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Gothic metal or goth metal is a subgenre of heavy metal music. Gothic metal combines the aggression of heavy metal with the dark melancholy of gothic rock. The genre originated during the early 1990s in Europe as an outgrowth of death/doom, a fusion of death metal and doom metal. The music of gothic metal is diverse with bands known to adopt the gothic approach to different styles of heavy metal music. Lyrics are generally melodramatic and mournful with inspiration from gothic fiction as well as personal experiences.

Pioneers of gothic metal include Paradise Lost, Theater Of Tragedy, The 3rd And The Mortal. Other pioneers from the first half of the 1990s include Type O Negative from the United States, Tiamat from Sweden, and The Gathering from the Netherlands. Norwegian band Theatre of Tragedy developed the "beauty and the beast" aesthetic of combining aggressive male vocals with clean female vocals, a contrast that has since been adopted by many gothic metal groups. During the mid-1990s, Moonspell, Theatres des Vampires and Cradle of Filth brought the gothic approach to black metal. By the end of the decade, a symphonic metal variant of gothic metal had been developed by Tristania and Within Temptation.

In the 21st century, gothic metal has moved towards the mainstream in Europe, particularly in Finland where groups such as The 69 Eyes, Entwine, HIM, Lullacry, Poisonblack and Sentenced have released hit singles or chart-topping albums. In the US, however, only a few bands such as Lacuna Coil, Evanescence have found commercial success.


Sub-genre collaborators (shared with Symphonic Metal):
  • DippoMagoo

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THEATRE OF TRAGEDY Theatre of Tragedy

Album · 1995 · Gothic Metal
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There are some albums that hold an iconic status in the metal community, and the self-titled debut of Norwegian band Theatre of Tragedy is certainly one of those. Released in 1995, this album laid the foundations for the female-fronted gothic metal scene, providing the blueprint for countless artists to follow. Their formula relied heavily on the notion of “contrast”. Contrast between the crushingly slow riffs and oppressive tempos of death/doom metal and the lightness and airiness of instruments like piano, violin, and acoustic guitars. Perhaps all the more iconic is the contrast between cavernous death growls and ethereal, soprano-like female clean vocals, which led critics to dub the approach “beauty and the beast”. Even the lyrical themes are based on contrast, inspired by Romantic themes of dualism between life and death, love and hate, joy and pain. Of course, this was nothing completely new back in 1995, as other metal bands had occasionally relied on these types of contrasts as a compositional element in their music. Celtic Frost had incorporated operatic vocals into their dark music as early as 1985. Paradise Lost’s second album Gothic, released in 1992, contained a couple of songs featuring the interplay between male grunts and clean melodic female vocals. The Gathering’s debut album Always…, also released in 1992, provides another prominent example. Other doom/death bands, like Anathema and My Dying Bride, had experimented with the use of piano, violin and keyboards, and with the insertion of delicate acoustic sections in their songs. What is perhaps unique about Theatre of Tragedy, however, is that they took these isolated elements and put them at the centre of their music, purposely making a whole album out of it.

Regardless of who came first and who inspired whom, Theatre of Tragedy’s debut album contains all the archetypal elements of the “beauty and the beast” gothic metal sound and is therefore commonly seen as the precursor of that scene. The songwriting is complex and multifaceted, unafraid of taking the songs in multiple directions and long detours before going back to familiar themes. The tempos are shifting all the time, as the songs keep speeding up and slowing down, toying with the listener as they move from section to section in an endless spiral of despair. Guitarists Pål Bjåstad and Tommy Lindal provide ample doses of thickly distorted, slow-paced doom riffs that twist and turn like maggots in a coffin. But then, suddenly, the music opens up: a piano introduces an ear-pleasing motive; a cello intermezzo gives sadness a new sound; a gentle acoustic guitar dispels the thick fuzz of the distorted guitars. It’s this constant change of moods and atmosphere that makes the music so interesting, dynamic and special.

However, what gains this album its iconic status is undoubtedly the interplay between male and female vocals. Raymond Rohonyi is the growler. His vocals are cavernous, monotonous and grim, thick as the darkness itself. The contrast with Liv Kristine Espenæs’ eerie operatic vocals could not be starker. Her voice is delicate, almost whispery, as she mostly uses her upper-register to create maximal contrast. Both singers are given space to sing on their own (sometimes on entire songs, like Liv on “… A Distance There Is …”). But often the two vocalists are used simultaneously in the same song, providing a sort of counterpoint to one another and accentuating the contrast between the two different styles. Oddly, however, neither singer really manages to convey strong emotions with their voices, an effect that is partly compounded by their cold, one-dimensional delivery as well as by the use of Old English in the lyrics, which creates a further barrier between the singers and the listener. It makes for an odd effect, transmitting a sense of apathy and detachment to the listener that contributes to the dramatic and oppressive atmosphere of the album.

