"Assembly" (Nuclear Blast; 2002)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

After having heard their previous studio release, “Musique,” and being a bit disappointed by the greater inclusion of electronica elements, I was a bit hesitant to dive headlong into Theater of Tragedy's newest CD “Assembly.” It seems once a band moves in the electronica direction they never return and that always  makes me weary. Even the CD title evokes images of industrial production rather than the gothic sheen of Theatre Of Tragedy’s past.

However, “Assembly” is remarkably listenable and has quite a few moments that make me say ‘now that’s what music is all about.’ It’s hard to believe Theatre Of Tragedy started out as a black metal band because now they sound like a band that has relied on synthesizers for most of their careers. It seems that the crunchy metal guitars all but disappear after the third track  except for a few bits in each song where the guitars merely act as a backdrop rather than the prime melodic force. No doubt guitars are used the rest of the way (there are two guitarists in Theatre Of Tragedy), but they’re probably being used in a moody, soundscape kind of manner.

The heart of Theatre Of Tragedy remains the male/female vocals of Raymond I. Rohonniy and Liv Kristine Espanaes respectively. The dialogue form the vocals take on are especially important now that the lyrics and vocals are just as  important in carrying the songs as the music. Although the male death metal vocals and black metal screams are now completely absent, Espanaes’ voice continues in her melodic ways. However, I must admit that Espanaes’ voice now shares a certain characteristic similar to The Gathering’s Anneke van Giersbergen (especially on “if_then_else”).

“Assembly” shows a band that is constantly refining and revamping their evolving style. Personally, I’d take The Gathering over Theatre Of Tragedy any day, but I wouldn’t pull “Assembly” out of the CD player because I’d likely listen to it all the way through at least once. 

“Assembly” was produced by Hiili Hiilismaa (H.I.M., Moonspell, To/Die/For).

Theatre Of Tragedy is Liv Kristine Espanaes on vocals, Raymond I. Rohonniy on vocals, Hein Frode Hansen on Drums, Lorentz Aspen on keyboards, and Frank Claussen and Vegard K. Thorsen on guitar.

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"Musique" (Nuclear Blast; 2000)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

With "Musique" Theatre Of Tragedy move further from pure gothic madness closer to the simply mad electronica craze. The bad news is that Theatre Of Tragedy are a lot less interesting than they were before; the good news is that the band doesn't lose the organic undercurrent that they are so famous for. Theatre Of Tragedy succeed in blending two opposites into one new style, but I'm not certain everyone is ready for it.

One way to look at "Musique" is that it carries the gothic flavor of "The Butterfly Effect"-era Moonspell with the electronica infection that is all too evident in recent memory.

The best tracks are "Fragment" and "Commute." In addition, "Radio" has a classic vocal line amidst the electronica pulses. "Crash/Concrete" has cool guitar rhythms which leaves you hoping for at least one track that leaves the synthesizers and drum machines at home, but no such luck. Whilst the other songs are decent, nothing quite jumps out at me and makes me want to listen to certain tracks over and over.

The rough vocals of Rohonniy continue to abut against Espanaes's powerful yet delicate voice. This marriage of opposites still suits Theatre Of Tragedy's style. However, the rest of the band seems relegated to being part of the backing sound without a lot of important contributions. 

While the electronica elements are sure to turn off gothic purists, there is no denying the ability of Theatre Of Tragedy to craft a sound that is like no other. The production is quite stellar - this alone makes "Musique" worth hearing at least once. In addition, the band's move to Nuclear Blast is sure to allow the band to reach an ever more attentive and larger audience. 

"Musique" isn't as groundbreaking as others might like you to believe, but Theatre Of Tragedy's flair for unconventional sounds is striking. "Musique" isn't bad, it just doesn't have that special factor that I'm looking for in metal.

"Musique" was produced by Erik Ljunggren. 

Theatre Of Tragedy is Liv Kristine Espanaes on vocals, Raymond I. Rohonniy on vocals, Hein Frode Hansen on Drums, Lorentz Aspen on keyboards, and Frank Claussen on guitar. 

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright © 2006 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 18 Sep 2023 21:51:19 -0400.