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Rubicon is the first album by the funky tropical metal band Pisstania. Only kidding, I'll stick to the script.
Rubicon is the sixth album by a Norwegian metal band, Tristania, best known for their first three albums, Widows Weeds, Beyond The Veil and World Of Glass. It was released in 2010 by Napalm records and is mostly self produced by the band themselves. The themes of the album seem to be war and conflict based on the lyrics. There seems to be a lot of metaphors as well.
The album reminds me of Pirates Of The Caribbean. The female singer on the cover makes me think of a pirate and she looks like Penelope Cruz who ended up playing a role in the film series. I really like this album, but I can't resist making fun of it. Partly because the crazy fans are crying for Vibeke the female vocalist and founder Mortem to come back, and partly because Tristania with Mariangela has some hilarious promo shoots. The drinks look and taste like urine, but the album is enjoyable.
Jokes aside, the album brought controversy between fans and critics. The main reason was because of the new singer, Mariangela Demurtas. Vibeke Stene's departure in 2007 brought a lot of disappointment and it quickly followed with other members leaving mainly for family commitments and unfortunate injuries. Osten had to become a session member again, but he still managed to write songs and do some backing vocals.
Taking his place was a singer called Kjetil Nordhus who used to sing in Trail Of Tears and Green Carnation. His vocals and Mariangela's work very well together.
With Rubicon, Tristania can have the fresh start it really needs. They've been an influential band in the Gothic and female fronted metal scene and I think they still do. Despite the gothic label, I don't find Rubicon gothic at all. I find it more... tropical.
Compared to the previous albums, it comes across as poor and bland as people will miss the elegant classical vocals Vibeke had. Vibeke is a beautiful vocalist. Mariangela is too, but their traits are very different. Vibeke has that elegant and fragile tone while Mariangela is more raw and unpolished. Both of them have remarkable ranges and control of their voice.
Mariangela spoke highly of her passion for music and the band, but I can't hear it on the album most of the time, only in live performances can I believe it. She sounds like she's bored on the track Amnesia, she slurs the notes as if she was slacking off which compared to Vibeke's elegant notes sounds forgettable.
Kjetil that steals the limelight with the obscure power in his voice. Mariangela sounds lovely in Exile, Amnesia, Protection, I just don't think we've seen the best of her. She sometimes sounds like a drunk witch when she could sound like the powerful alto she really is.
Year Of The Rat has nothing to do with the Chinese Zodiac. The lyrics are stupid because they make no sense and seem to be there just for the sake of rhyming and flowing. It sounds like a theme to a ghost train. It's in one ear and out the other. While the soft keyboards at the beginning while cliché sound promising, but they don't work with the vocals. The vocal editing is atrocious. Mariangela sounds deformed, choppy and twice her age. It's a horribly average song, but something inside me makes me want to listen to the song over and over again.
Protection is the track that stands out for me. The acoustic setting takes me back to their fourth studio album, Ashes. Mariangela raw vibes shines on this track and the guitars blend brilliantly. I adore Exhile because the tension and harmonies feel realistic. The vocals don't sound too forced and the chorus got glued into my head.
Amnesia has lovely music, the violins and guitars work well. Other Tristania fans will get a dose of nostalgia from the violins as they are a trademark from Pete who contributed to the first three albums. I think it is a bit too slow, but I still enjoyed it.
I also like the ethereal tinges in Magical fix. I just wish it was a lot more louder because the song seems rather rushed. The bonus tracks, Caprice and The Emerald Piper don't really do much for me despite having strong verses. Sirens is a creepy song though: would be great for ghost hunting. Vultures is really shaky and non consistent which is a shame because I kinda liked the lyrics.
"Chasing my deliverance I cross the burning borderline. I close my eyes but I dare not sleep tonight." - The Passing
I tend to forget about The Passing, but it has a really nice guitar solo. I think it's a tiny bit under produced and the violin over layered with the guitars didn't work well in the track.
Illumination closes the album nicely. It can be a bit of a drag as it's the longest of the album but it showcases the new era of Tristania very nicely.
There's a lot of downsides to the album. Some of the songs sound exactly the same as the others and it might become forgettable in years to come. No use of choirs or operatic vocals may let some people think that it's not Tristania anymore. I'll admit at first I didn't like this album, but it is one of those growers.
On the other hand, there's the same amount upsides too, thanks to the surviving and new members determination. The atmosphere between the group seem more friendlier and the members which seem to have boosted the band's confidence. They also had one of my favourite violinists, Pete Johansen as a session member.
I find the consistency shaky because the music is either really quick or too slow. The lack of balance in the tempo interrupts the flow for me.
But despite it's inconsistencies, broken promises and major flaws that make me feel conflicted, it also has a lot of qualities that make Rubicon a diamond in the rough. I have a feeling improvements will be made, and when they do the sequel to Rubicon will be extraordinary. I would still buy other albums from the group.