Another aspect of the music that nurtures this sense of oppression and emotional detachment is the lack of strong and memorable melodies, both in the vocals and the underlying instrumental background. Sure, there are riffs, piano motifs, and even a couple of cello solos (played by prog rock outfit Unicorn’s Anders Måreby), but overall the album feels melodically unyielding. This is perhaps also the biggest limit of the record, which prevents me from rating it higher. The music is not particularly accessible or easy to assimilate, making a few songs feel plodding and dull (“Cheerful Dirge”, “Monotone”) and the overall album somewhat of a chore to go through. Theatre of Tragedy will soon learn to write much better melodies, and already their follow-up album Velvet Darkness They Fear will constitute a dramatic improvement in terms of accessibility and enjoyment of the overall listening experience.

Although Theatre of Tragedy will do better in later releases, the album has nevertheless some great moments, especially in the songs that are more concise and focused, like “A Hamlet for a Slothful Vassal” and “Mire”. These songs are punchy, direct and fun to listen to, showcasing the best features of the beauty and the beast approach. The acoustic piece “… A Distance There Is …” also stands out as a long threnody for piano and voice that keeps spiralling from lament to lament. “Hollow-Heartéd, Heart-Departéd” features a nice cello part and good vocals by Liv, although it loses a bit of focus in its second-half.

The overall production of the album is excellent. Recorded at Unisound studios in Sweden under the watchful eye of Dan Swanö, the album’s sound is miles better than that of many similar albums in the genre (I think of those early, muddy, thin-sounding Tristania and The Sins of Thy Beloved albums). The guitar tone is great, deep and powerful. The balance between instruments and voices is also good, and so is the balance between Raymnod’s growls and Liv’s cleans. The overall production value of the album is really strong and makes the album sound good even for today’s standards, 25 years after its release.

Regardless of its strengths and weaknesses, the album stands tall as a seminal contribution to a nascent musical genre. Ambitious and innovative, the combination of doom/death, operatic vocals, and classical instrumentation will influence many bands in the following years, with dozens of albums in this style being released in the second half of the 1990s. Theatre of Tragedy will produce one more full-length in this style (1996’s Velvet Darkness They Fear, perhaps their crowning achievement), before starting to incorporate gothic rock, electronic and industrial influences in their sound, effectively leaving behind the scene they had so much contributed to establish.

THEATRE OF TRAGEDY Velvet Darkness They Fear

Album · 1996 · Gothic Metal
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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.


Album · 1998 · Gothic Metal
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Theatre of Tragedy are a band I have a lot of respect for. They kickstarted the whole female-fronted doom/gothic metal scene with their 1995, self-titled debut album. They followed that up one year later with Velvet Darkness They Fear, which is perhaps the quintessential “beauty and the beast” album of the period, laying the blueprints of this specific brand of gothic metal for countless bands to follow. And, no doubt, many bands did follow, as the late 1990s saw an explosion of albums owing more than one debt to Theatre of Tragedy’s early catalogue. Commercially, the sensible thing to do for the band would have been to keep milking the same cow by releasing one or two more albums in the style of the self-title debut and Velvet Darkness They Fear. Instead, in 1998 the band released Aégis, dropping almost altogether the doom influences and the cavernous death growls of their previous albums, and veering instead towards a more energetic and accessible form of gothic metal that is closer to the 1980s darkwave and goth rock scene than the doom/death metal scene that the band came out of.

It’s a bold change, but not one that was totally unforeseeable. Already Velvet Darkness They Fear contained a couple of tracks, most noticeably the groovy “Der Tanz der Schatten”, that had a more marked gothic flavor. These influences are greatly magnified on Aégis. The guitar work, in particular, is very different from the death/doom sound of the band’s earlier albums. The change was probably facilitated by the departure of guitarist and founding member Tommy Lindal, who is here replaced by Frank Claussen and Tommy Olsson. Olsson in particular was likely a big influence on the band’s new sound direction, as he was previously the guitarist of Norwegian gothic rock band The Morendoes. However, the guitars on Aégis are heavier than what one would find on a typical gothic rock album, although they do have that downstroke, palm-muted chugging playing style that is typical of the genre. Clean arpeggios and effects are also used frequently, in stark contrast with the doomy, long-winding riffing style of the earlier albums.

