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Regarded as one of the world's premiere goth metal bands, Norway's Tristania have earned their reputation through risk-taking creativity, unquestionable talent, and perhaps more than anything else, an impressive consistency from release to release. First coming together in 1996, Tristania took the uncommon step of showcasing three separate vocalists of wildly divergent styles to represent their lyrics, these being operatic soprano Vibeke Stene, clean-singing counter-tenor Østen Bergøy, and harsh, black metal-style shrieker Morten Veland. The last also played guitar and composed most of Tristania's lush, symphonically enhanced goth metal, but also counted on the help of lead guitarist Anders H. Hidle, keyboardist Einar Moen, bassist Rune Østerhus, and drummer Kenneth Olsson to make it all reality.
Tristania's eponymous EP was released in 1997, and further albums such as Widow's Weeds (1998) and Beyond the Veil (1999), as well as the Angina EP followed in quick succession, and always through Austria's Napalm label. All fared incredibly well across Europe, with Beyond the Veil in particular earning rave reviews, gaining them inroads into North and South America (where they have since toured extensively) and elevating Tristania to headliner status to boot. The band was dealt a potentially crippling blow, however, when Veland departed to form a new band called Sirenia. Yet, they surprised cynical observers by immediately hiring new vocalist Kjetil Ingebrigtsen and rebounding in style via 2001's World of Glass. A longer hiatus followed but, after indulging in numerous side projects, Tristania reconvened in 2004 to record a new album called simply Ashes, then released it through new label Steamhammer/SPV in January of the following year.