Flowing Midwintertears
CoC interviews Anders Hidle of Tristania
by: Pedro Azevedo
Norway may be the land of black metal, but it's also the land of female vocals in metal, or at least the country that produces the most bands in the genre. Tristania are one of those, but the symphonic metal with death growls and female vocals found on their 1997 self-titled debut MCD [CoC #27] and especially 1998's _Widow's Weeds_ [CoC #30] indicates that Tristania are not an average band. What follows is my e-mail interview with guitarist Anders Hidle regarding what Tristania have been doing and what they plan to do in the future.

CoC: In the past few years, several bands have decided to add female vocals and symphonic arrangements to metal, like you have. How do Tristania intend to stand out from the rest? What would you say that you have which makes you special?

Anders Hidle: The basic idea behind adding female vocals and symphonic arrangements to the traditional death metal is to create "brutal music" with melody. The thing that attracts me to these elements is the contrast that you get between the heavy/brutal ingredients and the calm/melodic parts. When a beautiful melancholic melody line is being set up in anticipation of a heavy part, this melody line becomes even more beautiful. It is also important for Tristania to be a metal band -- now and in the future. Morten [Veland]'s death vocals will always be the most important vocal parts in our music. When we recorded _Widow's Weeds_, it was very important for us to make a record which wasn't a "one-of-a-million" gothic album. We wanted our own special sound, and I think we managed to achieve it. One of the things that are special for Tristania's sound, compared to the bands you mentioned, is the violinist we used on the album. His name is Pete Johansen, and he plays in an Irish folk band [from Norway]. We are very satisfied with what he did on _WW_. One thing that Irish folk music and gothic music have in common is the gloomy and melancholic sound. This guy gets his own sound on the violin, and you can actually hear the Celtic sound on all the melodies he performs on this CD.

CoC: From Norwegian bands such as Theatre of Tragedy and The 3rd and the Mortal to Dutch acts such as The Gathering and Within Temptation, how do you view the current scene of which you are now part?

AH: I enjoy listening to all the bands you mentioned, especially Theatre of Tragedy, of whom I am a big fan. As I said in my first answer, Tristania want their own sound. Our band has often been compared to ToT, and probably not without reason -- of course these two bands have much in common, but the differences are also quite obvious, in my opinion. ToT has much more doom influences in their guitars. The vocals are also different: Liv Kristine from ToT and Vibeke [Stene] have very different ways of singing. Liv Kristine uses mainly a calm way of singing. Vibeke uses many different ways of singing, especially powerful opera vocals, which suit our music very well, I think. Besides, on Theatre of Tragedy's latest recording there are no growled male vocals. Raymond only uses the "clean vocals" now. So I guess the similarities are no longer so obvious.

CoC: Your band name, Tristania, brings to mind sadness and doomy music; however, you aren't an extremely doomy band, or at least that doesn't seem to be your main concern. So how did that name come up?

AH: It's true that the name "Tristania" refers to melancholy and sadness. It's not a real word in any language (as far as I know), but it is a result of the Norwegian word for sad (trist) and our own fantasy. We sort of added an ending to that word. We liked the sound of it, and there's also something that's very important: it's a bandname that has never been used before. I agree with you that we are not an extremely doomy band. But making our music as doomy/sad as possible has never been our goal (and never will be). Tristania's music has a melancholic and gloomy mood, but that is because we like to express this kind of mood in our songs. I think the music would have sounded quite stupid if we said to ourselves that it had to be sad and dark and all that when we were composing. I think it's very important that the music's mood is something natural. So we don't try to make the music as sad as possible, although we like a melancholic mood and feeling in the music.

CoC: How was the passage from your self-titled EP to _Widow's Weeds_? Did everything always go well with Napalm?

AH: Tristania has existed for over five years with different musical styles, line-ups, and different band names. Today's line-up came together as a band in the middle of 1996, and we work very well together. In May 1997 we recorded our four-song demo, which we titled _Tristania_. This was a self-financed album, and we aimed mainly at getting a record contract. But it was also released for sale, and 500 copies were printed. A couple of months later, Napalm Records contacted us and wanted to sign us. We made a deal, and we signed a contract for three full-length albums and a re-released version of the MCD. It was re-released with a new mix and a new cover. In December 1997 we recorded _Widow's Weeds_, and it was released in early 1998. Our cooperation with Max and Napalm has been great and we haven't had any problems. We are also quite satisfied with their promotional work. We have already been on one European tour with Haggard and Solefald, and also a couple of festivals and stuff. So we are very pleased with Napalm.

CoC: Having re-recorded "Midwintertears" and "Pale Enchantress" from your self-titled EP for _Widow's Weeds_, why did you leave out "Cease to Exist"?

