By Adrien Begrand
After years spent churning out capable yet unspectacular gothic metal, the pieces all seemed to fall into place for Sirenia in 2008. Bandleader Morten Veland replaced capable yet unspectacular singer Monika Pedersen with Pilar Giménez García, a former X-Factor contestant in Spain who preferred to go by the name of Ailyn. Much of the goth atmosphere was replaced by a more pop-oriented sound, and although that rubbed some people the wrong way, it was a smart move. With marked improvements in the songwriting and Ailyn’s more nuanced vocal delivery, the Norwegian band’s fourth album The 13th Floor was a surprisingly classy dose of “prom dress metal”, enough to hint at hitting the stylish heights of Within Temptation, arguably the best such band working today.
Exactly two years later we have a follow-up that’s been eagerly awaited by the girly metal set, many, including yours truly, interested in seeing if Sirenia would be able to keep that positive momentum going. For a while The Enigma of Life does just that. “Fallen Angel” has Ailyn in full Sharon den Adel mode, singing in a tender yet rich voice that adds a plaintive quality to Veland’s slick, simplified arrangements. First single “The End of it All” pushes all the right symphonic metal buttons, synths and guitars balanced evenly, restrained enough to allow Ailyn to showcase her equally tasteful singing.
It’s a strong way to start off a record, but the deeper we get into the 14 track, 65 minute album, the more we wonder just what happened to the chemistry that made the first ten minutes work so well. The trip hop beats of “All My Dreams” would have felt dated in 1997 let alone today, while songs like “The Twilight in Your Eyes”, “A Seaside Serenade”, and “Coming Down” feel like uninspired exercises in goth metal formula. A good hook can rescue a rote goth metal arrangement, but there’s nothing there, the monotony of the songs enough to make one nod off. Things do pick up from time to time, with the lively “This Darkness”, the undeniably pretty (and by no means metal) “Winter Land”, and “Darkened Days to Come”, which sees Veland dragging out the early Sirenia template, basically a metallic rip-off of the Sisters of Mercy. Unfortunately, The Enigma of Life frustrates with its lack of consistency, the worst offender being the boring, interminable title track, which makes not one, but two appearances, in English and in Spanish. After all the promise shown on The 13th Floor, we’re back to “capable yet unspectacular” yet again. For goth metal fans, at least you can buy the aforementioned highlights on iTunes. As far as splurging for the complete album, you’re better off waiting for the new Within Temptation album.
“The End of it All”