February 8, 2021 Sirenia – Riddles, Ruins & Revelations (Album Review)
Norwegian-French Metal titans Sirenia are back and they promise fans a modern ride straight into the heart of Symphonic Metal on Riddles, Ruins & Revelations. Napalm Records delivers the melodic mayhem on Friday, February 12, 2021.
We all know that the seeds of Sirenia were planted when Morten Veland left Tristania back in 2000. Just two short years later, his new band would issue their debut LP, At Sixes and Sevens. Combining Gothic veils with Symphonic Metal, injections of Death Metal howls, and plenty of Rock-n-Roll guitars, Veland’s Sirenia would go on to build a powerful name for themselves. Despite their fair share of lineup changes, throughout the next 19 years the prolific group would go on to deliver one studio album nearly every two years, with their most recent offering being 2018’s Arcane Astral Aeons.
For their tenth studio album, and third featuring Lead Vocalist Emmanuelle Zoldan, the quartet—which also features Vocalist, Multi-instrumentalist, Producer and Bandleader Veland, Guitarist Nils Courbaron, and Drummer Michael Brush—promises renewed darkness. This comes in the form of 11 tracks that blend heavy synth-driven atmospherics along with modern influences, creating a sound that incorporates electronic vibes into Sirenia’s already masterfully Gothic concoction.
It all kicks off with the futuristic sensuality of “Addiction No. 1,” guitars chugging on top of Zoldan’s exceptional vocals. Throughout its catchy choruses, there’s a slight hint of HIM undulating across the composition, one that makes it doubly infectious. But for those that prefer the heavier side of Sirenia, they explore this facet of their personality next on “Towards An Early Grave.” Whereas the opener is more of a radio-ready, bombastic beat, this is Symphonic Metal with bite much in thanks to Veland’s perfectly placed death howls.
What follows is a blend of the former and the latter, from the gritty “The Timeless Waning” to the beautiful piano embellishments on “December Snow,” to the poetic emotion displayed in the operatic “Passing Seasons,” and everything in between. There’s Veland’s entrancing synth-work on “Beneath The Midnight Sun,” the sing-along choruses of “This Curse of Mine,” and a velvety and intimate vocal delivery from Zoldan on rocker “Into Infinity.”
Of course, it’s not all about the two vocalists, as their bandmates also take time to shine. Case in point, “We Come To Ruins.” Electronics open the track before the band explodes into a symphony of chaos, as killer bass and pounding rhythms portray this macabre look at mortality. It’s a crunch that segues flawlessly into the thrilling opening beats of “Downwards Spiral,” where Zoldan shares the spotlight with longtime friend Joakim Næss. Though, despite this heavy streak, they opt to go out with all torches blazing on an epic cover of Desireless’ 1986 hit “Voyage Voyage.”
In their best moments, there’s a commonality between their current sound and Within Temptation’s Resist (2019) and Amaranthe’s Helix (2018): layering futuristic electronic sounds into the mix, but keeping their feet planted firmly in Symphonic Metal. And so the epic instrumentation and delicate experimentation, Zoldan’s gorgeous mezzo-soprano, and Veland’s lyrical exploration of darkly poetic themes are never the issue with the success of Riddles, Ruins & Revelations; instead, it is the mix.
For an album that should have boldly defined layers that create a wall of gargantuan sound, Sirenia’s latest is compressed into a muddy mix that dilutes what the band is attempting to achieve. You can hear it clearly on the single/video and leadoff track “Addiction No. 1,” and it’s an issue that persists throughout the duration of the ensuing ten tracks. This is a shame, as Riddles, Ruins & Revelations could easily be something much grander if its symphonic soundscapes were remixed. However, as it stands, the album offers lofty intentions that are besmirched by its production. For this, Cryptic Rock gives Riddles, Ruins & Revelations 3.5 of 5 stars.