Tristania - Rubicon
Napalm Records
Gothic Metal
11 songs (50:17)
Release year: 2010
Tristania, Napalm Records
Reviewed by Goat

Let’s face it, we’re willing to accept small victories in our guilty pleasure, us Gothic Metal lovers, and so I can happily call Rubicon a pleasant surprise rather than the cringeworthy mess it could have been. Any vocalist replacement can end in tears, especially when that vocalist is as loved (or lusted after...) as Vibeke Stene. So at first, my expectations for Rubicon were low, and my attitude towards new vocalist and Penelope Cruz lookalike Mariangela Demurtas were not exactly kind, especially since I’d recently rediscovered the band’s excellent debut. Of course, Mariangela has a perfectly lovely voice, quite different to Vibeke’s angelic trill, and yes, were this 1998 all over again I would raise an eyebrow at such a cheerful, poppy vocalist. Sadly, it’s not, and Tristania’s modern styling complements Mariangela well, especially given the rather bizarre addition of Green Carnation’s Kjetil Nordhus to the band’s permanent line-up. And together with the extra male vocals of Østen Bergøy, it’s interesting that for certain songs Mariangela takes a noticeable back seat, giving the album a real strength and diversity where others would have grown dull.

Balanced with this was the decision to put her on the cover, a statement of sorts from the band considering that even Nightwish dared not do this for their new vocalist. It is more or less justified once you’ve give the music a listen, however. You could almost accuse the band of easing their new female figurehead into her new role; whatever the reason, the results are effective and make Rubicon much more enjoyable than I was expecting it to be. There’s certainly a considerable amount of thought that went into the songwriting. I enjoyed Illumination, the band’s last album with Vibeke, without loving it, and I think that Rubicon is best described in similar terms. Opening track and first single Year Of The Rat is almost boring on a first listen, yet stay with it and it grows, an enjoyably infectious chorus and subtle folky acoustic guitars in the background giving the song more personality, and leading you into the following high, heavy drama of Protection well.

There’s nothing outrageous or suprising, really, but fans will enjoy this a lot. It’s hard to fault the catchy Gothic stomp of Patriot Games, blastbeats and atmospheric ambience included, or the proggy Doom of The Passing, violins a nice touch. Elsewhere, Exile is a groovy bit of modern metal melodrama, the ominous Sirens focuses more on the male vocals for a step towards depression, countered by the nicely uplifting Amnesia a little later, more violin always welcome. Some tracks are less good – The Emerald Piper is a fairly straightforward anthem, Magical Fix’s almost rapped male vocals are a bit jarring alongside the harsh counterparts – but all are still very enjoyable. The best track on the album is the finale, without a doubt, the eight-minute Illumination, a big epic warlike ballad sung mostly by the male vocalists. It’s a great finish to the album, a satisfying vocal-led track that simultaneously makes you want to go and listen to the rest of the album again and scratches that Gothic itch. Although not Tristania’s greatest album, Rubicon is more than enough reason to still count yourself a fan, and shows that Mariangela was a good choice to replace one of Gothic Metal’s most talented voices... hopefully in time she can be as positive an asset for the band as Vibeke was.

Killing Songs :
Year Of The Rat, Patriot Games, The Passing, Exile, Amnesia, Illumination
Goat quoted 81 / 100
Other albums by Tristania that we have reviewed:
Tristania - Darkest White reviewed by Jared and quoted 85 / 100
Tristania - Widow's Weeds reviewed by Goat and quoted 92 / 100
Tristania - Ashes reviewed by Jack and quoted 85 / 100
Tristania - Beyond The Veil reviewed by Jack and quoted 90 / 100
Tristania - World Of Glass reviewed by Jack and quoted 80 / 100
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