rating icon 6 / 10

Track listing:

01. Libre
02. Equilibrium
03. The Wretched
04. Cure
05. Circus
06. Shadowman
07. Endogenisis
08. Bird

With the success of EVANESCENCE, NIGHTWISH and LACUNA COIL, pretty much any band with some Eurotrash tendencies and a sultry chick in a flowing dress is gonna get a second look from the world at large. But give TRISTANIA some credit — they've been at this for a while, back when this sub-genre of goth-metal was a barely-tolerated cult fetish among a few fey longhairs ordering imports from the Napalm Records catalog. Retooled after a long absence, TRISTANIA now boasts three singers (!) and a sound somewhere between electro-plated post-black-metal and more traditional, doomy, depressive goth — leaning a bit too heavily toward the latter for my tastes.

While "Libre" features slick, urgent riffs and a driving beat, with harsh male vocals at the forefront, "Equilibrium" and "Endoensisis" jettison that sound almost entirely for a heap of romantic pretension. The lion's share of these songs feature a baritone male singer and the heavy-lidded crooning and soaring choruses of Vibeke Stene. She's a little less bombastic than NIGHTWISH's Tarja Turunen, but she can still carry on in that operatic vein when she needs to. Musically, a lot of "Ashes" is staid and sedate, to the point of plodding on occasion, with a lot of slow ballads that are heavy on atmosphere, perhaps even too much so. There's still some blackened filth to be had (see "The Wretched"),but on the languid, piano-driven "Cure", it's all rainy gothic gloom. TRISTANIA do this sort of thing well, to be sure, but it may be a little too sodden and sprinkled in faerie dust for the average metalhead to delve into. Then again, a lot of us like THE GATHERING

"Circus" showcases all three vocalists well, and maintains a horror show camp vibe. "Shadowman" is arguably the best of the slow songs, with a driving guitar part and a slow build that would slot next to ANATHEMA or KATATONIA on a suicide case's mix tape. "Endogenisis" occasionally recalls the much more interesting ORPHANAGE (a band that's missed the boat entirely on this whole Gregorian-metal revival, for reasons I don't understand),and seems like it's building up to something interesting, right up until it fades out with no payoff.

All in all, there's just something hard to love about "Ashes" — maybe it's just this uniformly slow tempo giving me a stuffy, prissy, standoffish vibe, as much as I respect the playing and performances. They've got the atmosphere down cold — but it might do TRISTANIA well to amp up the intensity a little next time, or inject a little more individuality into these maudlin, soggy songs. If nothing else, at least let the black metal guy shriek a little more!

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