What do you think of Rubicon after listening to it?
I'm just finishing up my first listen, and so far I'm finding myself a bit underwhelmed. I do enjoy Mary's voice, Einar's keyboards, and the newfound energy the band has. Unfortunately, many of the tracks feel a bit too generic, and to say I dislike Kjetil's voice is an understatement.
Favorite tracks so far: "Protection," "Patriot Games," "Sirens," and "The Emerald Piper."
Least favorite tracks: I don't mind "Year of the Rat" or "Illumination" much, but I didn't find myself enjoying anything else.
I'm on my 7th listen right now, and so far I like it a lot. The songs are very diverse and dynamic compared to their previous albums, which is really good, but, just like you, I feel a bit underwhelmed too.
The songs are generally too short, somewhat repetitive and "simple".
Also, I expected more from Illumination. It feels somewhat uninspired and too long for what it is. Nonetheless, it's still a great song.
I think the vocals are kind of weak compared to Illumination. Osten appears in very few songs, although Kjetil is also a great vocalist, and they rely too much on "unison" vocals instead of duets with a good contrast.
So, far, in my opinion, from best to worst:
1 - Patriot Games (I'm very impressed by this song: really heavy, catchy, has an awesome rhythm. It's easily the best Rubicon track, IMO)
2 - The Passing (an awesome and very melodic song, with a strong Tristania vibe)
3 - Exile (probably the best song on the album vocal-wise, and also very atmospheric)
4 - Year of the Rat (really awesome and catchy song, a very good choice for a single)
5 - Illumination (great song, but could be better)
6 - Vulture (another great song, I like the vocals a lot, though I expected it to be heavier)
7 - Protection (heavy, melodic and intense, also has a strong Tristania vibe)
8 - Sirens (cool song with a dark vibe, but somewhat weak)
9 - The Emerald Piper (though I'm not a big fan of this one, since it's completely different from Tristania, I was impressed by the studio version, much better than the live one)
10 - Magical Fix (the strangest Tristania song ever, sounds kind of weird, but good nonetheless)
11 - Amnesia (not bad, but not great either; could be much better, I find it dull)
So far, I rate Rubicon as 8.5/10.
It's probably the album of the year for me, but despite the new and strong line-up, as well as their new energy, right now it's just "great", not "excellent", which is what I expected it to be.