Tristania / Sarah Jezebel Deva / Kells

Camden Underworld, London on Monday 17 September 2012

A gothic gathering have assembled at Camden's Underworld for the return of gothic metal pioneers Tristania. But first, hailing from France, Kells take the stage. Unlike the symphonic/gothic metal on offer from the rest of tonight's line up, this female-fronted act borrow more from metalcore and nu metal with their lower vocals and growls - all done by vocalist Virginie - and down-tuned guitars. Although a little different, the music comes across as lacklustre and trying too hard to be tough. Probably not the most commendable support for a tour like this but the performance is at least spirited.

Most known for her work providing backing vocals for Cradle of Filth, London's own Sarah Jezebel Deva took the stage with a casualness unusual in the metal live circuit. Playing symphonic and gothic metal from her own project as well as her underrated symphonic metal band Angtoria, Deva's performance and vocal variety is appreciated by the audience, many of whom are unfamiliar with her work. Sometimes her vocals faulter but this is forgiveable given the ease of which she utilises her soprano voice. The Angtoria tracks are particular highlights with title track 'God Has a Plan for Us All' and 'I'm Calling' tossed out for the audience's consumption. A strong performance and no doubt Deva must have won some new converts to her music.

Opening with older number 'Angina' from the 'Beyond the Veil' sophmore effort, Tristania minus vocalists take the stage with the required headbanging before being joined by singers Mariangela Demurtas and Kjetil Nordhus to a profound audience ovation. Demurtas handles the older material featuring original vocalist Vibeke Stenne confidently and older tracks allow the Italian to showcase her full range of vocal prowess. Similarly, male clean vocalist Kjetil Nordhus is comfortable handling older vocal duties, unsurprising given his experience with fellow gothic metallers Trial of Tears.

The setlist is largely focused of the Norwegians' centre point of their career - the debut 'Widows Weeds' is entirely ignored. From 2010's 'Rubicon' release, the band serve up 'Exile', 'Protection' and 'Year of the Rat', much appreciated by the band. The change in Tristania's sound over the years is acutely evident as new tracks are played amongst older numbers, such as 'Tender Trip on Earth'. The most noteable difference is the additional heaviness that sugared the older releases. The fans of the sextet are treated to two new songs, soon to be committed to record next year. 'Requiem' and 'Cathedral' follow in the furrows of Tristania's most recent outputs and the crowd seem pleased with the product of the band's efforts.

With six people on stage, there is limited space for movement but this does not deter Tristania, with multiple headbanging sessions and Demurtas' unusual dancing. The inclusion of a live keyboard player would improve the live experience, given the Norwegian's heavy reliance on the instrument throughout the years.

After an encore and the show's conclusion, Tristania have successfully left their mark on the hearts of their fans. Nordhus invites the crowd to join them at the upstairs pub - The World's End - undoubtledly the perfect addendum to the show. While opinions on Tristania's music in recent years is strongly polarised, the professionalism and entertainment value of the show cannot be ignored and it is evident that those in attendance enjoyed it.

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article by: Elena Francis

published: 19/09/2012 09:03

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