October 22, 2018 Sirenia – Arcane Astral Aeons (Album Review)
When Norway’s Morten Veland left Tristania back in 2000, it was perhaps one of the most heartbreaking decisions of his professional music career. A key songwriter for Tristania’s first two albums, 1998’s Widow’s Weeds and 1999’s Beyond the Veil, sadly creative differences led him to bid farewell to a band he helped build. The end of an era of sorts, fortunately, Veland grabbed the opportunity for a fresh start by the horns in 2001, soon launching his new band Sirenia.
Similar in many ways to Tristania, Sirenia’s 2002 debut album, At Sixes and Sevens, would see Veland explore beyond his signature Gothic Metal styling, interjecting Death Metal and even some Rock-n-Roll elements. Now with his time in Sirenia superseding the Tristania era, Veland is set to release Aracane Astral Aeons on Friday, October 26, 2018 through Napalm Records.
Prolific with Sirenia since the project’s launching some seventeen years ago, Aracane Astral Aeons marks their ninth studio album and second overall with French Opera Singer Emmanuelle Zoldan as the leading voice. Why is this important to note? Well, those whom have been following Sirenia over the past two decades know that there has been somewhat a revolving door of cast members, especially when it comes to lead vocalists. In fact, Spaniard Ailyn Giménez, or simply Ailyn, was the only lady to appear on more than two records – singing on 2009’s The 13th Floor, 2011’s The Enigma of Life, 2013’s Perils of the Deep Blue, and 2015’s The Seventh Life Path.
With Zoldan taking over, and leading vocals for both 2016’s Dim Days of Dolor, and now Arcane Astral Aeons, like Ailyn sometimes sang in Spanish, Zoldan sings in her native French tongue for Sirenia. Giving the music an extra layer of diversity, fans are not unfamiliar with Zoldan, after all, she has sang on all the band’s albums as a part of the Sirenia choir, with expectation of the debut. Finding her place comfortably as the band’s lead female vocalist, she, Veland, Jan Erik Soltvedt (guitar), Jonathan A. Perez (drums), along with a list of sessions musicians, entered the studio hoping to capture magic once more.
So where does Sirenia go with their latest musical exploration? Well, to say Arcane Astral Aeons is a carry over from Dim Days of Dolor would not do the new collection of songs justice. Yes, the two records do have many similarities, but Arcane Astral Aeons’ approach is slightly more grand and symphonic. Dim Days of Dolor was a colorful record with heavily dark undertones, and of course signature symphonic sounds, but Arcane Astral Aeons comes at you as a very explosive collection of songs.
This is evident from the jolting and lengthy opening track “In Styx Embrace” which goes from Symphonic Metal to harsher Death Metal leanings to acoustic Folk textures, all while blending in some blistering guitar solo work. A real shot to the face, “Into the Night” is a continuation of this approach, as is “The Twilight Hour,” where Zoldan really shows off her Soprano ability, all while album closer “Glowing Embers” is boldly highlighted by powerful choral chants. Then there is the more Pop-oriented, highly melodic “Love like Cyanide,” featuring Beast in Black’s Yannis Papadopoulos as a guest vocalist.
From this point, the album takes twists and turns with “Desire” engulfing an eerie somewhat erotic tone while “Asphyxia” finds its own dark atmosphere. Additionally, “Queen of Lies” marks one of the only songs led by Veland’s harsher Black Metal vocals and “Nos Heures Sombres” offers an exotic, irresistibility thanks to layered keys and Zoldan’s French singing. There are also more straight-forward moments with thrashy guitars dominating “The Voyage,” plus the more the Rock-vibed “Aerodyne” – which actually features Veland’s former Tristania bandmate Østen Bergøy lending some vocals.
So, when the journey is complete, where does Arcane Astral Aeons rank next to former Siernia releases? It actually ranks high indeed thanks to a very balanced approach. Yes, the symphonic elements are extremely bold, and at times extremely bright, but Veland manages to keep a level of mysticism among each song with carefully plotted keyboards and effects in the backdrop. Certainly a worthy new addition to Sirenia’s legacy, CrypticRock gives Arcane Astral Aeons 4 out of 5 stars.
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