Tragedy and Triumph – Where Mountains Rise and Hearts Fall Review

So I’ve got this cousin. If you’ve seen him, you’d remember. For one thing, he’s huge, standing 6′ 5″ and weighing about two and a half KenWords. He’s got a fiery mane of hair and beard so red it barely registers on the visible light spectrum. He’s also frequently dressed like a Viking. Authentically so. You see, he’s a professor in a university history department and has a penchant for historical re-enactments, which means he gets paid to LARP around wearing a tunic and helmet and a round wooden shield1, hitting other professors of lesser stature with a replica ax. He once constructed a functional trebuchet with his students, which he keeps in his garage between sieges. He certainly looks the part, but the illusion dissolves once he opens his mouth. As a Midwestern American man of a certain age, he’s relatively plain spoken and drops Simpsons references for emphasis. He might kick adjunct ass on the field of battle, but he shows up to that field in a Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. I’m reminded of my cousin as I consider Where Mountains Rise and Hearts Fall, the debut album from German Viking metal newcomers Tragedy and Triumph. Can their raiding party inspire fear and awe if they have to stop fighting to plug the meter? 

When one thinks of Viking metal, two bands should come immediately to mind, one the genre’s progenitor, the other its standard bearer. I’m inclined not to name them, as it seems insulting to our readership, but rest assured Tragedy and Triumph cite both as touchstones. With that in mind, Where Mountains Rise and Hearts Fall is 54 minutes of relatively straightforward death metal with a melodic bent and a follow-the-bouncing-ball harsh vocal delivery. The tempos remain in a mid-range with the exception of the acoustic intro, piano outro and “Where Fires March Victorious,” which lumbers slowly for most of its runtime before blazing out on the most aggressive blastbeat of the album. The melodic elements here avoid the somber in favor of the stirring, but they aren’t immediately gripping. Multiple spins are required to reveal subtleties beyond the crunching death metal march most songs fall into. 

There are some decent moments on Where Mountains Rise and Hearts Fall, but for a genre that should make your heart pound as you tighten your grip on a sword hilt, most of this material fails to enflame. Good Viking metal makes you want to run towards near-certain death shouting “Blood!” or “Fire!” or, I don’t know, something equally monosyllabic and badass. It should make you want to burn sacrifices to Thor2 and raise stones for all to see, runes carved to the memory of fallen warriors. But with songs like “Beneath the Howling Gate” and “Five Arrows” Tragedy and Triumph play so by the numbers, they’re immediately forgotten as the last chords fade. Too often moments that do stand out sound awfully familiar. There’s haunting clips of horse whinnies that are more than just a nod to “Oden’s Ride Over Nordland,” and the best melody on the album, in “Hymn For a Newborn Star,” is maddeningly similar to a song I can’t quite put my finger on.

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It can’t be said that Tragedy and Triumph lack ability. The band is adept at their instruments and know their way around their chosen style. Songs like “I, Triumphant” and “In Pride and Sorrow” start slow but end up in enjoyable melodeath territory. Things get nice and spicy when tremolo picking shows up to accompany pounding drums early and late in “Of Mountains and Wardrums,” but the song suffers from a dull midsection indicative of the larger issues with Where Mountains Rise and Hearts Fall. As a whole, the songwriting lacks punch. Individual moments sound fine, but there’s no track I want to play on repeat while I sink a dagger through a gap in my opponent’s chain mail. To put it simply, listening to Tragedy and Triumph doesn’t make me want to listen to more Tragedy and Triumph. It makes me want to listen to Amon Amarth

My cousin is passionate about his Viking re-enactments. He’s meticulous in his garments and implements, but at the end of the day, he gets back in his Hyundai and drives home to his suburb and hangs his pole arms on a rack above his lawnmower. Tragedy and Triumph also look the part, but with no clear vision or voice, they never achieve anything more than role playing.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self Release
Websites: tragedyandtriumph.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/tatvikingmetal
Releases Worldwide: June 18th, 2021

Show 3 footnotes
  1. And, one assumes, no underwear.
  2. You know, Odin’s son. Protector of mankind. He rode to meet his fate?
  3. My cousin would be quick to point out the glaring historical inaccuracy in this image: Viking helmets didn’t have horns.
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