Also differently from previous albums, Aégis presents a mixture of energetic up-tempo tracks as well as more subdued mid-tempos and ballads, but it almost always escapes the sluggish slowness of doom metal (“Siren” is perhaps the only track that gets closer to the band’s earlier doomy style). The drums are groovy and tight and, combined with pulsating bass lines, frequently conjure up the feel of late nights in dark goth clubs (“Lorelei”, “Aoede”, “Poppea”). The use of keyboards has also changed. On Aégis the clean guitars play the part that on earlier albums was reserved to the piano. Indeed, the piano is much less prominent here, as Lorentz Aspen more frequently uses synths and samplers instead.

The song structure is also leaner and more direct compared to the band’s previous two records, with abundant repetitions of the choruses and fewer middle-eights and instrumental detours. The vocal arrangements are also quite different. The dualism between Raymond Rohonyi and Liv Kristine Espenæs is still present. However, Raymond almost completely abandoned his cavernous growling style, embracing instead the spoken/crooning style he had already experimented with in some of the songs of Velvet Darkness They Fear. The growls only feature briefly on a handful of tracks (“Angélique”, “Venus” and “Bacchante”). Most of the time, Raymond resorts to a low-register, half-sung/half-spoken singing style that accompanies quite well the high-pitched vocals of Liv Kristine Espenæs. Her singing style is also somewhat different from previous albums, as she substituted her ethereal operatic style with a warmer and poppier approach. These changes, combined with the leaner and more energetic musical approach and simplified song structures, make the music much more accessible and agreeable, turning tracks like “Cassandra”, “Venus” and “Poppea” into irresistible gothic hits.

The album flows well from start to finish and it has a cohesive atmosphere that is dark and dramatic without being excessively morose and oppressive. A few songs stand out from the rest because they have particularly strong melodic hooks. The single “Cassandra” is one of those. Raymond’s vocal performance is top-notch as he manages to give the song a groovy, memorable chorus. Liv’s interjection in the second half of the song acts as perfect complement to Raymond’s dark crooning, showcasing the strengths of the new vocal approach. “Lorelei” is another memorable piece, moving between floor-dance gothic grooves, spoken vocal parts and ethereal female singing. “Aoede” and “Poppea” are two other groovy goth pieces, while “Venus” stands out for Liv’s beautiful vocal melodies and the lyrics in Latin. “Bacchante” is also worth mentioning as it is a slightly more experimental track than the rest, showcasing some vaguely industrial influences that foretell the imminent turn the band will take on their next album, the shockingly electrogoth / industrial Musique.

Overall, Aégis is a thoroughly enjoyable gothic metal album that is often regarded one of the best records released by Theatre of Tragedy. Personally, I believe their previous album, Velvet Darkness They Fear, is the true apex of the band’s catalogue, but Aégis comes close second. Groovy, energetic, and catchy, it presents a natural evolution of the band’s sound that is here perfectly suspended between the doom/death of the origins and the electrogoth of the next two albums, Musique and Assembly. Bursting with strong tracks and memorable hooks, the album is a treasure-trove of delights for those who like their metal dark, groovy and laced with fishnets and leather.


Album · 2006 · Gothic Metal
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After releasing their fifth album Assembly in 2002, Theatre of Tragedy parted ways with their long-time singer and founding member Liv Kristine Espenæs in 2003. It could have been a fatal blow for the band, as Liv was a central figure for Theatre of Tragedy, her duets with growler-turned-crooner Raymond Rohonyi being at the heart of the “beauty and the beast” aesthetics the band heralded since the second half of the 1990s. But Theatre of Tragedy bounced back. In 2004 new singer Nell Sigland joined the band from gothic metal act The Crest, and Theatre of Tragedy released their new album Storm in 2006 via AFM Records.

Storm is often described as the missing link between the sophisticated gothic metal of the band’s third album Aégis and the more energetic and poppier electro-gothic rock of their fourth album Musique. Listening to Storm, I can see why. The album marks a return to a more guitar-driven sound after two records (Musique and Assembly) where electronic loops and keyboards had been the dominant element of the music. The piano, which had played a major part in Theatre of Tragedy’s early records, also makes a comeback on Storm. As a consequence, the album feels closer to the standard gothic metal canon both in terms of instrumentation and songwriting, than the glitchy, 3-minute electropop songs of Musique and Assembly. At the same time, Storm retains several elements in common with those two albums too. The music is poppy and energetic, with choruses filled with ear-candy melodies that are catchy and immediate (listen to the opening lines of the title-track “Storm”). The guitar work is predominantly rhythmic and has an industrial flavor that harks back to songs like “Automatic Lover” from Assembly. Electronic loops surface here and there in the music (“Silence”, “Senseless”, “Exile”), and Raymond Rohonyi keeps using his robotic, half-spoken vocal style that he had inaugurated on Musique.

