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Darkest White

Napalm (2013)
Rating: 6.5/10

Tristania, like many symphonic metal bands, has been tremendously hurt by hosting a seemingly revolving door of musicians. Although the second album to feature most of the current line-up, it’s Darkest White that is the Norwegian band’s best hope of restoring the fans’ belief in Tristania.

Recorded throughout Norway, it was producer Christer Andre Cederberg’s goal to “dig out the potential of each band member”. This is likely the reason that Darkest White has quickly been recognized as the most musically interesting record in the band’s seven album catalogue.

‘Number’ opens the album in a surprising way. The song ranks among the band’s most brutal, starting things off with death metal growls, buzzsaw guitars, and a lumbering rhythm section. The female vocals join for just a few short lines here and there, breaking up an otherwise enjoyable work. While I love the beauty and the beast atmosphere of gothic metal, ‘Number’ is a poor example of the vocal style combinations, yet wildly enjoyable musically.

The title track begins an upward spiral of songs that remind you of how important Tristania is to this genre. This gothic-flavoured rocker is infused with a pagan metal atmosphere that finds the band sounding more battle ready than they have since the early new millennium. ‘Himmelfall’ and ‘Cypher’ also exhibit the worldy influence of the title track to varying degrees.

It’s the big anthems that get me every time and Tristania deliver in spades here. ‘Requiem’ is the band’s crowning achievement in my humble opinion. It’s catchy, melodic, and slightly progressive mood will make a believer out of you, despite the lack of growling and overall creepiness. It’s just a wonderful, bolstering song that makes you feel like you can take on the world. Likewise, ‘Scarling’ taps into the goth rock of bands like Lacrimas Profundre and more guitar-oriented Depeche Mode before allowing the female vocals to give it a wider appeal.

While the great moments are far beyond the band’s usual offerings, there are a number of moments that try really hard but never manage to come together. ‘Lavender’ tries extremely hard and almost gets there, but songs like ‘Cypher’ and the nu-metal tinged ‘Arteries’ have wonderful possibilities but just end up spinning their wheels for the most part. The latter has a clean vocal part that saves it on repeated listens, but the verses just don’t inspire in the same way some of the aforementioned songs do.

Overall, you can definitely tell that there is a strong vision for Darkest White. The themes bleed through wonderfully and the experimental nature of it all makes it a fairly dynamic listen. Not unlike throwing varied paint colours at a wall, some of this comes out as brilliant and others as bland. It’s a really intriguing album but I can’t help feel that it would have been an absolutely stunning EP.

Mark Fisher

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