Ever wanted to find out what inspired a particular song?
Was it based on personal experience or simply passive observation?
What happened in the recording studio or on stage to make one song sound different from the rest?
These are just some of the question bands and musicians attempt to answer in Line 'em Up - the newest page of The Power Of Metal.Dk.
This is where your favourite bands comment on their albums, track by track, because as someone once said, “Ideas are the building blocks of ideas”.
Tristania is a band from Norway, formed in 1996. Generally classified as Gothic Metal, the band’s music is remarkable for its dark and symphonic characteristics, especially with regards to earlier compositions. Since its inception, Tristania has undergone several line-up changes…..one of the most recent being the recruitment of vocalist Mariangela Demurtas, originally from the Italian island of Sardinia. “Rubicon” is the band’s 6th full-length release.
Here’s a chance for you to tell our readers about your most recent album: “Rubicon”. Exactly 2 years have passed since its release so maybe you can be more objective about it…what are the strongest points of the album and what do you wish you had done differently?
Our mission when making this album was to redefine Tristania and re-establish the band with its new members in a way that didn't stray too far away from the winding path of past albums, while still sounding new and fresh. In songs like "Year of the Rat", "Exile", "Illumination", "Protection", "The Passing" and "Amnesia", I think we succeeded in this. We are still generally very happy about how the album ended up, and will make use of our "Rubicon experience" when embarking on the new recording sessions in the beginning of January 2013.
How does the title “Rubicon” represent the album?
"Crossing the Rubicon" - being at the point of no return - is a common ground for many of the lyrics on the album. Quite a few of them deal with death, moving on, and fear/fascination of what lies ahead. Venturing into uncharted territory can be both grueling and traumatic, leaving scars, but it can also be extremely rewarding and wonderful, causing growth and a new outlook on life.
Furthermore, we are also crossing the "Rubicon" into a slightly different new musical landscape this time, taking the listener on an intense, exciting, and sometimes even scary sonic ride.
Besides, we also have the historical and geographical significance of the term Rubicon, since we have a singer hailing from the cradle of the Roman Empire.
And now onto “Rubicon”… track-by-track, what inspired you, what topics are you dealing with, where does the music come from, etc.
The songwriting for this album was a very collective effort. Ole, Anders and Einar wrote most of the music, while Østen, Mariangela and yours truly were responsible for most of the lyrics. Ole and Anders gelled very well together in the pre-production/writing stages of the album, making the lion's share of the songs.
Much emphasis was put on making efficient songs, getting rid of "dead meat" and creating interesting melodies. A lot of time was spent on vocal harmonies, and we also put great attention in instrumental details.
Waldemar Sorychta, our co-producer and studio wizard, was a very important person to have around in the final stages of the pre-production and at many of the vocal sessions. His input was invaluable, when it comes to lifting songs to “the next level”, focusing on what really works in the context.
01. "Year of the Rat"
The opening song and our first video from the album, is quite melodic, featuring an insisting, recurring keyboard theme. In the early stages the song was referred to as "The Muse song" ("Musevisa"). Lyrically it deals with betrayal and breaking out, and it's inspired by "The Wire" and "The Sopranos", the TV series.
This is a slower and darker track, with a more "ballady" mood, but the level of intensity increases quite a lot towards the end. For me, the verses are reminiscent of of early Rainbow with Ronnie J. Dio. The lyrics are inspired by a friend of Mariangela's who lost her mother to cancer. The mother is comforting her daughter.. Life has to go on.
03. "Patriot Games"
Arguably the most untypical Tristania song off this album, kicks in with higher adrenaline level and a chorus of desperation, interspersed by mellow verses and dramatic instrumental interludes. It's inspired by an American soldier writing the band saying he had Tristania in his headset when he went to blow things up in combat situations, in order to "pump himself up". The theme is a combination between a computer game and actual war, fiction and reality.
04. "The Passing"
A rather stripped down, slow number featuring Pete Johansen on the violin. The lyrics describe the thoughts of a fatally wounded soldier on the battleground, lying on the field waiting for death. The chorus opens up for a desperate hope for deliverance.
