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Sunday Old School: Tristania

It's that time of year in the Northern hemisphere when the sun's out, the shorts are on and the Facebook feeds are filled with people complaining about the heat... Perfect timing for some Scandinavian gothic metal, don't you think? Gothic metal is largely attributed to British band Paradise Lost, not least due to the title of their sophomore full length, "Gothic," but has since gone on to become a popular and successful sub-genre in it's own right, probably providing the most female musicians in any of metal's varied offshoots. One of the first bands to lay the template for operatic, female vocals hails from the west of Norway and continue to hold a special place amongst fans of the genre, is Tristania.

Tristania was formed in 1995 by vocalist/guitarist Morten Veland, drummer Kenneth Ølsson and keyboardist Einar Moen and were joined in their musical pursuits a few weeks later by guitarist Anders Høyvik Hidle and bass player Rune Østerhus. While recording a demo, the group decided to bring in Vibeke Stene as a guest vocalist, who was soon recruited as a permanent member, although she was unaware of this until after the band signed with Napalm Records and released their debut album, "Widow's Weeds." The album itself drew considerable praise and is considered a classic in the gothic metal genre, thanks to the contrasting, "beauty and the beast" vocals and symphonic elements.

The album's acclaim led them to perform outside of Norway for the first time, including at the Austrian festival, Mind over Matter and embarking on a European tour with Solefald and Haggard. Only a year after their debut, the band recorded and released their second album, "Beyond the Veil," which many claim is even better than their first outing, receiving perfect reviews from some publications. Following it's release, Tristania launched their first headlining tour, being joined on the trek by Trail of Tears and The Sins of Thy Beloved, before hitting the road again in support of Tiamat and Anathema.

Despite the growing success, Veland decided to part company with the band in December 2000, citing musical and personal differences and the band soldiered on with only one guitarist for their next album, "World of Glass," which was released in September 2001. Though they'd lost their primary songwriter, the record continued the trend of receiving great reviews and the group once more set out on a headlining tour, taking a notable name with them in Greek black metal act Rotting Christ, who themselves were experimenting with the gothic metal style at the time.

After extensive touring, including reaching Latin America for the first time, the band decided to take a break, which would last for two years before they reconvened and began work on their next album, which was finally released in 2005 through SPV/Steamhammer Records under the title, "Ashes." While still receiving excellent feedback, there were fans and critics alike who felt that it didn't quite meet the standards of their previous work, perhaps due to the shedding of some of the more operatic elements of their music. They promoted the album by touring with the likes of fellow symphonic/gothic metal band Nightwish and German thrash metal legends, Kreator, during which time they decided to make touring guitarist Svein Terje Solvang an official member of the group.

With fresh blood in tow and Hidle now providing growling vocals, the Tristania recorded their fifth album, "Illumination," which hit the shelves in January 2007, once more to a positive reception. Promotion for the album was soon cut short however, when Stene announced that she was retiring from music to focus on her family and teaching, causing all planned activities to be stopped until the band found a new vocalist, who was eventually confirmed in October 2007 as Italian singer Mariangela Demurtas. The group were dealt further blows the next year when Østerhus and Solvang both left the band, eventually being replaced by Ole Vistnes on bass and Gyri Losnegaard on guitar.

This new incarnation of Tristania performed regularly to introduce fans to the new lineup before eventually entering the studio to record their sixth album, "Rubicon," which was released in August 2010 and received some positive reviews from critics, though fans were less enthusiastic about the record. The band followed in the footsteps of bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica and released their own game in 2011, before returning to the studio to record their next album, "Darkest White." The album gained a much more positive response than its predecessor and was considered by many to be the "true comeback" for the band. Since then, the band has focused more on live performances, with Demurtas performing special guest vocals for Portuguese gothic metallers Moonspell at the 70000 Tons of Metal cruise, but with a stellar catalogue behind them and a legacy that will last for a long time, fans will be hoping that they will be back with new material very soon.

Tristania - "Wasteland's Caress"

Tristania - "Beyond the Veil"

Tristania - "Selling Out"

Tristania - "Libre"

Tristania - "Deadlands"

Tristania - "Year of the Rat"

Tristania - "Darkest White"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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