Theatre Of Tragedy - Assembly review


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Band: Theatre Of Tragedy
Album: Assembly
Release date: 2002

01. Automatic Lover
02. Universal Race
03. Episode
04. Play
05. Superdrive
06. Let You Down
07. Starlit
08. Envision
09. Flickerlight
10. Liquid Man
11. Motion

We, as a race fear change? vehemently. We as, for lack of a better term, metal heads, are particularly afraid, it seems. Whether or not you want to say that bands like Paradise Lost, Metallica or Ulver 'sold out? or just wanted to try something different, these discussions continue with each subsequent release that does not embody the ?original? or 'srue? sound.

Theatre of Tragedy is no different. Once at the top of the heap in the early years of the Gothic Metal scene, theirs was a unique mixture of metal, doom and gloom, classically tinged with funky subject matter told through barely comprehendible lyrics. Aegis [1998], their crowning achievement, was a culmination of all that had before for the band. It was layered with beautiful melodies, artful compositions and the luscious combination of male/female vocals that they had come to popularize. It was, and is still, a great album.

But, time moves on, and so does Theatre of Tragedy. With 2000 came Musique and the firestorm of outrage began in earnest. ?Sellout!? was heard far and wide and the 'srue? fans began to retreat into their basement with their leather jackets, spiked belts and vinyl copies of Ulver's Bergtatt and Amorphis? The Karellian Isthmus. While Musique wasn's perfect, to be sure, it still had a lot to offer the open-minded listener who was willing to let bygones be bygones and give the new ToT at least a fighting chance.

Fast-forward two years. With a new second guitarist in tow in Vegard K. Thorsten, the Musique lineup sought to move apace with what was started on their last album. The end result would become Assembly, in many ways a continuation of the work presented on Musique without much of its harsh, sometimes unnerving edges.

Thankfully, one of the edges to be smoothed were male vocalist Raymond I. Rohonnyi's vocals, which no longer sound quite so machine garbled. Another problem evident on their last release was in some of the more kitschy, almost obnoxious songs, like the title track and radio single 'Image'. On Assembly, the band seems to far more confident with the message they're attempting to convey and aren's spending half of their time thinking about how different they're going to be.

But, don's think for a second that this is a return to the days of olde [note the ?e?], noooo sir. This is still 21st Century ToT, complete with modern lyrics, electronic bursts and an almost slick, hipster vibe; the music would be more apt in an of-the-moment club or discotheque than piped through the boom box in the basement during your next Dungeons and Dragon's game.

Liv Kristine has, in all honesty, never sounded better. The tale she tells about the man who just wants to sweet talk his next victim into bed in 'Automatic Lover' doesn's sound forced, much like her sexual advances did in 'Image'; she's telling a story that she wants you to hear and, dammit, you're going to listen.

And the pretty songs haven's sounded prettier. If you?ve accepted the changes at this point, you?ll totally love 'Play' and 'Starlit'. A kitschier track, 'Superdrive', is one that perhaps even some of the more open ToT listeners might not quite appreciate at first. But, if you just give it a chance, and you open your mind to the messages that the band is trying to tell you, you're actually going to totally dig it. Other tracks like the aforementioned 'Automatic Lover', 'Let You Down' and 'Envision' also give some punchy guitars to the whole electronic mix, as well.

So, despite all the whining and pleading and accusations that the band's sold out or whatever, the Theatre of Tragedy of the 21st century is probably here to stay and Assembly is another bold step for them, and is certainly far more improved over their first foray into this brave new modern world.

Written by John P. Dunphy | 03.09.2003


Guest review disclaimer:
This is a guest review, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.

Staff review by
Ok first of all I must say I don't even know why I'm writing this review, because this album is far from being metal, but still in most record stores and magazines they are labelled as metal. That makes me wonder what kind of metal I must categorise this into? Techno/Pop metal maybe? Well for me it's not metal and others can categorise this however they want. I think the only reason I decided to write this review was to bash the band because no band have ever made me so disappointed before (thinking of their great old releases like Aegis).

published 20.08.2004 | Comments (28)


Comments: 4   Visited by: 44 users
28.12.2007 - 15:36
Mr. Doctor
Better than Musique, That's for sure man.

This album is very catchy and good man...
I don't think is a sell-out. They tried to change the sound and explore new things. What's the problem with that?
Therion did the same thing.. and everybody love them.
Paradise Lost... Anathema... they too!

A good album ... good rating and good review. Is very nice to see people that are more open-mind.
Written by BloodTears on 19.08.2011 at 18:29
Like you could kiss my ass
Written by Milena on 20.06.2012 at 10:49
Rod, let me love you.
29.02.2008 - 05:32
Jason W.
It's strange how after nearly 6 years now, I've put this CD in my player and cannot stop listening to it... I love the video they did for "Let You Down", as well as the song "Flickerlight"... and yes, the song "Superdrive" is as cheeky as the band gets, but hey, the French girl sounds attractive enough so why not??

So good to see a review of this album that takes it for what it is, and doesn't place it against the band's history, but as an album that stands on its own. The band made such drastic evolutions over 5 CDs - it's an accomplishment in itself that they made solid albums every time!
"After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music." - Aldous Huxley
14.05.2009 - 06:44
I think is good for bands try something diferent as you say but...
This album maybe be a little better that Musique but...

I got the reverse effect, i retryed to listen to this album and the other 2 of this style and once again, just got more frustration.
16.06.2009 - 16:30
Liver Failure
Envision looks like one of the songs of the solo album of Liv Kristine. I'ts pretty good.

member of the true crusade against old school heavy metal, early 80s thrash, NWOBHM, traditional doom, first and second wave black metal, old school death metal, US power metal, 70s prog rock and atmospheric doomsludgestoner. o/

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