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Theatre of Tragedy- Aegis (Album Review)

Updated on June 14, 2012
The album artwork... obviously!
The album artwork... obviously! | Source

Artist: Theatre of Tragedy

Album: Aegis

Year: 1998

Score: 89/100


Theatre of Tragedy is a band I really like. Their first album is one of my all time favorites, and I consider it the greatest work of gothic metal music. They began as a death doom style band with the added female vocals. “Aegis” is their third album, and it marks the transition from the harsher style of their first two releases to a more mellow style (and eventually horrid future-pop music). “Aegis” still has a lot of metal elements to it and its atmosphere feels pretty metal, yet it has a lot of pop and rock influence. This influence is, truthfully, not a bad thing at all. It serves to show that Theatre of Tragedy are quite good at creating a lighter album, in contrast to their previous works. The only thing that this album retains from some of their previous releases is a great atmosphere. It’s still quite a dark album, but not nearly as bleak as their work before.

The mood of the album is very subtle and is mainly expressed through subdued guitar lines and tinkling keyboard melodies. “Aegis” is not an album that rips your face off the first time you hear it, nor is it an album that is tough to get into. The songs are very easy to love; they have addictive melodies and stand out choruses. Most of the lead guitar work is clean, with the heavier riffs being more rhythmic. Generally, the main riffs in the songs consist of picking the strings under a clean tone. This, in particular, lends a hand to the darkly relaxing atmosphere of the album. Like the guitars, the drums aren’t too flashy and mostly stick to playing fairly slow and basic sounding rhythm lines. I’ve listened to this album many, many times and have never really noticed the bass very much. It makes a brief appearance in the song “Aoede”, but I can’t recall another instance in which it is a prominent part of the music. I’m always one for a louder bass, but lack of bass doesn’t necessarily ruin albums for me.

The vocals are decent; the whispery male vocals can become annoying after awhile. The female vocals are good, but they don’t hold much power. Because the male vocals are no longer harsh, some of the contrast that made Theatre of Tragedy so great is gone. Obviously, this doesn’t make the album bad; yet I can’t help but imagine what this would’ve sounded like with either a great clean male voice or death growls.

The brooding piano lines that graced Theatre of Tragedy’s older work seem to have been replaced by ultra melodic synthesizers. There are a few lines that are reminiscent of a true piano, but most of the songs have been given an electronic edge. This change suits the other changes made to this album. The keyboards are a highlight in a few of the songs, and they generally work to establish the melodies of the songs. The album, in general, sounds more polished than their previous work. None of the instruments are nearly as rough. There’s a good bit of ambience on a few of the songs, “Siren” in particular stands out for this reason. I’m impressed that the band could achieve this with such a smooth production job.

So, let’s talk about the songs themselves. The two hits, “Siren” and “Venus”, are both good songs. The former runs on to the point of being just shy of an epic; and the latter is a poppier song with a hypnotic keyboard riff and verses sung in Latin. “Lorelei” is my personal favorite, due to the unique contrast of having poppy verses and a doomy chorus. It’s a very addictive song, and it’s one of the songs that’s actually built on a distorted guitar riff. “Aoede” is also a heavier song and it’s notable for having a cool start-stop chorus. It’s also the only song with a prominent bassline. “Bacchante” is an oddity, with hypnotic chanting during the chorus. It also culminates in a hair-raising ending that is one of the highlights of the album. I’ve never heard anything like the end of “Bacchante” before. “Poppaea” is one of the best, as well… it features some of the most memorable clean guitar work. The main clean riff to “Cassandra” also sticks with me after listening; the song also features a good keyboard and guitar portion during the chorus.

Essentially, “Aegis” is a very light sounding metal album with a phenomenal atmosphere. It is very gothic sounding which, to me, is a good thing. If you’re someone who doesn’t like gothic metal and can’t handle a healthy dose of pop then you probably won’t like this one too much. It’s a very solid album, and every song is at least decent. The beauty in this release is quite subtle; it kind of creeps up on you after listening to it for a while. It surpasses everything the band did afterwards, but not really what came before it. Their debut remains my solid favorite from the group; if you’re expecting the something along those lines, you will be disappointed. If you’re open minded and enjoy new sounds, then you just might enjoy this. If you’re a Theatre of Tragedy fan and haven’t heard this, then you ought to. It’s one of their most essential albums and their most known.

Best songs: “Lorelei”, “Aoede”, “Siren”, “Venus”, “Poppaea”, “Bacchante”, “Cassandra”. That’s all the songs aside from one… and “Angelique” is not bad, just not as good as the rest.

This review was originally posted by me at:

As always, thank you for reading! Vote in the poll, the question is a little different this time. Is Aegis a metal album or not? Regardless, it's still awesome.

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