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Sunday Old School: Theatre Of Tragedy

Photo of Theatre Of Tragedy

Band Photo: Theatre Of Tragedy (?)

Heavy metal has long been associated with Gothic imagery, even before the term "Gothic metal" was created. The coming of the sub-genre in the 1990s was an important era in the history of heavy metal, not only for another new sound but that it also arguably helped bring in a large number of female fans to the genre. Part of this was due to the presence of female vocalists in the Gothic sub-genre, in what was dubbed the "beauty and the beast" sound, namely a operatic female voice paired with male death growls. We recently saw an example of this with the band Draconian and this week we'll be looking at another group which helped pioneer the technique, Theatre Of Tragedy.

The seeds of the band were sewn on October 2nd 1993 in Stavanger, Norway, when vocalist Raymond István Rohonyi and guitarists Pål Bjåstad and Tommy Lindal formed a group named Suffering Grief, which soon welcomed into the fold drummer Hein Frode Hansen, formerly of Phobia. They recorded their first song, "Lament of the Perishing Roses" the same year, shortly after which, they decided to change their name to La Reine Noir for a brief time and then to the now familiar, Theatre Of Tragedy. Initially, the vocals consisted solely of death grunts from Rohonyi, but while recording their first demo in 1994, they were so impressed by guest soprano Liv Kristine Espenæs that they invited her to join on a permanent basis.

Their demo soon spread among the metal underground and was passed on to several labels, with German record company Massacre offering the band a deal. The self-titled debut album was then released through the label in 1995, earning a mostly highly positive response from fans of the death-doom and Gothic metal styles and critics. This style was continued and developed on their sophomore album, "Velvet Darkness They Fear," which followed quickly in 1996, also released through Massacre. It featured their first song not sung in English, "Der Tanz der Schatten" (German for "The Dance of the Shadows") and again was welcomed very warmly by fans of the band, the style and a number of publications.

After the release of an EP, "A Rose for the Dead," which featured three unreleased originals from the "Velvet Darkness..." sessions, as well as two remixes and a cover of the Joy Division song, "Decades," the band got to work on their third full length album, which was released in 1998 under the title, "Aégis." The record received critical acclaim and along with the two preceding albums, is held up as one of the best works by Theatre Of Tragedy to date. It was promoted by the release of the single, "Cassandra" and saw the group shift towards a more "traditional" style of song writing, helping them draw in listeners who were a little nervy of the band's more experimental structure before.

What followed next was something of a radical departure, as the group moved away from the Gothic metal style to a more synthpop and electronic sound on 2000's, "Musique," similar to what Paradise Lost had done a few years before. The music was not the only thing that changed on the record, the lyrics no longer revolved around the poetry and Old English of a time gone by, but more on modern life and man's relationship with machine and even used samples, including the beginning of a ZX Spectrum programme.

Naturally, a number of fans were upset or disappointed with the direction the band took, but it didn't seem to hurt their career much, as plenty of new fans were turned on to the group. Theatre Of Tragedy released their first live album, "closure:live" the following year, before their fifth album, "Assembly," was released in 2002. The record refined the electronic sound of "Musique" and earned a solid response, though it would be their last to feature Liv Kristine, who announced in 2003 that she was leaving the group and forming a new band with the members of Atrocity (which featured her partner at the time, Alexander Krull) named Leaves Eyes.

Of course, the prospect of replacing Kristine was a daunting task but in 2004, fellow Norwegian Nell Sigland (formerly of The Crest,) joined Theatre Of Tragedy and the band hit the road once again with such bands as Tiamat and Pain. Their first album with Sigland came in March 2006 in the form of "Storm," which was notable for bridging the styles of their previous two albums with their first three. Fans of the band were very welcoming of the album, appreciating their return to their roots whilst not abandoning their recent work.

On October 2nd, the band celebrated their fifteenth anniversary by posting a snippet of a new song entitled, "Frozen" on their Myspace page. The song itself would feature on their next album, "Forever Is the World," which received a mixed to positive response, though it was a victim of the "Loudness war" of the time which many listeners felt damaged the impact of the album. The art work reflected all the previous album covers in some way, which was perhaps a clue to the announcement which was made on March 1st 2010 that Theatre Of Tragedy had decided to disband in order to spend more time with their families. They embarked on a farewell tour, which appropriately ended on October 2nd the same year in their home town of Stavanger, with that show being released on DVD as, "Last Curtain Call."

While Raymond István Rohonyi joined Liv Kristine on her solo tour in 2015 to perform some Theatre Of Tragedy songs, the band members have continued to maintain that a reunion will not happen, claiming it was as likely as a Doors reunion with all their original members. Their absence has left a hole in the Gothic metal world, as one of the pioneering "beauty and the beast" bands is no longer around, but their legacy and music remains, waiting for the next generation and delighting this one.

Theatre of Tragedy - "A Hamlet for a Slothful Vassal"

Theatre Of Tragedy - "Der Tanz der Schatten"

Theatre Of Tragedy - "Cassandra"

Theatre Of Tragedy - "Machine"

Theatre Of Tragedy - "Let You Down"

Theatre Of Tragedy - "Storm"

Theatre Of Tragedy - "Forever Is the World"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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1 Comment on "Sunday Old School: Theatre Of Tragedy"

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Anonymous Reader
1. Tommy Lindal writes:

Correction, Liv Kristine entered the band way before the demo-recording ;)

# Sep 4, 2017 @ 9:40 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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