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An Elixir for Existence is a unique case, if only by virtue of the fact that Sirenia was essentially a one-man band during the time of its release. In Veland we have a man who has put a lot of effort into the drums, guitars, keyboards, and vocals; so to that extent the cohesive nature of the sound here is somewhat impressive.
The material here is far too dark to ever be eaten up by fans of Nightwish and After Forever, so Sirenia immediately separates itself from the crowd in that regard. The mid-paced, unwavering tempo coupled with Veland's black metal croaking and surges of restrained orchestrations remind me of mid-era Agathodaimon. That's not to say the performance is lethargic, it just comes off as more deliberate and stately in its approach as a whole. The fastest An Elixir for Essence ever gets is probably during the beginning of "In My Darkest Hours", marrying the monolithic (for symphonic metal) riffs with fluttering piano arpeggios. Bordvik's crooning is saccharine and she plays it safe; she almost comes off as window-dressing once set next to the grooving riffs and orchestral swells.
The keyboards never fully satisfy from a sonic perspective. During some passages they almost begin to sound like video game music, synthetic delivery and all. Veland also experiments with a few more atypical elements like dance drum intros and electronica beats. This actually adds a decent counterpoint to the gloomy atmosphere as far as I am concerned, so he can chalk that up as a success. "Voices Within" detonates with a bombastic introduction that immediately turns heads. Most symphonic acts would phone-in the verses (which seems to be a common problem in this genre for some reason) and rush to the requisite catchy chorus. Sirenia flies in the face of convention in that regard, as even the verses feature a sticky riff set that maintains interest. There are even some measured tremolo passages later on in the song, so don't miss that one at the very least.
It isn't amazing, but An Elixir for Existence's unwavering approach yields very few lulls in the action, and it is certainly heavier than it has any right to be. The one exception is "Save Me from Myself", which gives Bordvik a chance to take the reins for a change. Regardless, it comes off as a bit forced and interrupts the flow of the album. It almost comes off like she is forcing herself to sound meek and child-like, which doesn't lend itself very well to the gothic overtones that permeate the album. During riff-driven cookers like "Euphoria" you almost forget that this is a "female fronted" band when she is not present. There are also layered choir sections, which while well executed, come off like Sirenia included them simply on principle to satiate Nightwish fans. They clash with the subject matter present here, which is exceptionally dark and well thought-out.
"Lithium and a Lover" is a lukewarm opening track, but the entire section from "Voices Within" to "In My Darkest Hours" is ace. An Elixir for Existence starts to lose it's balance as it nears it's conclusion, but the piano-driven closer "Seven Sirens and a Silver Tear" serves as a potent, melancholic end cap. Bordvik is clearly the weak link here, so her departure a year later was a wise choice for all involved. Don't miss "Voices Within" and "Euphoria", if anything.
Comparing this to Sirenia's debut is what makes fans dislike this album. It's incomparable to "At Sixes and Sevens", or any other album for that matter. "An Elixir for Existence" doesn't grip you instantly like "At Sixes and Sevens", but it requires a couple of more listens to grow on you and for you to appreciate the beauty of it.
The music is not the only thing that takes time to appreciate on this album. The lyrics here (as one can clearly tell even by the track titles) are very melancholic. Drug addiction and suicide are the two most frequent topics featured here. It takes quite some time for one to appreciate them. The lyrical beauty present in each track is incredible. My personal favourite is "Lithium and a Lover", which, obviously, talks about drug dependence..."my river’s bleeding, my fields are burning...my world has stopped turning"
Musically, this album is slightly less heavy than the previous one. However, it has a darker ambience to it. And it's also not as easily accessible (but, obviously, as beautiful). The music is not as heavy as on "At Sixes and Sevens", it's a bit smoother (and a bit catchier). And, like every Sirenia album, the choruses always get stuck in your head.
Vocally, this album isn't that different than its predecessor. The harsh male vocals still dominate, and the female vocals are actually a bit less frequent than the previous album (with the exception of "Save Me From Myself", obviously). However, this is a good thing in my opinion, since I'm not a big fan of Henriette's vocals, since I can't help but compare them to Fabienne's in the previous album. Nonetheless, they still blend in beautifully with Morten's growls.
Choirs seem to be given a bit more importance than they did on the previous album. On tracks like "Voices Within" or "Star-Crossed", choirs make the tracks easier to listen to, and more memorable. The same could be said for violins throughout the album.
