Norwegian gothic metallers Tristania are back with their seventh album and though it might be excessive to say it is their finest moment yet, it is certainly one of their most captivating. Darkest White is a diverse and striking album which plays with shadows and light like a devilish puppeteer whilst seducing then wrapping thoughts and emotions in melancholic beauty. Following previous album Rubicon, the new Napalm Records released album exploits the striking vocal talents of Mariangela Demurtars and Kjetil Nordhus, the melodic grace and potency of the first forming an irresistible union with the other, whilst prowling around them there is the venous harsh tones of guitarist Anders Høyvik Hidle. It is a combination which sets the Stavanger band apart from most and gives wide scope for the varied exploration and imagination continually offered by the band with the new album no exception.
Opening track Number instantly forces ear and senses to attention with barbed lures to a rhythmic attack and an addictively niggling tease of riffs. It is an immediately recruiting contagion which already within the first minute has passions on alert even with the excellent rasping scowls of Hidle stalking and picking on the ear with full malevolence. It is such a thrilling start that there is almost a moment of disappointment when the song steps back for the glorious voice of Demurtars to unveil its full charm. It is a brief thought though as the singer’s tones soar the sky of the song which has now opened up with enriched melodic arms. Switching stances and offering further symphonic mastery keeps things unpredictable and exciting though for personal tastes the synapse drilling sonic ravaging is the track at its full potency.
The title track raises the game again, the provocative charging and incessant call of the riffs alongside clean male vocals forming an infectious entrapment which is impossible to escape. As with the opener, the song revels in its capture by spreading its invention into a journey of ingenious and inspiring invention, the guitars of Hidle and Gyri Losnegaard sculpting a presence which meshes metal, punk, and post punk into one gothic feast whilst the keys of Einar Moen stroke thoughts and feeling with an evocative warm coaxing. It is a delicious piece of enterprise which nips at the listener throughout before handing over its prisoner to the equally impressive and commanding Himmelfal. Once more riffs from the guitars wonderfully niggle with the bass of Ole Vistnes prowling their work with rapacious beauty. It is a mid-paced encounter which feels much more barbaric across its exhaustingly intense length than it is whilst equally has a weave of melodic sun musically and vocally which soaks the evocative shadows into a dance of warm fascination.
Such the immense strength and quality the album opened up with the likes of the pop rock like Requiem and the dazzling Diagnosis initially leave a slight feeling of being underwhelmed though both as well as Scarling are towers of craft and adventure in their own right. Following the earlier songs though and then having another pinnacle of the release in Night on Earth straight after leaves them pale in comparison. The outstanding Night on Earth grips the ear with a stoner seeded groove ridden by scowling vocals, the effect a Black Tusk like temptation soon ignited by the again stunning vocal flames of Demurtars all impressively framed by the unmissable skills of drummer Tarald Lie. A fire of a track in sound and imagination, it leaves emotions ablaze in equally heat and ardour, and sets the album back on its earlier plateau.
The glorious passion and emotion of Lavender toys with the passions next, its smouldering caresses loaded with climatic fuses which erupt into towering melodic fires. It is a sign of the songwriting and invention of a band when songs like this soak the listener in a sunshine of emotive bliss yet still give clarity to the shadows and melancholy pervading its heart and lyrical narrative, something which can be wrapped around the whole album.
Closing with the tantalising Cypher and Arteries, a final explosive mix of corrosive maliciousness and incendiary glamour, Darkest White is a dramatically satisfying and engrossing treat which again sees Tristania bringing an invigorating breath to gothic metal. Though maybe unlikely to top best of year releases come December it is an album which entices very frequent companionship with ease.
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