AH: Personally, I think that both "Midwintertears" and "Pale Enchantress" are very good songs, and very typical Tristania songs. "Cease to Exist" is also a good song, but this was more like an experiment. "Cease to Exist" can be compared with "Angellore" on our new album. These are not typical Tristania songs, but music that we like very much. Personally, I enjoy many gothic bands which don't have anything to do with metal. I am sure, though, that Tristania will compose other songs of this kind in the future, but the main thing will always be the metal-related stuff. Besides, we were very disappointed with the sound quality on the two songs, and we thought that they deserved to be released with a better sound. I think that "Midwintertears" and "Pale Enchantress" are like two brand new songs on _Widow's Weeds_, compared to the MCD.

CoC: In your opinion, what are the main improvements shown on _Widow's Weeds_?

AH: The main improvement is, as I said, the sound quality. We were not comfortable with the sound we had on the MCD. On the new CD, the whole recording process was totally different. We went to a studio with much better equipment, and we had much more time (the MCD was recorded in three days, and we used over a month to make _WW_). Terje Refsnes at Sound Suite Studio is a great producer and he is quite experienced in this kind of music. He has worked with many Norwegian metal bands, such as Gehenna, Dismal Euphony, Twin Obscenity, Malignant Eternal and Carpathian Forest. I think he is one of the best [producers] in Norway in this kind of music. We were very satisfied with the sound quality on _WW_. We got what we wanted: a symphonic sound with punch and power. Another difference on _Widow's Weeds_ is the variety in the songs. The album contains all music from straight goth-rock, represented with "Angellore", to melodic black metal, in "Wasteland's Caress". This musical plurality is very important for us, and something which we will hold on to in the future.

CoC: Having had a guest vocalist (for clean vocals), a guest violinist and a choir available for the recording of _Widow's Weeds_, did you have all the conditions you needed?

AH: We were very lucky with the recording of _WW_, because we know many good musicians, and especially good singers. Osten, who performs clean vocals on "Angellore", is a good friend of ours. He has a magnificent voice which suits our dark-romantic music perfectly. He is the singer in a very good goth band, by the way. They're called Morendo, and come from the same part of Norway as ourselves. The band is unsigned, by the way, so here's a good advice for any label who wants to sign interesting goth rock bands: sign them! Besides Osten, myself, Kenneth [Olsson, drummer], Morten and Vibeke from the band, the choir consisted of three more girls. These are friends of Vibeke's from the school where she takes her musical education, and they are all really good. Pete Johansen also did a great job with the violin, as I mentioned earlier. We got many of the ingredients we wanted for this album, but if I am to mention some other things that we would like to add to Tristania's sound, it must be more strings and classical instruments. Both cello and flute are great instruments which we want to use on our next record.

CoC: I know you've been doing some concerts lately, namely with Hagaard and Solefald. How has it been going?

AH: Yes, we went on a sixteen days long European tour with Solefald and Haggard, and it was really cool. Great experience. We got a very good response from the audience, and it was nice for us to play for the people in Southern Europe. After all, it's them who appreciate our work and buy our records. Our sales in Norway are almost nothing compared to those in Germany, Austria and so on. So we had a hell of a great time! One of the gigs in Austria was filmed, and within a few months a live Tristania video will be released. Another good thing about the tour was that the people in Solefald and Haggard are great! We are already looking forward to the next tour.

CoC: I heard that you are supposed to record a new album in February. What can you tell us about that?

AH: Yes, we are working hard with the new material, and we will hit the studios in the first week of February. We have planned to use the same producer that we used for _Widow's Weeds_, and the recordings are planned to take six weeks. Most of the material is already finished, but we have a lot of work left, arranging and stuff. It looks like the next album will be killer! We are very positive... I think it won't disappoint those who liked _Widow's Weeds_, but the music has also developed since the last album. I think we have taken everything a step further. The musical plurality will be even more important in the future. I think the songs will be more different from each other than on _WW_, though they will still belong together in a way. It will still be sort of a gothic metal album, but, at the same time, so much more. We will use even more session musicians, especially classical instruments. So, everybody, keep your eyes open!

CoC: Any final words for this interview?

AH: Greetings to all the readers of the Chronicles of Chaos internet zine. A big hello and thanks to everybody that went to our shows on the European tour! We are looking forward to meet you again on the next tour. Prepare yourself for the next Tristania album. I promise we will not bore you!

Contact: mailto:anhidle@online.no WWW: http://www.tristania.com

(article submitted 16/1/1999)

1/10/2001 A Bromley Tristania: Unveiling New Realms of Music
12/26/2006 J Ulrey 7.5 Tristania - Illumination
10/19/2001 C Flaaten 8 Tristania - World of Glass
1/15/2000 P Azevedo 9 Tristania - Beyond the Veil
4/13/1998 P Azevedo 9 Tristania - Widow's Weeds
1/1/1998 S Hoeltzel 7 Tristania - Tristania
1/14/2002 D Rocher Tristania / Rotting Christ / Vintersorg / Madder Mortem A Night to Remember, a Bill to Forget
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