One other thing I really liked about this album is that almost every song starts with a brief soft melody (in fact, only "In My Darkest Hours" starts out on a heavy note straight away).
Once again, this album is consistent, and no track disappoints. One track which I think stands out more than the rest, and which I consider to be Sirenia's best song to date, is "Star-Crossed". It's awfully appealing and the climax is very memorable. Some people might prefer "Sirenian Shores" to it, but I prefer this since the melody on "Sirenian Shores" is more or less the same as the one on "Star-Crossed".
This album is just about the last true gothic metal album from Veland, as it all went downstream from here (with "The 13th Floor" being a slight improvement). Highly recommended.
Following Sirenia's majestic debut At Sixes and Sevens, An Elixir For Existence is perhaps the most logical second album that Sirenia could have produced. This album takes everything right in the gothic metal genre e.g soothing female vocals, harsh vocals that always command you to pay absolute attention, bombastic choirs and compiles them here. While providing very enjoyable music on its on this is simply more than an album.
An Elixir for Existence takes you on a journey through the darkest and most melancholy parts of the human mind and spirit, brightening your outlook on life. An Elixir for Existence definitely is not for everyone but this type of music rewards fans of the genre and those who are persistent. The price of this album is more than just a price tag or a download, it demands emotional investment.
Musically An Elixir for Existence can easily be described as a "typical" successor to At Sixes and Sevens or Tristania's Beyond the Veil, while mostly true, comparing it to those archetypes is simply not adequate as the atmosphere feels completely different and stands alone. A few songs deal with relatable themes that differ a lot than its predecessors such as drug abuse and suicide which allow you to have deep empathy with Morten Veland. The music also differs too due to the replacement of former female vocalist Fabienne Gondamin with new comer Henriette Bordvik who is just as great but different enough to stand out!
For those who have never heard At Sixes and Sevens or Beyond the Veil, this album can be described as a gothic metal album that could easily be at near incomprehensible levels due to the insane amount of things going on just during one song, however it never crosses the line of lunacy and maintains its perfect balance. There are clean female vocals, harsh and scathing vocals, Latin choirs and clean male vocals. Those vocal styles by themselves provide the listener with enough to absorb barring the distorted guitars, drums, violin and synthesizers!
This has to be one of the heaviest and anti stereotypical gothic metal albums I have heard and for those who think this will is just pop music with guitar due to the stigma the genre has are definitely in for an extreme shock when they hear the harsh vocals dominate almost all the tracks! All the other vocal styles are generously sprinkled out providing deep contrast and enjoyment when needed.
There are some minor flaws that can be waived over time. This is not for casual fans who may listen to this once in a blue moon. Truly this has to be is one of the hardest albums I have ever tried to get myself into and demands you listen to it many times over before you fully appreciate it. It is an enjoyable album first listen nothing more, I highly doubt you will fully appreciate it until at least the sixth listen and that's if you're fast and lucky. The fact that the lyrics use some quite advance vocabulary at times is just another hurdle you have to jump.
Once the prerequisites are fulfilled An Elixir for Existence is one of a couple epitomes of gothic metal and one that personifies all that is excellent in metal music, providing very enjoyable music with the combination of legitimate strong emotional content. Whoever think this is a poor man's equivalent of At Sixes and Sevens need to listen to this much more as the journey is just as good. Those who have the fortitude and perseverance to listen to An Elixir for Existence a few times to finally hear down the line the way the music was intended to be will be rewarded with not just excellent music but also a blissful experience that albums I can count on one hand can only provide.
An Elixir for Existance is Sirenia's follow up to their extremely impressive debut At Sixes and Sevens. Veland's brainchild set out to carve it's own path away from his previous gig, Tristania, which has so far been a success. Despite sharing the same genre, Sirenia offers a faster, heavier variety with less progressive elements and more in-your-face type metal. Ironically, or perhaps not, Elixir still manages to carry the familiar feel found in At Sixes and Sevens; that is, the lonely, depressive, and melancholic mood.
For fans familiar with the Sirenia sound, as well as the typical goth-rock sound, this album might take getting used to. The reason behind this is Elixir has a far rougher feel to it than other Sirenia albums, and it stems directly from the rough and heavily distorted guitars combined with the extensive use of growling by Morten Veland. While this may turn away some listeners, I can't say the statement “It grows on you.” applies any more than on this album. Give this a couple spins before pitching it, if it proves to be that big of a problem!
