It’s from Norway the most remarkable Gothic Metal album of all time.
Gothic Metal has always been and will ever be a very tricky subgenre of Heavy Metal, especially in terms of originality, because it can bore you at the blink of an eye. I, for instance, do not consider myself a true Gothic Metal fan, as I prefer a lot more heavier and faster material like traditional Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal, Death Metal, and even Hard Rock rather than any Gothic music. However, once in a while there’s a band like Tristania that breaks this barrier and gains my respect in the world of heavy music.
After their self-titled EP Tristania (1997), it was time for this Norwegian Gothic Metal band to release in 1998 their first full-length album called Widow’s Weeds, which in my opinion is the best Gothic Metal album of all time. In fact, Widow’s Weeds cannot be considered only Gothic Metal, as it contains elements of many other subgenres of heavy music such as Symphonic, Death and Doom Metal, which explains why this album is so difficult to understand, and consequently so delightful.
Widow’s Weeds is a tsunami of obscure themes and dark lyrics, all full of the most uncomfortable emotions such as depression, sadness and madness, and of course everything is wrapped up by a very precise and dense musicality. Do not expect to hear crazy riffs and solos, or even fast drums with lots of double bass, but lengthy and slow songs where all instruments together form a complex sonority, in parallel with Vibeke Stene’s angelic voice and Morten Veland’s roars.
Right after the intro Preludium…, the band shows all its powerful musical range with the beautiful Evenfall, by far the most amazing composition of their entire career. Vibeke’s performance in this song is awesome, as well as the drums by Kenneth Olsson, and the final result portrays perfectly how pleasant sadness can be when transformed into music. The following track keeps the bar extremely high: Pale Enchantress can be considered another of the band’s classics, a lot faster than the previous one with great melancholic lyrics (“Enchanting all my dreams / A beauty and her flood of tears / Nightfall embrace my heart / Mesmerized and ravendark”).
December Elegy and Midwintertears are examples of what I previously said about the trickiness of Gothic Metal, as both can easily make you feel bored due to their length and lack of speed or changes in rhythm. However, they’re pretty good songs, it’s just that they’re not tailored for MTV or radio. On the other hand, even the more skeptical heavy music lovers will enjoy the next two tracks: Angellore has many interesting goth elements from the 80’s that match perfectly with the band’s style, with the addition of Østen Bergøy doing the clean vocals, and the final result was so good that it was probably the reason why he joined the band full-time from 2001 until 2010; while My Lost Lenore is considered by many Tristania’s biggest masterpiece. Here we have not only Vibeke and Morten doing a superb job, but above all the talented Einar Moen on his synth and piano giving a huge boost to the song.
The (almost) last track, Wasteland’s Caress, is for me the weakest of all tracks, and the outro …Postludium ends this amazing album, unless you have the special edition which contains two excellent bonus tracks called Sirene and Cease to Exist. The front cover of the album simply summarizes how dark and mysterious the music by Tristania is, fully complemented by the band’s sinister outfits.
Unfortunately, there have been way too many changes in the band’s lineup and musicality until today, provoking an immense drop in the quality of their material. Maybe if Vibeke Stene and of course Morten Veland, the mastermind behind Tristania’s eerie and mesmerizing music and currently with Sirenia, were still with Tristania, the whole story would have been a lot different. Nevertheless, based on Tristania’s most recent albums, I don’t believe we’ll see anything close to Widow’s Weeds again.
At least there are some good news about Vibeke returning to the world of heavy music after years of privation, and when she actually returns she deserves a special “Metal Chick of the Month” post for her and one or more reviews of the music projects and/or bands she joins in a near future. She’s a truly underrated musician, and I hope she comes back kickin’ ass as she used to do in her years with Tristania.
Best moments of the album: Evenfall, Pale Enchantress, Angellore and My Lost Lenore.
Worst moments of the album: December Elegy and Wasteland’s Caress.
Released in 1998 Napalm Records
1. Preludium… 1:09
2. Evenfall 6:51
3. Pale Enchantress 6:31
4. December Elegy 7:31
5. Midwintertears 8:32
6. Angellore 7:16
7. My Lost Lenore 6:23
8. Wasteland’s Caress 7:40
9. …Postludium 1:12
Limited edition bonus tracks
10. Sirene 3:22
11. Cease to Exist 9:17
Vibeke Stene – vocals, choir
Morten Veland – harsh vocals, guitars, choir
Anders H. Hidle – guitars, choir
Rune Østerhus – bass
Einar Moen – synths, programming
Kenneth Olsson – drums, choir
Østen Bergøy – clean vocals on “Angellore”, choir
Pete Johansen – violin
Hilde Egeland, Marita Herikstad, Hilde T. Bommen – choir