Review Summary: Tristania continues to dominate the gothic metal scene despite acquiring a new vocalist
The switch to a new singer is always a nerve-racking experience. A new singer can either make or break the band, and most importantly, can completely change the sound of the band. Stutterfly, for instance, was a heavy post-hardcore band before Charles Furney became the new lead singer. After the switch, they changed their name to Secret and Whisper; because of the new vocalist, the band’s sound branched off into more melodic post-hardcore with electronics, new wave, and alternative rock. This is only one example out of hundreds of bands.
Directly after Illumination was released, the lead singer quit. Vibeke Stene, the previous lead singer, had stayed with the band for five albums in a row. Clearly, her vocal style was what made the core of the band’s sound. Vibeke’s vocals were of the operatic sort, and greatly contributed to the overall gothic atmosphere of the metal band. Her vocal style was delicate, which required the band to amplify the atmosphere to match her delivery. It would seem a difficult task to replace such a competent singer, but they easily did.
While the old singer sung rather operatically, the new vocalist, Mariangela Demurtas, opts for power. Mariangela can hold her own with her vocals, and she clearly has charisma that you can hear through the speakers. Tristania is not so a much a new band because of Mariangela, but a more tangible band. The darkwave elements of the past are now scrapped in favor of catchier choruses, better instrumentation, and heavier guitars.
When one thinks of Tristania, catchy choruses are not what come to mind, but in Rubicon you can expect plenty of those. ‘Year of the Rat’ is a prime example for a catchy chorus which claims a boost of energy that Tristania often lacks. This energy is heard throughout the entire album because of a priority shift triggered by the new vocalist. The guitars are now focused on melody instead of serving as creepy ambience. They are also more likely to turn up the distortion, resulting in some of the band’s heaviest moments to date. In comparison to previous albums, Rubicon is possibly the band’s most accessible album. The music is simply not as depressing, and paired with Mariangela’s melodious vocals, Rubicon will most likely draw in new fans. Long-time fans of the band, though, may have difficulty accepting the formula change.
Since Rubicon is a much more barren album (in terms of amount of sounds) then their last release, every instrument is easily distinguishable. The drums are crystal clear, and often receive breathing space for furious double-bass pedal attacks. Acoustic guitars, harsh vocals, back-up vocals, and a violin are also tossed into the mix, providing enough variation to keep the listener interested. There is never too much of one thing in the album as all musicians play their instruments tastily and with song structure in mind. It is impossible to suffocate in the atmosphere of the album; this is a band playing to their strengths, but with less cheap gothic tactics.
Overall, Rubicon is a great gothic metal album despite the presence of a new vocalist. The band has implemented more melody into their core sound, but this is acceptable considering the powerful vocals of the new lead singer. The loss of their darkwave sound is also acceptable, for it most likely would have clashed with the lead singer’s vocals. Rubicon is a bit different from their previous works, but it is still a solid release from one of gothic metal’s most consistent bands.
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