The formula works well for the most part, placing Storm in a similar camp as the albums that bands like The Gathering and Lacuna Coil were releasing around that time. There is also a touch of cinematic, atmospheric rock/metal in the spirit of the 2010s releases of Anathema that can be heard in some of the tracks of the album, like “Fade” which could have easily been lifted off Anathema's We Are Here Because We Are Here or Weather Systems.

The album’s ten songs flow away pleasantly, with enough melodic hooks and rhythmic verve to keep the listener engaged all the way through. Not all tracks are equally strong, though, and some of weaker tracks can almost be labelled as fillers. “Storm” is a fantastic opener, containing probably the best melody of the album. “Ashes and Dreams” and “Voices” are also good tracks, perfectly suspended between electro-goth/industrial influences and melodic gothic metal. “Fade” is a beautiful ballad, bursting with big, cinematic melodies and an outstanding performance by new singer Nell Sigland. Nell also shines on “Senseless”, which is perhaps the song here where Theatre of Tragedy remind me the most of The Gathering. Its odd metric (in 7/8) and dark, oblique melodies make this one of the most interesting moments of the album. “Disintegration” is another strong song, featuring a good contrast between Raymond’s robotic delivery and Nell’s soaring vocals. Other tracks are weaker, particularly the anonymous “Begin and End” and “Exile” and the somewhat corny closer “Debris”.

The production is excellent. The album sounds warm, lush and deep. The guitars have a slick, powerful tone. The keyboards are used in a clever, not overpowering way, complementing well the rest of the instrumentation. I particularly like how the piano sits in the mix, just below the guitars but loud enough to drive the songs’ melodies. The biggest limit of the album is perhaps the lack of variation in the songwriting. Most songs are cut out of the same cloth. Some are stronger, some are weaker, but the songwriting formula stays pretty much the same, playing on the contrast between subdued verses with Raymond robotic vocals and restrained instrumentation, and bombastic choruses with big melodies and Nell’s soaring vocals. Moments where the band try something different are rare and far in between (“Fade”, “Senseless”). Storm would need more episodes like these, to inject more dynamism and diversity into the tracklist and transform the album from a mere collection of ear-pleasing songs into a more substantial sonic journey with ebbs and flows.

Nevertheless, Storm is a strong comeback for a band whose future could have been at risk, after two brave but controversial albums like Musique and Assembly and a split from their iconic singer Liv Kristine. Storm may not be as bold as Musique and Assembly, nor does it reach the level of sophistication and mastery of Aégis, but it nevertheless shows that Theatre of Tragedy are alive and well. Moreover, the album shows that the band has found in Nell Sigland a strong replacement for Liv Kristine. She has a warm, powerful voice that, while less elfin and ethereal than Liv’s, fits well with the album’s sound. It seems that Theatre of Tragedy may have weathered the storm, after all.

THEATRE OF TRAGEDY Forever Is the World

Album · 2009 · Gothic Metal
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All good things must come to an end and Forever Is the World marks the end of one of the most iconic and revered gothic metal bands of our times: Theatre of Tragedy. One of the things that I appreciate the most about this band is their constant willingness to push boundaries and experiment with new genres that they showed throughout their career, to the point that it is hard to find two albums in the band’s discography that sound exactly the same (something I cannot say about most bands I listen to). With their first two albums (their 1995’s self-titled debut and 1996’s Velvet Darkness They Fear), Theatre of Tragedy kickstarted the whole “beauty and the beast” gothic/doom metal scene, which then became dominant in the second half of the 1990s, especially in Europe. However, by their third album Aégis, the band had already started to leave that scene behind, veering towards leaner gothic rock/metal aesthetics with clean vocals and catchier melodies. In 2000 the band changed even more dramatically, embracing strong electronic and industrial influences and releasing two albums, Musique and Assembly, that had almost nothing in common with the band’s early records. After splitting with their lead singer Liv Kristine Espenæs in 2003, the band changed once more their sonic direction and their 2006’s album Storm marked a return to the gothic metal of Aégis, while at the same time retaining the energy and poppy vibes of Musique and Assembly.