Okay, so Elixir starts off with and carries the typical Sirenia introduction of blowing you away with some crushing riffs and growling, composed in a way that's both headbangable and catchy. Lithium and a Lover showcases more of a progressive feel than other songs. This song is notorious for assuming a mellow tune backed by the typical choirs between each verse, which leaves the listener a little annoyed since the verses kick so much ass. Luckily, this isn't a consistency throughout the album! Other songs such as Voices Within, A Mental Symphony, In My Darkest Hours, and Euphoria feature similar verses and choruses of awesomeness as the opener without the more mellow bits.
Unlike Elixir's predecessor and successors, female vocals are quite rare on this album. Many songs only feature a line or two from Henriette, who sings a much lower and sombre key than any other Sirenia vocalist. The sole exception is Save Me From Myself, which is sung almost entirely by Henriette. Not surprisingly, it's also the calmest of tracks on Elixir. Normally her soft spoken voice sounds so out of place amongst Veland's growls and crushing guitars; something that would hinder the album, but, for some reason, actually works out quite well.
Did I mention the choirs? Because, despite the sheer annoyance some folks find with them, they're done nearly flawlessly in Elixir (And all Sirenia albums). They typically won't make their appearance until the bridges between verses, or sometimes during the chorus itself. They don't overstay their welcome, nor are they overly obtrusive; instead, they add that much more depth to each song. Great example of said choirs can be found on Lithium and a Lover, as well as Star Crossed.
Elixir is a worthy collection for anybody who's a fan of gothic metal. It's also the Sirenia album you're most likely to headbang to! Stand out songs include Star Crossed (A worthy candidate for the best Sirenia song composed), A Mental Symphony, and Euphoria; however, all tracks here offer something exceptional and good, even Seven Sirens and a Silver Tear, the closing piano piece. Veland once again proves his musical prowess in this album; a fact that won't entirely hold up during his next Sirenia release.
This is what most people would say about this CD, especially after listening to At Sixes and Sevens. That is, however, a most untruthful affirmation. An Elixir for Existance is a wonderful album in its own, albeit not as immediately pleasant to the ears the previous one. Thist only means that it requires a few more listenings before you can really say anything about it.
Generalizing a bit, this album features some heavier riffing, and the drums are a bit heavier too. We get more harsh vocals on this one, and less clean male ones, and sometimes even less female vocals in a few songs. But the beauty is still there.
Here's a few words on each of this album's songs:
Lithium and a Lover: Not a song I'd use to open an album, but then again I'm not Morten Veland to decide what's going in the album and where. A good song nevertheless. 8/10
Voices Within: Well... I've always loved the guitar+violin combination, and that's how this song begins. I know that this is Veland's style for some songs, but I kind of dislike the way this song slows down in the middle. 7/10
A Mental Symphony: Has some of the catchiest lyrics I've seen in a Gothic Metal song. "A dance with the devil and a flirt with the dead". Apart from that, wonderful song. Masterfully well-placed instruments give this song a very nice atmosphere 10/10
Euphoria: A heavier and darker song, despite its love-oriented lyrics, featuring what I somewhat consider "beauty and the beast" vocals at its finest, as in Morten's growls and Henriette's singing contrast in a way that makes them sound special. 10/10
In My Darkest Hours: There's something with this song that bothers me in a sense. After hearing it countless times I still can't identify what it is, but there's something wrong with it's atmosphere. Or maybe I just didn't like it. 6/10
Save Me From Myself: Erm... what can I say? Slow, no guitars, only Henriette's voice backed by violins, drums and keys. Trash? Most definetely not! This little beauty can easily lead a more sensitive person to tears. Wonderful lyrics. 9/10
The Fall Within: When you start listening to this song you could say it's not really impressive. Really, this song's beginning is not really what I like about it. A few seconds later it picks up and the song becomes a masterpiece. 9/10
Star-Crossed: Well, well, well... what do we have here? This song has all it takes to become Sirenia's official anthem. Maybe not anymore now that Sirenian Shores is out, but then again, Sirenian shores uses the same basic melody as Star-Crossed. This beauty has it all: Excellent instruments, great lyrics... even the choirs sound great in this one. Definetely one of Morten's finest works so far. 10/10
Seven Sirens and a Silver Tear: Not much to say about this one, since it's basically a keyboard/piano solo song, with no singing whatsoever. It is, however, a very pleasant way to end this album. Definetely makes up for its rather odd opening. 9/10
Overall, an excellent album, unworthy of the depreciative criticism it receives all over by people who compare it to At Sixes and Sevens without a proper basis. 9/10