Melodically my personal favorite Rubicon track, a song where Mariangela really shines. Lyric-wise, it's a song about isolation and worn out relationships, wanting your partner be someone else.
The way I see it, "Sirens" is a quite catchy, straightforward song in a "Metallica-goes-goth" vein. It refers to the tragic shooting at Columbine high school in the US, and also deals with the theme of isolation. There are many ticking bombs out there, but what makes them go off?
"Vulture" was originally recorded with another chorus, but we decided to change it late in the recording process. This one has a certain Eastern tint to it, slightly experimental. It deals with betrayal and selfishness among the powers that be, as well as being blinded by greed.
A very fragile and "transparent" song with a lot of emphasis put on vocal harmonies. The lyrics reveal a relationship that is falling apart at the seams, with the girl's tragic flaw as the cause of her downfall, making her end up beyond redemption. The memories of the good times in the past are destroyed. Still some kind of veneer or facade is being kept up to "save" whatever there is to save.
09. "Magical Fix"
The most experimental song on the album. The intro is derived from an old idea we had in one of my previous bands (Bon Pine), and it merges with the rest of the song, which is made up of spoken lyrics, quite high-pitched notes in the chorus, along with a growly bridge. Due to its intensity and complexity, it's one of the coolest songs to play live, in my opinion. The lyrics deal with a rather confused person whose "mind and matter" are about to separate due to imminent (possibly self-inflicted) death. His/her zest for life has waned due to numerous disappointments through life. The person is, however, conviced that the soul will move on. Certain things complicate the case, but the "Magical Fix" makes it happen.
A mellow and atmospheric track which lyrically draws parallells between radical right wing Christians and radical Islam. Is there really a difference? The final part of the song is sung by Østen in Norwegian. We found this an appropriate way for him to say goodbye as an official member of the band.
11. "The Emerald Piper" (U.S. bonus track)
"The Emerald Piper was played live for the first time at Wacken Open Air in 2009, and is a quite untypical Tristania song with an uptempo verse and a more laidback chorus. Lyrically, it describes a row between a heavy drinker and the love of his life. The title is taken from the Sopranos where one of the main characters gets shot and barely survives. When he wakes up, he says that he has seen his father in hell - Hell being an Irish pub named the Emerald Piper, where every day is St.Patrick's day. His dad rolls dice with the Irish, and the Irish always win.
12. “Caprice” (bonus track)
The most "poppy" track from these sessions; its working title was "Popminister". The lyrics are quite somber, though, dealing with self-destructive thoughts in a capricious mind, still grasping fragile strands of hope.
In general you might say that the lyrics of the album encompass themes such as having a confused deathwish/longing for something better on the other side, contempt for erroneous and corrupt leadership, the feeling of pain and helplessness when losing your loved one due to character flaws and/or circumstances beyond your control.
Tell us a bit about the making of ‘The Year of the Rat’ video-clip…..for example what were the instructions you gave to the clip’s producer/director before he started working on it?
Jakob Arevärn, the producer of the video, was given relatively free reins when it comes to the story and the atmosphere of the video. Mariangela went to Sweden for a few days to shoot the scenes and co-operated creatively with him and the others on the set. They worked really well together and soon settled for what now can be seen as the video for the song.
Any last words you want to round this interview off with?
A new Tristania album is in the making, due in May 2013. Most albums end up the way they do for a reason, or as a reaction to something that has to be dealt with at the time, or even as a reaction to the previous release. This will more likely than not also be the case with this one. All the Tristania albums are very different from each other, in songwriting/production/sound/expression, but the special atmosphere is what makes it all stick together. So far we think it’s been a logical and necessary string of changes, a tradition that also will be carried on into our new songs. This band is just not content with making the same songs and the same album over and over again. If Tristania earlier on had veered more in that direction, it would definitely not have existed today. This band is all about going with the creative flow, composing music and writing lyrics that mean something to us – and hopefully some other people – trying to stay clear of stylistic formulas. So stay tuned for the new brew! Thanks & take care!
Chris Galea, October 2012