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Theatre of Tragedy - Forever is the World                    9/10

By David Dashifen Kees

Theatre of Tragedy - Forever is the WorldSeptember has been an interesting month for me.  There’s a way to start a review, right?  I could go anywhere from there!  Regardless of what else you might be expecting, one of the more interesting things is that I’ve had the opportunity to review not one but two albums being released this month.  The first is Forever is the World by Theatre of Tragedy.  I leapt at the chance to take a gander at this one.  Unlike my previous reviews, I have other albums by Theatre of Tragedy so I was excited to compare and contrast their new work against their old.  If you’ve enjoyed their sound before, rest assured that you’ll be able to do so again.

Forever is the World is the second album with Nell Sigland (also of the Crest) as the lead female vocalist.  Her haunting, breathy sound is perfectly complemented by the darker sounds of the guitars and, at times, by the guttural chanting of Raymond Istvàn Rohonyi, the back-up male vocals.  This complementary relationship illustrates the best feature of the album: the holistic nature of the work.  Sigland’s voice is never swallowed by the sounds of the guitars which don’t hide the keyboards as they play counterpoint to the drums.  In almost every piece, the instrumentalists have their moment to shine just as bright as the vocalists, a balance that some groups have trouble reaching.

The versatility that the keyboardist, Lorentz Aspen, brings to the group highlights their versatility with respect to instrumentation.Frequently, they lean on the keyboards to synthesize the sound of stringed instruments or a piano or an organ, all sounds that might be over large or unavailable otherwise.  This lends the work a symphonic quality that simply looking at their instrumental line up doesn’t evidence.

For fans of more progressive music, this may not be an album for you; Theatre of Tragedy remains true to their gothic roots on Forever is the World.   Careful listening to the keyboards will provide progressive elements, especially scales playing counterpoint during otherwise melodic portions, but in general those motifs are not what they’re about.  Also lacking are longer instrumental sections or instrumental numbers; the focal point of their work are the vocals.  To support the lyrical elements, you’ll find the drone of the base guitars, electronic and atmospheric elements, and a harmonic interplay between the vocals and instrumentals that show a technical precision that will keep you listening and relistening.

There is a single track that stands out for me:  the eighth song, “Illusions”.  The track begins with an interplay between the guitars until Sigland adds her voice (literally and figuratively) to the milieu until the sound of synthesized string elements complete the picture and bringing us to a harder metal interlude.  Parts of the song are more popular, others gothic, some almost Celtic—at least in vocal stylings—and it gives the best representation of the groups breadth and depth.  However, this track is one of the lighter elements of the work; if you want something that represents their darker sound, I would suggest the initial track, “Hide and Seek”.  If you sample these tracks and like what you hear, I expect you’ll enjoy the remaining eight pieces.

These popular elements I mentioned above shouldn’t hold you back if you dislike the “mainstreaming” of our little corner of the musical universe that some describe with horror.  Theatre of Tragedy certainly has songs that appeal to a more diverse audience, but—especially at the top of the album—the group shows that they’re more than just pop musicians with loud guitars.  Minor tonality, explicit lyrics, and the aforementioned (synthesized) symphonic elements all build a sound that is their own. 

Forever is the World is available for purchase on September 18, 2009.  I truly enjoyed the opportunity to hear and review it before its release.  The selfish, petty part of me got a kick out of hearing before you did, but now that I have, I can honestly report that I am quite pleased with this, the latest incarnation of a group that I’ve been listening to for some time.

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