Originally written by Chris Chellis.
I am always open to beautifully sung gothic metal, and with Lacuna Coil basically M.I.A. there’s never been a better opportunity for Theatre of Tragedy to take the scene by Storm.
I have a weakness for female vocalists, Christina Scabbia and Anneke van Giersbergen being two of my favorites. After listening toStorm, Nell Sigland makes it a threesome. She’s so god damn smooth. In the same way that van Giersbergen doesn’t need to shout to convey the most cavernous of emotional depths, Sigland need not puncture her lungs to command attention. Her voice floats effortlessly like the subtle breeze of a light, wispy wind. Only the most pretentious of descriptions befit such a singer.
Gothic metal requires an excellent vocalist. You can fake it with thrash. Mustaine has done that for decades now. But the gothic metal vocalist is often at the forefront of the group’s sound; another instrument, if you will. I am pretty easily won over by gothic metal. A good vocalist goes far for me, and Sigland could carry Theatre of Tragedy by herself. Fortunately, she doesn’t have to, because guitarists Frank Claussen and Vegard Thorsen give her an excellent canvas to work with. The music drips with synth but it’s never overbearing or completely obvious. Tones switch from light and thin to heavy and thick. That kind of diversity makes for a great listen, and more importantly, great repeated listening.
Theatre of Tragedy approaches songwriting in the same way that Katatonia records a few straightforward, chorus heavy songs amidst more meandering, layered tracks. The opener, “Storm,” is about as straightforward as it gets, with a pop structure that stresses the catchy chorus, but songs like “Fade,” with the atmospheric piano introduction and the pull of Sigland’s seductive voice, require patience. Close your eyes and let its words form whatever images your brain can translate. The production is appropriately pristine, highlighting both the keys and Sigland’s impressive range.
Everything works here. Very little is disjointed. I don’t care much for Raymond Rohonyi’s vocals, but they’re rarely grating or entirely inappropriate. I wish that he had taken more of a backseat in “Silence,” but that’s one of only two tracks where he takes a greater role than Sigland, and on the other song, “Senseless,” he actually sounds quite good. Maybe he should think about softening his voice a bit more rather than attempt to act as a tonal opposite. Aside from issues with the male vocals, this is one hell of a cohesive experience. The sextet obviously spent a lot of time putting Storm, their sixth full-length, together.
It’s great to run into Storm this late in the year, when most long-anticipated albums have been released and every other good album released between now and the end of the year is a pleasant surprise. Darkest Hour’s Undoing Ruin did the same thing for me in 2005. I can’t promise that this will make my year-end top 10, but it’s definitely one of the strongest gothic metal releases in some time. If you revel in beautiful voices and melancholy, buy Storm.