Sirenia - 'The 13th Floor' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     September 29, 2010    
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A worthy addition to any collection but offers little new.

Almost exactly two years ago, Sirenia were promoing their third full-length album ‘Nine Destinies And A Downfall’. Released in early 2007, the band’s first offering for Nuclear Blast was pretty much a masterpiece, featuring a clutch of well written and beautifully delivered songs. The material was, by and large, shorter too and, coupled with a more accessible mix and the divine vocals of new singer Monika Pedersen, Sirenia began to move into a more mainstream/commercial environment; it seemed almost inevitable that the band would be moving into the upper echelons of the genre.

How quickly things can unravel. Sirenia’s performance at Metal Female Voices Fest 5 in October 2007 was a complete embarrassment. Their show straddled the fine line between drunk and inept, with Pedersen singing just three complete songs and staggering around the huge stage the rest of the time adding odd lines here and there, and guitarist/founder member Morten Veland and fellow guitarist Bjonar Landa appearing not to give a toss. When drummer Jonathon A Perez ran from behind the kit to tell Veland they’d been forced to curtail the set, he looked mightily relieved. It came as no surprise when Pedersen left the band a few weeks later, and the news that her replacement, Ailyn, had been a contestant on Spanish TV’s ‘X Factor’ did little to inspire confidence. Shortly after that longtime collaborator Landa quit, to be replaced by ex-Green Carnation guitarist Michael S Krumins (who’d previously worked with Perez in an early incarnation of Trail Of Tears).

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All of which brings us to ‘The 13th Floor’: first class ticket to ride, or train wreck? Well, it’s neither, really. It’s more an extension of ‘Nine Destinies…’ than a progression; it’s not a lot different from its predecessor, and it’s almost as though the band are trying to erase the past couple of years and almost start afresh. Kicking things off with ‘The Path To Decay’ is quite a statement of intent. With an almost brutally heavy, punching riff, the song features a range of trademark touches and in fact encapsulates everything that is Sirenia, with Veland’s cookie monster backing barks, some neat guitar work, a choir and a catchy chorus all overlaid by Ailyn’s soft vocals. The following cut ‘Lost In Life’ is much more commercial, almost Eurovision material in fact, and will probably chart in every country in Europe (aside from the UK) if it’s released as a single. (Rather bizarrely, despite this and a couple of other obvious candidates, it’s an edit of ‘The Path To Decay’ that has been chosen to trailer the album. Maybe a point is being made here!) 

Alongside ‘…Decay’, the songs that do it for me are ‘The Lucid Door’ and ‘Winterborn 77’, the former being kick-ass and riff-driven yet still as catchy as they come, and the latter being a great showcase for Ailyn’s vocals. A mention also goes to the haunting closer ‘Sirens Of The Seven Seas’, sung pretty much wholly by Jan Kenneth Barkved and augmented by a haunting violin solo courtesy of Stephanie Valentin, and ‘The Mind Maelstrom’ which veers quite heavily into Within Temptation territory (although is a heavy little beast when it gets going).

At the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with ‘The 13th Floor’. It pushes all the right buttons, has some extremely clever songs with some great hooks and is certainly well played and well produced throughout; as such, it’s a worthy addition to any collection. It’s just that it offers little new and, as I mentioned above, it feels like the band want a second crack at repositioning themselves as a more accessible band in the genre: as such, they now find themselves at a crossroads, exactly where they were two years ago – hopefully this time round they won’t screw it up…

John Tucker

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