Tristania - Widow's Weeds
Napalm Records
Gothic Doom Metal
9 songs (53:07)
Release year: 1998
Tristania, Napalm Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

On the imminent occasion of a new album from Gothic Norwegians Tristania, it feels appropriate to look back in time at their rather special debut, for some reason left unreviewed up until now here. Going all the way back to 1998, when both Vibeke Stene and Morten Veland were still in the band, debut Widow’s Weeds carved a Gothic path through the channels of sorrow, creating a rather excellent album that could have been recorded in some ancient cathedral, so potent and intense is the band’s sorrowful sound. The emphasis on choirlike vocals and usage of violin means that this is closer to an old My Dying Bride or Paradise Lost album than the likes of Lacuna Coil, Doom running through Tristania’s very veins. It’s much more theatrical and operatic than plain old Doom, however, Stene’s shriekingly high vocals surely only the result of a cloistered lifestyle and constant practise. Don’t be put off by my describing her vocals as a shriek, however, as her performance here is little short of angelic, capable of much. Beautiful trills on Pale Enchantress, for example, mix very well with Veland’s harsh growl, and the backing music is also excellent, Doom riffs driving the music and sparingly-used keyboards avoiding cheesiness and adding a melodic touch to each song they touch.

What makes this album quite so perfect is that each and every aspect of it is flawless. I’ve mentioned Vibeke’s lovely voice, but there’s a reason that Morten is praised so much; he has one of the most emotional and heartfelt grunts that I’ve heard, in Death Metal or out. In a genre so ridiculed for its adherence to beauty/beast vocal approaches, there must be a reason, and this, my friends, is it – the pinnacle of the style, the reason all those bands try to copy it and fail to match its effectiveness here. Of course, great vocals aren’t worth a damn if the songwriting isn’t there to back them up, and Tristania perform wonderfully on that regard, pretty much every track present being a killer. There are many little memorably fantastic moments such as December Elegy’s violin flourishes over Vibeke’s whispers, or Midwintertears’ moment where all falls away apart from vocals and piano. The band know exactly what they’re doing, and even more poppy, Goth-rock moments like Angellore are wonderful and weighted by emotion – scarcely poppy at all when compared to some of today’s acts, of course.

This is undoubtedly Tristania’s finest hour, yet I can completely understand why they moved away from this style, as it’s a bit of an evolutionary dead end. As good as the band were here, it’s hard to see how it could have been improved upon in any way, shape or form – this is for many the last word in Gothic Metal, and I’ll probably get scented-paper death threats for not making this a classic. I can see why, as Widow’s Weeds is a pretty fantastic album, rendering most if not all of Cradle Of Filth and Dimmu Borgir’s discographies worthless as Tristania manage to provide twice the atmosphere with half as much fuss. Anyone with an interest in theatrical, melancholic music should already have this, but it’ll be a kick in the teeth to those who love old-school Melodeath, too, the style touching on old-Dark Tranquillity territory at times (Wasteland’s Caress, looking at you here) and even some flowery Black Metal influence being detectable. A great, great album that deserves much love – I just know that forum reaction to the band’s latest will be lukewarm at best out of devoted memory to this. Here’s hoping Widow’s Weeds at least receives the acclaim it deserves.

Killing Songs :
Evenfall, Pale Enchantress, December Elegy, Midwintertears, Angellore, My Lost Lenore, Wasteland’s Caress
Goat quoted 92 / 100
Other albums by Tristania that we have reviewed:
Tristania - Darkest White reviewed by Jared and quoted 85 / 100
Tristania - Rubicon reviewed by Goat and quoted 81 / 100
Tristania - Ashes reviewed by Jack and quoted 85 / 100
Tristania - Beyond The Veil reviewed by Jack and quoted 90 / 100
Tristania - World Of Glass reviewed by Jack and quoted 80 / 100
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