Sirenia – Perils of the Deep Blue

July 9, 2013 in Reviews by blackwindmetal

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Sirenia
Perils of the Deep Blue
2013
Written by Allyson Kenning

I didn’t get my hopes up too much when I heard that Sirenia was releasing a new album this summer because their last three albums have been completely terrible and disappointing after releasing really good (and by now, practically ancient history) gothic metal with 2002’s At Sixes and Sevens, 2004’s An Elixir For Existence, and the 2004 EP, Sirenian Shores.  After three year break, Sirenia released Nine Destinies and a Downfall – and what a downfall it was.  It was less gothic, much more poppy and radio-friendly, had less atmosphere and less complexity, and was just generally disappointing after coming to love the sound of their previous releases.  The downward trend continued after Spanish singer Ailyn joined the band for the next two releases, which had me scratching my head at composer and mainman Morten Veland’s decision making, seeming lack of inspiration, and propensity towards shorter, poppier material.  Where was the Sirenia of old?  It  seemed to have gone the way of the dinosaur, replaced with vapid, uninspired songs and repetitive themes. June 28 (July 9 in North America) saw the release of Perils of the Deep Blue,  and I was hugely skeptical about it, despite some teasers released by label Nuclear Blast that sounded quite promising.

Well, what can I say?  This new album is a vast improvement over the previous three, and I can honestly say that I think Sirenia is back.  Perhaps not to their original form, but close enough for my liking.

One of Morten’s strengths as a song-writer is his ability to create mood and atmosphere, and one of the ways he does this is with a small choir that’s balanced a little more on the male,  tenor/baritone side of things than the female alto/soprano. In Perils of the Deep Blue, we start off with quite a wonderful choir piece, with Ailyn singing a soprano solo in Latin.

Which allows me to segue into one of the best parts of this album – Ailyn’s voice.  In one of the teasers, Ailyn revealed that she had taken to heart some feedback from fans and worked on her vocals a bit between the last album and this one, and she joined a classical choir to learn some new techniques and to improve her range.  And all that hard work has really paid off; she sounds sublime on this album. She is more powerful, she has improved her tonality and range, and she uses some classical technique. The opener, “Ducere Me In Lucem” shows this off well and gives the listener a sense of what is to come.  I for one have never disliked Ailyn’s voice, by the way, however I have always thought that she was given mediocre material to work with, which is not her fault.

When we arrive at the second track, the single “Seven Widows Weep”, we get one of what will be several duets on the CD, and this song is excellent. It tells the story of seven sailors who set out for “adventure and conquest” but are lured into the deep by some pesky sirens, where their ships sinks and they all drown.  It has a kind of Leaves’ Eyes-esque Nordic folk metal feel, which I really enjoyed. The other things I love about this song are Ailyn’s powerhouse vocals, and the fact that this is a hearty, meaty complex song compositionally, something I haven’t heard from this band in years. No, it’s not the most original story or lyrical theme ever, but it does make for a great tune. The album continues along with another very strong offering called “My Destiny Coming to Pass”, which includes some ominous, powerful drumming and more moody choir arrangements.

The fourth track is a bit odd, however.  “Ditt Endelikt” is sung in Norwegian and Spanish and is a duet between Ailyn and a dude called Joakim Naess.  It’s a straightforward metal song with a decent hook, but it seems a little wedged in there for no real reason, though I guess if I spoke Norwegian or Spanish, I might understand it more.  Was curious about the inclusion of a guest singer, too; I’m not sure why this decision was made.

“Cold Caress” is a break-up song, Sirenia-style, and then we get into the parts of the album that are all strong musically but kind of fall apart for me because of Morten’s obsession with certain lyrical themes that he keeps regurgitating album after album, and those themes include negative mental states and moods.  With the exception of track 8, which is another song sung in Norwegian, the rest of the album is dark and dreary in lyrical content, and it just made me wish Morten would branch out a bit in terms of subject matter.  That’s also what makes “Seven Widows Weep” such a great song; it’s a sad story, but it’s not about the darkness of the soul and life running afoul and stuff like that.

I was really happy with this album, after so many disappointments from Sirenia in the past.  Here we have shades of “old” Sirenia, with dark, ominous soundscapes, lots of gloomy atmosphere, and melodramatic lyrics. Ailyn should be commended for her vocal performance here because she really did an outstanding job (it helped that the material was better).  Sirenia seems to be back on track, and I sure am glad, because their old stuff was one of my first introductions into the gothic metal genre, and it’s really been missed them.

3.75 // 5