By Carl Begai
It was announced back in February 2012 that Norway’s Theatre Of Tragedy, who spawned the career of Leaves’ Eyes vocalist Liv Kristine and officially called it quits in October 2010, were working on remastered re-issues of their first three albums: the self-titled debut, Velvet Darkness They Fear, and Aegis. Initially meant to be released in late 2012, Massacre Records have confirmed July 5th as the official release date for all three albums in digipack CD and double vinyl LP formats.
The re-releases will feature rare bonus material, and will also include a band interview conducted by me split into three parts, one for each album. It was an honour to be asked by the Theatre Of Tragedy family to contribute to the re-issues, and I consider it to be a personal career highlight.
Following is an brief excerpt from the interview conducted for the self-titled debut, which will appear in full in the re-issue liner notes. Call it an attempt to help promote the releases coupled with my pride getting away from me just this once.
The journey started with a simple demo tape, which received favourable reactions first in Theatre of Tragedy’s hometown of Stavanger, Norway and then from the international metal press. From there everything snowballed, and the rest is history.
“Most of us were so young and inexperienced at the time, so we didn’t really have the fear of being ridiculed, nor the ambitions to make it big,” says drummer Hein Frode Hansen. “We were just a bunch of kids wanting to make a hybrid of our different musical influences at the time. Individually, we were mediocre musicians at best, but together we were something fresh and new.”
“We all came from different backgrounds and that what made it so special,” continues guitarist Tommy Lindal. “We simply put some elements of all the members together and it sounded really cool; metal with piano and soprano vocals. My impression at the time was that we didn’t worry too much about if the people liked it or not, as long we enjoyed it ourselves.”
The debut album seemed to be a risky affair on many levels. The Theatre was more than a bit daring when one considers there was nothing heavy or metal about ‘…a Distance there is…’ , a track featuring piano, cello, Liv’s vocals, and the sound of falling rain. The song has since become the cornerstone of the debut for many diehard Theatre of Tragedy fans. Tommy remembers working on the track:
“…’a Distance there is…’ is a song that I think everybody in the band has a different relationship to. We were in Sweden at Dan Swanö´s studio, spending our Christmas alone in Sweden recording the debut. Lorentz and Liv had some ideas and ended up recording the song. The cello was Dan Swanö’s brilliant idea; he called a friend to drop by the studio and record some cello parts. It took some hours and the result was amazing. We were all was excited about it and decided to put it on the record.”
“The strange thing looking back we didn’t really see it as a risk,” Hein recalls, “but rather a way to differentiate ourselves from other bands by incorporating a bunch of elements that normally didn’t get that much attention in metal. The Victorian English was something Raymond came up with and we though it original and fitting to our sound. The song ‘… a Distance there is…’ was originally only meant to be a small snippet or a filler, but became – together with ‘A Hamlet For A Slothful Vassal’ – one of the album’s signature songs thanks to Lorentz’ brilliant piano playing and Liv’s soothing fragile vocals. At the time the goth scene though us a bit too metal, and the metal fans maybe a bit to goth. Hard to say, but the formula seemed to work.”
It worked so well that even press people sitting on the fence when the album first came out – and the band did have its detractors – were converted by the time 1995 came to an end. Liv was particularly aware of Theatre of Tragedy winning people over due to the fact she had been thrust involuntarily into the spotlight.
“The first reactions from the metal press were like ‘Okay, it’s doom metal and we’re fine with that, but there’s a girl singing… which is absurd…’” she laughs. “But, because we were located in Norway we didn’t get all that feedback at first. We didn’t know people were talking about us. People were either pro or against, but at the end of the year we were in the top of all the readers’ polls in the metal magazines. It was quite scary.”
“The release of our debut album was overwhelming even for us,” Tommy admits. “It was as if our expectations we had were multiplied by a hundred. Personally, I didn’t expect much feedback from the goth scene since I didn’t see the connection very clearly, but even they got really excited about our band.”
And that’s only half of Part 1. To see the rest, mark down July 5th in your calendars and watch Theatre Of Tragedy’s Facebook page here for updates.