A review thread? Let's see how long this lasts. I'll say I'm sorry in advance, as I'm not one of the apologists who will praise just anything delivered from whom they like. You see, I love Tristania, they hold a position as my favorite band, and I choose to give it to them straight, especially when they blow it.
And they blew it with Illumination. Widow's Weeds was perfection. Beyond The Veil, as close as possible to a repeat of that perfection. Then we lost Morten - would that bring the end? No. World of Glass is also one of my favorites, so it must have been a fluke. Ashes began the decline in my opinion, but it's still pretty great. Just less so.
I've heard the new album a few times, but when I like something it grabs me immediately, so I won't chalk this up to lack of experience with Illumination. It shouldn't need to grow on me, if it's any good. The good albums, the old albums, didn't need to. My first listening of Evenfall brought me to tears, years ago, as I knew, "this is what I've been waiting for." And many times it still does, years later.
Illumination has almost brought me to tears for a different reason. Tristania is no more. Hopefully this can be reversed, but I don't know the future, and this serving doesn't inspire much hope in me.
Gone is the melodic complexity of old, the clean musical intricacies and pure genius of creation. Gone are the dynamic changes and fantastic, orgasmic, symphonic compositions. Gone are the gothic chorals and the dark brooding and heavenly lights. Gone are the beautiful contrasts that defined this band - the ethereal and the solid, the delicate and the fearsome, the harsh and the gentle, the dark and the light. Gone is the soul. (Einar, where are you?) Gone are the extreme vocals that shone through the orchestral brilliance with so much pure raw strength and fury, that they forced you listen, respect and love it. And gone is the countering force which balanced it. Gone is the creativity.
We are instead left with anyone's mediocre rock guitar band. A simple monotonous noisy grinding of distorted power chords, with the occasional heavy metal riff thrown in. Throw a vocal line over top of it, and you've got a song. Are any of us honestly here for that? I'm not. I saw this coming with Ashes, but I refused to lose hope. Any one of us can conduct a simple comparison at any time with our music collections, and the change it is undeniable. I dare say anyone who says it is a positive change is not a fan of the music, but instead of the idea of a name.
I would dare that person to compare Sanguine Sky, for example, to Midwintertears. I'd dare you to compare Lotus to Lethean River. How about Sacrilege to Wasteland's Caress? Did I stack the deck? Ask for unfair comparisons? If it can't stand up to the legacy of the past, it has declined, by definition.
I hear many suggest they need to experiment or they will stagnate. Apologist nonsense. We didn't fall in love with them for their names. We didn't fall in love with them for their pretty faces. We didn't fall in love with them because they brought us a niche music no one else knew about. We fell in love with them because of the style, the creativity, the magic which defined who they are through the music they created for us. And that is not in this new album.
Don't get me wrong; there are moments on this album. But they are far too rare.
Am I being harsh? Perhaps. Give me a month or so, and it will probably start to grow on me - that is an almost inevitable truth. We're all loyal. But right now, my level of apologism is overshadowed by my anger at them for this, so I can speak a bit less clouded by that loyalty. I'm sure my opinion will soften in time. Then I can join the throngs of apologists. Even as I hesitate to post this, wondering if I'm judging too quickly, I simply listen to it again, and the choice is clear. Even if, over time, I do come to enjoy this album some, it will always be much below its predecessors. It pains me greatly to slam my favorite band in a personal review. But like I said, I will give it to them straight out of my love for them. The harshness of my review is specifically because of my love for them. Tristania, have you lost your way? Do you not realize that you became what you became because of what you created?
On the semi-related other side of the coin, Morten beat their effort this time, soundly. (Yes, I've heard that one too.) To bad he made it all about the new singer, and all but removed himself from it, which is a shame and a mistake. Maybe he'll learn a lesson, too. I hope so.