SIRENIA – 1977
LABEL: Napalm Records
RELEASE: May 26th, 2023
AUTHOR: Michael Estrada
02. Wintry Heart
04. The Setting Darkness
05. A Thousand Scars
06. Fading To The Deepest Black
07. Oceans Away
10. Timeless Desolation
11. Twist In My Sobriety (Tanita Tikaram cover)
Quite simply, SIRENIA has been the most underrated symphonic band in the genre. They seem to just get better each release and this recent string of 2015’s “The Seventh Life Path“, 2016’s “Dim Days Of Dolor“ and 2018’s “Arcane Astral Aeons“ are evidence of that. The biggest proof of their constant growth seemed to culminate with “Riddles, Ruins & Revelations“ in 2021 though. A bold and breathtaking record that was among the year’s best (and had huge competition next to Epica‘s “Omega“ as well). I was both eager and excited as I anticipated their next release. What would we get next from the Norwegian act?
A curveball, it would seem, as the band’s eleventh album is a throwback to the sounds of the 70s with “1977“. This is new territory and it is as adventurous as it is surprising. Combining the sounds of synthwave melodies into a symphonic landscape is not something I had on my radar for SIRENIA to do but they handle it all with ease, thanks to the clever songwriting of multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Morten Veland. The retro auditory arcade is perfectly set up for the amazing vocals of Emmanuelle Zoldan, the French mezzo soprano who is up to task to guide us through a portal, and back to the future do we go.
The enchanting “Deadlight“ kicks things off with soulful violin and fragile piano lines. The energetic atmosphere is perfectly underlined by Emmanuelle here. It is a perfect snapshot of what we will be getting for the rest of the record. The next track, “Wintry Heart“, is a favorite and sits next to Beyond The Black‘s “Winter Is Coming“ from their self-titled album earlier this year, as best symphonic winter themed song of the year. The third cut, “Nomadic“, encompasses SIRENIA‘s trademark sound though in a darker and heavier sense. Shredding riffs and playful interludes share the stage while the drums remain relentless throughout. The electronic elements fit right at home in their symphonic style and SIRENIA has no issues seamlessly integrating the 70s synth into the mix.
If you aren’t sold three songs in, by the time “A Thousand Scars“ comes on, you might be. This is completely new territory and sound for the band, as it plays a perfect fusion of pop and rock with Emmanuelle‘s feathery voice navigating both styles with ease. Following this track though, “Fading To The Deepest Black“, represents the closest sound to their last album, harkening back to a darker and more eerie tone. You get blast beats, an impressive solo, another epic performance from Emmanuelle and one of the best songs on the record. Of course, the symphonic and operatic highs are all over this release and their trademark sound is still very much alive, despite the fact that the music is essentially filtered through a time machine.There is a beautiful and bleak majesty to it, despite its lavish presentation. A longing feeling seems prevalent on the entire album as well, a tone definitely felt on the latter half of the album with cuts like the blissfully numb “Dopamine“ or the heavier and dizzying “Delirium“. “Oceans Away“ may convey this most with Emmanuelle’s line of: “I feel so dead inside / I’m falling through countless aeons of time”. With “Timeless Desolation“ seeming more like a tragic loop, more so than a love filled testament.
The closer is a cover of Tanita Tikaram’s 1988 hit “Twist In My Sobriety“. Says Morten: “The track has a very melancholic vibe to it, which in my opinion makes it the perfect match with SIRENIA“.
Indeed, it does, and it has never been so catchy.