THEATRE OF TRAGEDY — Velvet Darkness They Fear

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THEATRE OF TRAGEDY - Velvet Darkness They Fear cover
4.29 | 28 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 1996

Tracklist

1. Velvet Darkness They Fear (1:04)
2. Fair and 'Guiling Copesmate Death (7:05)
3. Bring Forth Ye Shadow (6:48)
4. Seraphic Deviltry (5:16)
5. And When He Falleth (7:08)
6. Der Tanz der Schatten (5:28)
7. Black as the Devil Painteth (5:26)
8. On Whom the Moon Doth Shine (6:14)
9. The Masquerader and Phoenix (7:34)

Total Time: 52:08

Line-up/Musicians

- Raymond I. Rohonyi / Vocals
- Liv Kristine Espenæs / Vocals
- Geir Flikkeid / Guitars
- Tommy Lindal / Guitars
- Eirik T. Saltrø / Bass
- Hein Frode Hansen / Drums
- Lorentz Aspen / Keyboards, Piano

About this release

Released in September 1996 via Massacre Records.

Recorded, mixed and mastered at Commusication Studios, Germany.

Thanks to lukretion for the updates

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THEATRE OF TRAGEDY VELVET DARKNESS THEY FEAR reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

lukretion
Velvet Darkness They Fear is the quintessential “beauty and the beast” gothic metal album. Released in 1996, a mere year after Theatre of Tragedy had debuted with their self-titled album, the record is an impressive collection of beautifully crafted anthems that are rooted in the doom/death sound of the band’s debut album, but at the same time are leaner, punchier, more melodic and emotional. The result is an album that is much more accessible, memorable and enjoyable than its predecessor, which is why many consider it the high point of the band’s career.

The band’s lineup is largely unchanged relative to the debut album. The only difference is that guitarist Pål Bjåstad has been replaced with Geir Flikkeid (who will leave the band after this album). Pål nevertheless features as a songwriter in many of the tracks here, which emphasizes the sense of continuity between the sound of the two albums. The rest of the instrumental lineup is comprised of guitarist Tommy Lindal, keyboard player Lorentz Aspen, drummer Hein Frode Hansen and bassist Eirik Saltrø. Raymond Rohonyi and Liv Kristine Espenæs trade vocal lines throughout the album. Liv sings in the trademark fragile and operatic style of the “beauty and the beast” genre. Raymond provides mostly guttural growls, dark and cavernous, albeit he occasionally also experiments with spoken vocals and gothic crooning, a style he will fully embrace on the next few albums of the band.

Musically, the album is quintessential “beauty and the beast” gothic metal. The songs are long, slow-winding and doomy, built around flowing structures that twist and turn and rarely go back to familiar motives more than once or twice. The riffs are dense and keep accelerating and decelerating in the course of the song, giving the music a dramatic and oppressive feel. The piano is omnipresent, weaving a tapestry of arpeggios underneath the thick distortion of the guitars. It’s a beautiful contrast that adds to the dramatic atmosphere of the songs. Four songs also features orchestral arrangements performed by the Streicherensemble Nedeltcho Boiadjiev, adding a symphonic touch to the music. One major difference between Velvet Darkness They Fear and its predecessor is that the tracks here much more immediate and accessible compared to the first album. This is due to two crucial factors that have changed between the two albums. First, the new songs are built on stronger, more memorable melodies. Songs like “Fair and 'Guiling Copesmate Death”, “And When He Falleth”, “Der Tanz der Schatten” and “Black as the Devil Painteth” all feature superb vocal melodies. Liv Kristine's vocal lines are particularly effective, especially as she embraced a fuller and warmer vocal style here compared to her thin and fragile delivery on the debut album. But also Raymond’s growls are more expressive and melodious compared to its tone-deaf, flat delivery of the debut album. Second, the tempos of the songs are less sluggish and oppressive. Tracks like “Seraphic Deviltry” and “Der Tanz der Schatten” showcase a gothic groove that forebodes the gothic turn Theatre of Tragedy will take with their next album Aégis. As a result, the album sounds more energetic and dynamic, and it is much easier for the listener to navigate through its 50+ minutes without getting bored or distracted.

But eventually the strength of Velvet Darkness They Fear lies in the outstanding quality of its songs. The first seven tracks of the album are all absolute gems, leaving the listener completely stunned by the incessant stream of melodies and structurally perfect arrangements. “Fair and 'Guiling Copesmate Death” is a feast of mesmerizing duets between Liv and Raymond, who here inaugurates his new spoken/crooning vocal style. “Bring Forth Ye Shadow” features a beautiful acoustic intermezzo before slowing down and morphing into a doomish coda. “And When He Falleth” is perhaps one of the best songs in the band’s whole discography. It features a sampled dialogue from the 1964 movie The Masque of the Red Death that is just perfectly synced with the superb instrumental background, creating a strong cinematic effect that would not disfigure on a post-rock album. “Der Tanz der Schatten” is the other highlight of the album. It is a beautiful gothic piece whose remix will actually become a minor hit in the gothic club scene. Its strong, emotional finale (“Ich liebe dich….”) is an all-time classic for the band’s fans.

It is a pity that the remaining two songs of the album (“On Whom the Moon Doth Shine” and “The Masquerader and Phoenix”) do not match the quality and the intensity of the previous seven. The main issue here is that these two songs are vocally weaker than the others. The string arrangements of “On Whom the Moon Doth Shine” are also quite messy, while “The Masquerader and Phoenix”, after a nice atmospheric beginning, loses steam and fails to eventually take off.

Despite the slight dip in quality towards the end, Velvet Darkness They Fear is an absolute masterpiece of female-fronted doom/gothic metal. It has everything the genre is known for: dark, doomy riffs and tempos, mesmerizing duets between ethereal female vocals and cavernous growls, dramatic contrasts between electric and acoustic instruments, beautiful melodies and romantic atmospheres. All these elements are used to perfection in this album, which strikes a miraculous balance between sounding extreme and accessible at the same time. It is a formula that countless doom/gothic metal bands have tried to master over the years, often unsuccessfully. On their second attempt, Theatre of Tragedy nailed it. If doom/gothic metal is your poison of choice, make no mistake: Velvet Darkness They Fear is the real deal.
Warthur
As one of the originators of the "Beauty and the Beast" aesthetic in goth metal, Theatre of Tragedy make this dramatic niche sound really work on Velvet Darkness They Fear. Drawing a little from death-doom acts without letting the brutal ugliness of that scene overwhelm the more delicate side of their work, the band offer up a series of truly sublime songs, the exquisite climax of the album probably being And When He Falleth (which includes some truly inspired sampling from Roger Corman and Vincent Price's movie adaptation of The Masque of the Red Death). In short, Velvet Darkness They Fear proves that Theatre of Tragedy are the best sort of musical innovators - the type who are not only able to come up with a distinctive new sound, but also hone their craft to the point where they master it. Many subsequent bands would try to equal this album - and some would do so - but I can't think of any Beauty and the Beast acts which exceed it in quality.

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