Review Summary: Doomy guitars with ethereal female vocals, death growls and piano combined seamlessly on a highly atmospheric debut.
In 1995 when people heard of a new band hailing from Norway, they expected blast beats, corpse paint, shrieked vocals and lo-fi production. Without a doubt, Theatre of Tragedy was an unconventional party from day one but not only because they distanced themselves from their Norwegian counterparts. Consisting of seven members and using instruments such as cello and piano along with heavy doomy guitars was a strong antithesis. However, even more peculiar for the time was the use of deep male growls along with female operatic vocals, a technique that became later popular by the term “Beauty and the Beast” vocal style. Moreover, Theatre of Tragedy’s debut features unconventional lyrics sung in Victorian English which also adds to the end result’s charm. All the above, resulted in a highly interesting hybrid that evoked feelings of melancholy and romanticism with a death metal twist.
Musically, Theatre of Tragedy
can be categorized as a mix of doom and gothic metal similar to early Anathema, My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost or The Gathering’s debut. One moment the band uses harsh guitars and the next the listener enjoys an ominous, minimalistic piano melody that serves as introduction to the male or female vocals. Granted, when people hear of Theatre of Tragedy the “Beauty and the Beast” vocal style comes to their mind. Liv Kristine is very gifted at creating haunting and ethereal vocal melodies whereas the male singer Raymond Rohonyi plays the role of evil in a very convincing way with his death grunts. Nevertheless, the band’s debut features some very catchy melodies in tracks such as "A Hamlet for a Slothful Vassal" or "Dying - I Only Feel Apathy". Going back to the minimalistic statement mentioned above, the album’s standout track is probably "...A Distance There Is...". One of the most characteristic tracks in the band’s discography and a perfect winter theme, it is centered around Liv Kristine accompanied by piano, cello and the sound of falling rain.
Overall, Theatre of Tragedy
is probably not the best or the most refined album in Theatre of Tragedy’s discography but it is a highly interesting work that influenced a number of bands that came after the Norwegians. The quality of music along with Dan Swano’s cold and dry yet fitting production, will probably be enjoyed not only by fans of gothic metal and The Peaceville Three but by those who seek highly atmospheric music for cold winter days or nights.