Released in 2009, Forever Is the World opens yet another chapter in Theatre of Tragedy’s multifaceted musical palette. If Storm saw the band retracing the footsteps of their sound somewhere between Aégis and Musique, Forever Is the World goes even further back in time, rediscovering some of the doom/death influences that had marked the band’s sound in their first two albums. At the same time, the album retains the strong taste for catchy melodies, cinematic atmospheres and gothic impetus of later albums as well as even some electronic / industrial influences in a few tracks. Like its cover art, which incorporates elements from the covers of all the band’s previous studio albums, Forever Is the World is a sort of musical compendium that has the ambition to amalgamate all the styles the band had experimented with throughout their discography.

Does it work? Almost. The contrast between the obsessively slow riffs and death growls on the verse of “Hide and Seek” and its bright and catchy goth rock chorus is nothing short of exhilarating. This track is such a strong opener that I would rank it among the best gothic/doom songs Theatre of Tragedy have ever written. The same formula is used again on “Hollow” and “Frozen”, although with somewhat less spectacular results. “Hollow” starts as an atmospheric, piano-based ballad driven by big melodies sung by Nell Sigland. Raymond’s growls at around the 3:20 mark come a bit as a surprise but they work well, nudging the track into Velvet Darkness They Fear territory. “Frozen” follows a similar pattern, albeit with stronger doom undertones, especially in the guitar work. Meanwhile, the title-track “Forever Is the World” is a modern-day take on the piano-ballad “… A Distance There Is …” from the debut album. Elsewhere the gothic/doom influences are less prominent, making room for the more straightforward atmospheric gothic rock/metal of Aégis and Storm (“Revolution”, “Transition”, “Deadland”). “Astray” and the finale of “Illusion” instead hark back to the electro-gothic of Musique and Assembly, with Raymond’s robotic, half-spoken vocals getting closer to rap than singing.

Although some of these songs (“Deadland”, the title-track) are truly excellent if taken on their own, they are a bit too diverse to work well in the context of the same album. “Astray” is not a bad song at all (much better than half of the material that appeared on Musique), but it sticks out like a sore thumb between the gothic/doom metal of “Hollow” and “Frozen”, making for the most incongruous episode of the album. Sappy goth rock moments like those found on “A Nine Days Wonder” and “Illusions” also do not sit well next to the growls and slow riffs of “Hide and Seek” and “Frozen”. This excessive diversity in its ten tracks gives the album a disjointed, almost schizophrenic feel that detracts from the overall listening experience.

Another limit of the album is that not all its songs feel equally inspired, an issue that had already surfaced on the previous record Storm. “Hide and Seek”, “Revolution”, “Frozen”, “Deadland” and the title-track are all very strong numbers. In fact, these songs are probably even stronger than the material that had appeared on Storm, as they are less patently ear-pleasing and seek instead more sophisticated and subdued melodies that may perhaps be less immediate, but have more mileage and repeated listening value. However, the album also contains a series of run-of-the-mill tracks like “A Nine Days Wonder”, “Illusions” and (for those who have the limited edition of the album) “Empty”, which are all bogged down by formulaic songwriting and uninspired performances.

Sound production is also not a strength here. For this album, Theatre of Tragedy enrolled the services of Alex Møklebust, singer of Norwegian goth rock bands Zeromancer and Seigmen. Although at the time he had already a fair amount of experience in producing and mixing the albums of his former bands, Møklebust’s work here leaves much to be desired. There is thick layer of string arrangements plastered all over the ten songs of the album. At times these arrangements work well to give depth and atmosphere to the music (the title-track), but elsewhere they are often just overbearing and out of place. Moreover, there is something wrong with the way the vocals are produced. They sound muffled and slightly distorted (especially Nell’s) and sit far too back in the mix.

Despite these limitations, Forever Is the World stands as a fitting testament to one of the greatest gothic metal bands of our times. Although the album only sporadically succeeds in recreating the glory days of the band’s past work, it does contain a handful of tracks that can stand proud and tall in Theatre of Tragedy’s discography. Ultimately, Forever Is the World bears the signs of a band that has reached the end of its tether and that, perhaps, had not much left to say after fifteen years spent at the forefront of the gothic metal scene. Nevertheless, Theatre of Tragedy deserve credit for calling it quits while they were (just) still at the top of their game, eschewing the temptation to prolong their lifespan in order to sell a few more albums. This stands as witness to the band’s integrity and their resolve to put artistic value before commercial interest, which has always been a leitmotif of their career. Chapeau and fare thee well, dear Theatre of Tragedy!

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