So whatever the reasons were, Sirenia main-man Morten Veland decided it was time to bring in a new vocalist in the form of Emmanuelle Zoldan after 8 years and 4 albums with Ailyn (it sounds like she’s had a tough time of it in the last year or so – I’m sure everyone wishes her well). It’s Morten’s band of course and he has used this opportunity to take stock and bring forth his latest vision for Sirenia. Zoldan isn’t new to the scene, she has actually appeared on many Sirenia releases as part of their choir and done guest slots on other band’s releases. Classically trained, she was always going to bring a new vocal edge to the band, but with Veland’s musical omniscience, Sirenia should always keep their identity. So what is Sirenia 2016?
Really, the differences are subtle apart from the voice. When I heard Sirenia had got a new soprano in I was worried it was opera time, but the nearest comparison I can see is to Epica’s Simone Simons (she has a similar warm, rich tone and yes, she really is that good!). Not a bad comparison eh? Well it doesn’t stop there, Zoldan’s voice has such a versatility to it – for instance, there are touches of Marcella Bovio (‘Ashes To Ashes’) right through to occasional similarities to previous singer Ailyn, which therefor gives the band some added continuity.
Musically, this feels like a very complete Sirenia album. By that, I think it sounds like Veland has decided that this is the opportunity to cherry-pick all the elements of Sirenia that he’s always liked about his band and put them together with a new singer and see what happens. There is still the experimentation and hostility of the debut, but balanced with touches of commerciality akin to “Nine Destinies…” (‘Playing With Fire’ for instance), all interwoven with the particular Sirenia identity that Veland has been honing over the last four releases. It all works fabulously I must admit and whether this was by design or happy accident it really has given Sirenia a new vigor.
As Epica seem to have leaned more towards technicality on their recent album, Veland appears to have realized the need for balance – immediacy coupled with technicality is a difficult line to tread but I think he might have got it just right. For example, the title track (complete with the first of two doses of clean male vocals – the second being the excellent Ayreon-tinged ‘Veil Of Winter’) finds the band in some of their catchiest territory ever, but they follow that easily with the aggression and grandiosity of ‘The 12th Hour’, which is chock full of everything that fans have come to expect from the band. Yet, as is the case with the rest of the album, it all flows really well.
The mix of classic Gothic Metal with Sirenia’s trade-mark Symphonic Metal sound has brought a darker edge to the bands sound without draining any life from the beast. Even as the piano-with-vocal strains of the poignant and reflective closing track ‘Aeon’s Embrace’ brings proceedings to a close, there is a sense that this album has all it needs. I mentioned it’s completeness earlier, but the sense of ease the songs have, the feeling that the songs just fell into place, grew as they were supposed to and happened naturally without being forced or endlessly toiled over, also stays with me. It’s maybe not true of course – this might have been an incredibly difficult album to create, but either way it was totally worth the effort and the finished article might just end up being my favourite Sirenia album to date.
(9/10 Andy Barker)