It’s been a while since I’ve updated a “classic record”, hasn’t it? But I think I’ve hit another one that is a must have for anyone who likes good metal. I mean, any kind of good metal at all. When I was just an Angry Metal Teenager I first was introduced to a bunch of stuff that I just couldn’t get into because it was too much for me. But there was one band that really pumped out a kind of music that I latched onto that was both heavy and melodic, but also extreme and cool. That band was Norway’s Theatre of Tragedy and that record which really turned me onto the band and later the “beauty and the beast style” (often imitated, but never improved upon) was the record Velvet Darkness They Fear.
And really, it’s not just ’cause there are tits on the cover! It’s actually ’cause the music that is contained within those purple sheets and perfectly formed bosoms is fucking fantastic. There are very few records that I own that I still regularly listen to. From the second track (and the opening painful screams), Theatre of Tragedy create an atmosphere that is ne’er to be reached by other bands of the gothic metal genre to this day. Vacillating between beautiful clean guitars, and Liv Kristine’s gorgeous voice and the riffs that hit like a ton of bricks and interchange with death metal growls, Velvet Darkness They Fear hits every single note with the kind of swagger that a band shouldn’t have on their second record.
The record is a veritable list of amazing songs from (as I mentioned) “Fair and Guiling Copesemate Death” to “And when He Falleth” which contains some clips from the movie The Masque of the Red Death, which make the classic argument against God’s existence in rhythm with the music (“Can you look around this world and believe in the goodness of a God who rules it? Famine, pestilence, war, disease and death! They rule this world.” “But there is also love and life and hope!” “Very little hope, I assure you. No, if a God of love and life ever did exist he is long since dead. Someone. Some.. thing.. Rules in his place.”). It still sends shivers down my spine: so. fucking. good. Or how about the amazing interplay between the vocalists on “Seraphic Deviltry”?
But this record also sets the standard for me for female vocalists in goth metal bands from before Liv became some kind of star, with a pseudo pop career and left Norway to make shitty music. While the vocals here are clean, and she wore pretty dresses: there isn’t an ounce of over the top operatic vocal inflections. Instead, Liv has a soft voice, a non-assuming and shy voice that fits the music perfectly. The essence of her voice is shown off in pretty much every track and aside from, unfortunately, “Der Tanz der Schatten”, which I’ve been told has some painfully embarrassing German lyrics that she wrote herself, she embodies vocal perfection on a goth metal record for me.
While Theatre of Tragedy went on to be a band that really didn’t do much of anything that I enjoyed, this record and the self-titled debut records still receive regular play and are definitely classic records (well, at least Velvet Darkness They Fear is). I would recommend to any fan of doom metal, Scandinavian metal from the 1990s or, well, any kind of gothic metal to check out this album. It really has defined how I think about the entire genre and female vocalists in metal, more specifically. The record has sold quite a few for a metal album and I hope that it continues to impress new listeners with the kind of sophistication that this young group of musicians showed at the time that they created what is still one of my favorites.