Sirenia – Nine Destinies and a Downfall

22/12/2006 § Leave a comment

I remember a couple of years ago when Sirenia released An Elixir For Existence I was surprised at the tack they’d taken. Morten Veland, the mastermind behind Sirenia and Tristania had created an album of similar style to his usual work, except that – for the first time – this one was not quite up to standard. Something was missing, some ingenuity, some novelty, some risk. And if An Elixir For Existence was an indication that things were on the way down, we have most certainly plummeted further with this new release. It’s all very well to throw the rule book out the window as long as you don’t throw all your good ideas, skill and flair with it. Unfortunately, Nine Destinies And A Downfall does not only lack good ideas and skill, but inspiration and passion, and as a result we’ve pretty much hit rock bottom here. Though give Morten half a chance and I’m sure he’d start burrowing into the mantle.

This wasn’t how things were supposed to go. It’s quite common for bands to have an off album and a lot of us had confidence that An Elixir For Existence was nothing more than a slip, a careless loss of balance from a climb up the musical ziggurat and that everything would right itself on the next release. Regrettably things have hardly righted themselves at all, since Nine Destinies And A Downfall is not a work of Gothic metal but a large dollop of Gothic rock with standard, overproduced guitars, choirs thrown in for good measure where they don’t fit and about two minutes of growls on the whole thing. The songs are about as linear as you can get, there is no progressive songwriting and it all may as well have been cobbled together collectively by Within Temptation, Delain and Elis.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with making Gothic rock – or at least music that’s tailored towards squarely hitting the mainstream market – as long as it’s done well. However, the music contained in NDAAD is so terribly clichéd, hackneyed and stale that even after listening to half the album it’s difficult to pull anything particularly good out of the hat to say about it. The album’s first three songs, The Call, My Mind’s Eye and One By One have almost identical choruses and later in the album Absent Without Leave also ends up sounding very similar. The music is all mid-tempo and though the guitars are quite chuggy and rhythmic this isn’t really enough to make the music anything special. As a metal artist Morten knows more than most people how to write rhythmic music and though the songs do contain some pace and pulse, they certainly don’t contain harmony, atmosphere or originality. In fact the whole thing is quite staggeringly bland and featureless.

Many will also notice the inclusion of a new vocalist in the Sirenia fold, Monika Pederson. I don’t know how the band do it but they’ve managed to get through three vocalists in three albums and it will be interesting to see if Monika is able to go the distance or if she’ll be thrown out the tree for the next record. It’s sorry to say that this would probably be a wise move since the female vocals on this album are quite bad in places. Monika’s vocal tone may be fresh and colourful occasionally, but she’s regularly off-key, sometimes for entire choruses. This is apparent from the start of the album since the chorus to The Call could make the most tuneless and tone-deaf listener squirm in torture. It doesn’t stop there though, and there were many points where I was shocked that they didn’t pitchshift more, or if the original vocals were so bad that not even modern autotuning equipment built and designed by God himself would be enough to shunt Monika’s notes into the right lines on the stave.

Nine Destinies And A Downfall really does suffer from too many afflictions to be anything nearing a good album. There are so many things counting against it that it’s hard to see just how Sirenia can save themselves from this point on. Indeed some of the track titles in An Elixir For Existence hinted that Morten was undergoing some mental or artistic trials, and maybe albums like this are a bi-product of those difficulties. NDAAD is a conscious, intentional decision to move away from roots, typecasting and stigma, though it does so with little to no finesse, quality or class. Granted there may be quite a few of the younger mainstream Gothlings who will think this is the musical equivalent of a crème brûlée but it’s sad to see one of the most respected ensembles in Gothic metal so carelessly and eagerly dismantled. I would say that Morten can do better but it’s uncertain as to whether this is true anymore and it seems that with each album Sirenia give us further suggestion of a career past its peak. We can always look at the back catalogue for their glory days in Gothic metal but I imagine there’s little of worth that Sirenia can provide from now on.

5/10

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