Sirenia: Riddles, Ruins, and Revelations
Ah, female fronted gothic/symphonic metal. I'm pretty sure just mentioning those words conjures up a pretty good idea of what you can expect from a band. Choirs, operatic vocals, melancholic lyrics, and corsets. I'm not being fair whatsoever, but you have to admit it's par for the course at least on a superficial level. In actuality, some of my favorite bands fall into the category, (Delain, for one, are a wonderful band) but it helps when an act has something special or different that can set them apart from the pack. It would seem on this release that Sirenia decided to find a half-dozen or so new ideas to throw into the mix, and it's a pretty cluttered and bizarre result.
Sirenia are a bit of an institution in the genre, having been around for almost 20 years. Band leader (and pretty much the band itself) Morten Veland left Tristania and got to work crafting a heavier, darker band to suit his own personal vision. Their early work is dark, heavy, and touched on some heavy topics like suicide and depression. After a few albums in this vein, they shifted to a maligned pop-metal oriented sound. A lot of my own personal experience with Sirena is with their album Perils of the Deep Blue, which features vocalist Ailyn and a more epic, grandiose style. Ailyn's voice is a bit of an acquired taste, but I found that album to be pretty excellent, and when I received a review copy for Riddles, Ruins, and Revelations I was hopeful for more of the same. You can probably tell where this is going.
First and foremost, this album is just slathered in electronic nonsense. All the electronic bells and whistles don't necessarily make something bad, but a good chunk of them on RR&R seem shoehorned in. The intro to the opening track and lead single "Addiction No. 1" is just goofy. Adding insult to injury is the fact that the guitar riffs seem seriously dumbed down to accompany the dancy drum beats, not unlike newer snorefest stuff from Nightwish. Lead vocalist Emmanuelle Zoldan has a nice voice, but songs like this do her no favors in showcasing her range or power. It's a saccharine sweet pop song with no teeth. The guitar solo, however, is excellent. Kind of a waste in a song like this, but what can you do?
The annoying electronic bits and bobs continue throughout the album, thankfully to varying degrees. Track number 2, "Towards and Early Grave", is actually pretty damn fun. Simplistic verse riff be damned, the chorus is nice and catchy and it features some harmonized riffage and harsh male vocals to spice it up. No dancy drum beats either, which is a plus. When the band shows some restraint with the electronic fluff, they can still bring the goods.
Sadly, the next track does not bring said goods. "Into Infinity" brings the rave right to your living room right at the start and it's off to the races from there. Also, there's an incredibly annoying theremin that shows up in the already annoying chorus. I can't describe it any other way. It's annoying.
The see-saw swings back on "Passing Seasons". This song also features some annoying theremin and electro noodling, mainly during the verses. However, there's actually some kick ass operatic wailing courtesy of Ms. Zoldan and signs of life in the form of a pretty nice chorus. Again, really nice lead guitar work on this one as well.
You kind of know what to expect from this point on. When the hooks are good, and the focus on the electronics is subdued, RR&R can deliver, but sadly it's limited to a good guitar solo here, or a tasty chorus there. And then there's songs like "Beneath the Midnight Sun", which is basically an ABBA song with distorted guitars. Take from that what you will. "The Timeless Waning" features more bouncy chugging guitar ala modern Nightwish and cheap sounding synths. Lead guitarist Nils Courbaron again brings a show stopping solo, and I don't know whether to give him a high five or feel bad for him because he's clearly the MVP on this album.
And the band played on, and the trend continued up until the very end. The final (non-cover) track "This Curse of Mine" ends on a high note, but still has some grating boops and beeps at times. The final song on the album is a Desireless cover, a song titled "Voyage Voyage", which I honestly thought was a typo when I first read the tracklist. It's actually a fun little cover, with more ABBAisms and I don't hate it at all this time. I kind of have a soft spot for these kinds of tracks, and since it's a poppy track to begin with they can synth the hell out of it for all I care. It works.
was a frustrating listen because there is good material here. Based on their back catalogue, it's obvious Veland can write kick ass music, and while progression and experimentation are a good thing it seems that most of the additions on this album are superficial and surface level. Synths and electronic drum beats that buzz around on top of the music like a mosquito rather than enhance it. With any luck we'll see them dial this back on their next release.
1. Addiction No. 1
2. Towards An Early Grave
3. Into Infinity
4. Passing Seasons
5. We Come To Ruins
6. Downwards Spiral
7. Beneath The Midnight Sun
8. The Timeless Waning
9. December Snow
10. This Curse Of Mine
11. Voyage Voyage
Added: January 26th 2021
Reviewer: Brandon Miles
Related Link: Band Website
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