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 Aegis, 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.
Theatre of Tragedy’s third album, Aegis, scared the hell out of their diehard fans. The band continued to evolve as they had between their self-titled debut and second record Velvet Darkness They Fear, but in a direction nobody had expected. The songs were geared in a goth metal direction, with the trademark doom aspect of the band’s sound reduced to a nuance. This was particularly apparent in the absence of vocalist Raymond I. Rohonyi’s growls, long considered to be just as important to Theatre of Tragedy’s sound as Liv Kristine’s soprano vocals. Raymond’s clean singing/spoken word delivery on Aegis – which would become a staple on future albums – had a direct influence on the atmosphere of the songs, which left some fans disappointed. Years later, however, Aegis is widely regarded as one of Theatre of Tragedy’s strongest records even by the (former) naysayers.
“Many people were screaming ‘They’re going goth mainstream!’ and pulling their hair out,” Liv remembers, “but it was nothing like that. It was just another influence coming into the band, which was guitarist Tommy Olsson. He’s a huge Sisters of Mercy fan, and he brought in this way of playing guitar. Ray realized that he had to develop in some way concerning his vocals to match his sound.”
“This was a natural progress for Raymond and the band,” drummer Hein Frode Hansen explains. “We changed both our guitar players and that obviously brought new influences to the band. The goth rock and elements of traditional songwriting became more relevant, and we wanted to make the perfect goth record for both metal and goth fans. It was probably more goth with a metal sound than the other way around (laughs). It was an homage and a wink to the elders Fields Of The Nephilim, Sisters Of Mercy, The Cure, The Cult and The Mission, and we started experimenting more with programming and samples. The feedback was very diverse, but most people came to enjoy it. As one fan said, ‘It is the perfect album to make love to!’”
Olsson and Frank Claussen – who replaced guitarists Tommy Lindal and Geir Flikkeid – are happy to claim responsibility for influencing Theatre of Tragedy’s new direction on Aegis.
“After the two first records the band went through some significant changes,” says Frank. ”I think most of the old members wanted a new musical direction, and together with myself and Tommy Olsson as new arrivals the band set out to make different sounding material. We were influenced by bands like Sisters of Mercy, The Fields Of The Nephilim, The Cult, The Mission, and none of them had anything to do with growling vocals. So when the music was more atmospheric and gothic Raymond’s voice had to follow.”
“It came as a really natural thing,” Olsson says of going in a more gothic direction. “At the time, Hein and Raymond were very much into gothic rock, and so was I, and I guess that’s why they asked me to join the band in the first place. So it was quite a conscious move. If I remember correctly everyone was getting a bit fed up with this ‘Beauty And The Beast’ thing, so we deliberately tried to do the vocal stuff very different from the previous albums.”
By taking the “more goth – less doom” approach it seemed that Aegis was built with live performances in mind. Opinions among the band members are varied; Lorentz for one doesn’t believe it was something they focused on while writing the album.
“We thought sometimes that it would be good to have songs that could be more fun to play live, but that wasn’t really our forté. We seemed to be better at writing laid back, wine-sipping tunes than hard hitting goth-clapping songs.”
“We definitely wanted to have material that could bring out more crowd reaction as well as enabling us to move around a bit more on stage,” Hein offers. “I think we half-way succeeded. Half of the album is more up-tempo and half is really slow and atmospheric. Too bad we only did a handful of shows to support the record.”
“One of the first songs we wrote for the album was ‘Lorelei’ and we were thrilled by the fact that we were able to pull off such a song,” reveals Frank. “I think that song held the key for us writing such music. It opened a new world for us.”
Aegis took longer to sink in compared to it predecessors because it was vastly different. In Frank’s opinion “the fans probably didn’t know how to take it all in. I think people had to learn to like it.”