black metal, I guess the Norwegian factor might explain a thing or two. 😉 Just kidding but what I mean is that guitars are as sharp as they could be on such a release – and a gig. They always drive you through the main avenue and you can clearly feel Frank‘s many years of experience. It must be noted also that Lorentz, according to the good, ol’ ToT tradition, is never too present, or better: he never takes too much space than the one he needs, fact that leaves room for the others to shine. Too bad they didn’t gift us with “Bacchante”, it would have sent shivers down everyone’s spine with its magical play between guitar and bass! In the end, maybe Theatre of Tragedy never filled arenas or climbed the charts here and there but with this final crown on the head of their career I can assure they will keep on filling their fans’s hearts for a long time. This is very suggested both to old and newer fans and to fans of gothic and doom-gothic metal as well, at least to get why they still today are claimed to be what they were. Additional note: the live dvd consists of 18 tracks for 94 mins of music with and “On the Road” movie and interviews to all bandmembers; moreover, a bonus cd with the band’s pick of their live favs will be present, together with the usual audio cds.

Rating – 100/100

 

Tracklist

CD 1

  1. Hide and Seek
  2. Bring Forth Ye Shadow
  3. Frozen
  4. Ashes and Dreams
  5. A Rose for the Dead
  6. Fragment
  7. And When He Falleth
  8. Venus 

 

CD 2

  1. Hollow
  2. Storm
  3. Image
  4. A Hamlet for a Slothful Vassal
  5. Fade
  6. Machine
  7. Der Tanz Der Schatten
  8. Forever Is The World

 

Line Up

  • Nell Sigland – Vocals
  • Raymond Istvàn Rohonyi – Vocals
  • Lorentz Aspen – Keyboards
  • Vegard K. Thorsen – Guitar
  • Frank Claussen – Guitar
  • Hein Frode Hansen – Drums

 

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