Theatre Of Tragedy - Storm - Candlelight Records 2006
Running Time: 44:05
Velvet Darkness They Fear, Theatre Of Tragedy's shining example of weighty Eurodoom melded with angelic vocals and violins was an obsession for me in 1996. The sound recalled a more romantic take on the subtle operatic tones of My Dying Bride, yet held strong to its own identity, cementing the band as one of most fans' initial exposure to gothic doom. I followed through Aegis, picking up the self-titled debut for good measure along the way...and then ['mju:zik]. From the title, I knew something had changed - and probably for the worse -, but in no way was I prepared for the faux-industrodance that assaulted my ears, which carried on through 2002's Assembly, and made me write off Theatre Of Tragedy as clearly (and unconvincingly) making the crossover leap to appeal to fans of God Lives Underwater and the like.
And now we come to Storm, the first TOT output in three years. New to the camp Nell Sigland, taking the female vocal reins (somewhat, but more on that later). Her voice sounds youthful, more hungry than the operatic range of departed Liv Kristine, lending new energy to the title track, which begins with a slight Nightwish tone. The uber-processed vox of Raymond Rohonyi caused initial fright that TOT had decided to follow the road upon which ['mju:zik] had set them, instead finding the band latching onto a groove-oriented goth reminiscent of "City Of Light", the only good thing about ['mju:zik]. "Silence" crashes in soon after, regrettably shooting down any chance of a solid heavier direction from TOT. Pet Shop Boys watch out. Raymond seems determined to make a grab for the '80s synthpop crown, albeit two decades too late. Nell is relegated here to background vocals, and has been through the album thus far. Why bother crediting her with the vocalist position if she's barely allowed to take the lead in anything? Oh yes, I have it now. She's prettier than Raymond, and will bring in the guys. With "Ashes And Dreams" at least the tempo changes, the chanteuse-like pipes of Nell being given most of the vocal time. Seriously, though; where's the vocal interplay that brought us the snarling/ethereal Velvet Darkness...?Sigland might have the voice for it, and she seems to be getting sold short. Melodious keys pepper "Voices", slightly After Forever in execution, yet without the stellar musicianship present in that band, and leading us into the finest moment in Storm. Nell's voice takes center stage (which is where it should be all along), "Fade" slowly building to rumbling bass with tasteful drumwork. Could it be, a song Raymond hasn't decided to crap all over? At least he keeps his whisper to a whisper, but it does nothing for the song, aside from being part of the same formula followed through much of the album to this point. Huge, epic chords pound in the stellar production, but that only serves to make the little whispered toss-ins of You Know Who that much worse. Driving rhythms in "Senseless" recall (again) "City Of Light", the sensually hushed delivery of Sigland waging a losing battle against Rohonyi, who spends his portion of the song trying to be heavy and failing miserably. "Exile" carries a decent melancholic riff on its outskirts, but it fades too fast, much like Theatre Of Tragedy has with Storm. Sorry, Raymond, but Katatonia you'll never be.
The 2000 lineup changes effectively shot most of the metal sensibilities out the nether regions of TOT. Much like the much lauded/loathed Metallica, this isn't even the same band it was at its inception. Evanescence fans will adore Storm. Nightwish fans will be bored with the lack of anything musically interesting, finding Sigland's voice to be decent, but not given adequate playing time. As much as I hate to say so, even Flyleaf fans won't find enough aggression here to warrant paying attention. It's a storm of something alright, and I can smell it from here.