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This is what most consider to be Sirenia's finest hour. As I was working my way backward through their discography I hit some sort of stylistic cut-off point around An Elixir for Existence where I was reminded of how heavy the band was in their earlier days. As such, the group's sophomore album was a great treat, showcasing Veland's unbelievable ability to craft true epics with virtually no outside input to assist him. Sure, there are always saccharine female vocals; but unlike most female-fronted bands who unabashedly live or die by the quality of their front woman, Sirenia was wise to hold it's metallic origins close to heart no matter how awkward the formula may seem at first blush. A tiny stone may only make a small ripple at first, but someday it will be a wave.
Veland simply does not know the meaning of the word "moderation". As such, At Sixes and Sevens' eclectic nature serves as both it's trump card and it's biggest flaw. The list of disparate elements is seemingly endless: well-crafted choirs, Gondamin's silky cleans, Veland's diverse harsh yowls, subdued symphonics, and gloomy powerchords. This only scratches the surface of how busy many of At Sixes and Sevens' compositions are. Swapping out any one of these varying aesthetics would yield a different genre every time, but the harmonious whole they constitute is truly something to admire on it's own. Sirenia certainly lives up to the Gothic tag here, with a dank atmosphere yielding soothing rewards on the listener's end. The material never comes off as banal of vapid, always delivered in a convincing fashion centered around the dour atmosphere while never forsaking the almighty riff.
The problem is, what good is music without tension and release? Much of At Sixes and Sevens trudges along at a measured pace, maintaining a respectable standard while allowing all of it's many sonic facets to function on an acceptable level. Without any sizable peaks or valleys in tempo or approach, it sort of diffuses into background music after a while. Highly enjoyable background music, but still short of the majesty present on An Elixir for Existence. I found myself grasping for something, anything to give me a reason to be truly enthralled like I know Veland is capable of. Other than the gate-crashingly potent opener and the atypical crooner "In Sumerian Haze" it's all just one big nebulous mass of Gothic something. I certainly can't call it pomp or fluff, as Veland is always wise to rein in the keyboards before they reach Nightwish levels of overcooked abandon. Nor is it vile or offensive on any level, it just sort of exists on it's own antediluvian plane.
There are still plenty of killer riffs, which are always more than welcome courtesy of Veland's agitated delivery. They're dark, melodic, and consistently carve away at the boxed-in walls of the genre Sirenia so phlegmatically occupies. Opener "Meridian" is a real ground shaker and the single best track here, opening with descending riffs that summarily razes the landscape alongside the restrained appeal of the lead. The tone is sufficiently scooped in favor of the low end, occupying the void left by the tinny bass timbre. Gondamin's female vocals are obviously not as prominent as on later Sirenia material, but she has a digestible and pleasant inflection that far outclasses her successor Bordvik. The male guest vocalists only serve to drive Gondamin farther into the background, which comes off as a compositional flaw in my eyes. Veland's roars are varied and dynamic enough to carry the day without any assistance other than the occasional choirs and female input.
Keyboards are clearly prominent, but the true melodic highlights are centered around Johansen's occasional violin contributions and the choirs. That's not to say the keyboards lack potency, as they add an interesting synthetic layer to the entire ordeal. The dance drum beats that open "In a Manica" are always a nice touch, and mesh sufficiently with the twinkling pianos and somber leads. I also really love the flanged synth lead that weaves in and out of "On the Wane". Still, Veland's apprehension regarding excessive levels of pomposity guts some of the appeal. More keyboards would have added greatly to At Sixes and Sevens' lasting power, and swapping out some of the superficial guest vocalists for an extra layer of symphonics would have served Sirenia well here.
While I'm clearly torn regarding At Sixes and Sevens, it is still a respectable - and more importantly - enjoyable slab of symphonic metal. Veland would hone is approach to a finer point on the subsequent album, which while featuring inferior female vocals still edges this one out by a tiny margin. Still, At Sixes and Sevens is hardly a waste of the many talents involved, and still worth your time.
When I first eyed this album, my CD purchasing days, which involved perusing through record stores for something to strike my attention, were beginning to dwindle down thanks to online services and the growing preference towards mp3s for the sake of convenience and cost. Noting weirdo Veland's involvement after staring at the cover for a short spell, I bit the bullet and, despite now defunct entities such as "Kazaa" and "imesh" shaking their icon heads, blind bought it with the aspirations that this will be some killer material and that I'm helping to support one of the most unbelievably beautiful looking singers in the history of music itself. Not long afterwards I discovered that the siren on the cover was not actually vocalist Fabienne Gondamin, but some model. After a period of mourning and a quick spate of throwing furniture, I sat on a slightly broken armchair and focused strictly on the music itself, and can humbly proclaim that it was still a righteous purchase.
Morten's new project is a heavier affair than his last outing with Tristania, with not only a meatier guitar sound, but a stronger bass presence, most likely because he's the one playing it. The anchored low end gives the album an oppressive vibe, in which combined with all the undulating waves of keyboards and the smorgasbord of various vocalists and vocal techniques could have been an arduous task to listen to in its entirety without hitting the pause button if somehow all this molasses didn't click. The murky vibe is there, but in the end it works by adding a cold dreamy atmosphere to a collection of songs that, if scrutinized pertaining to their basic skeletal structure, are so fucking well written that embellishments which normally irk me such as Latin choirs spouting Latin gibberish not only fail to sully the experience, but actually seem essential to the album's aura.
Meridian is an excellent opener, beginning with its gothic doom melodies and mid-ranged growls that, again, surprisingly gel perfectly with the music that on lesser effects might have been off-putting. Tempos shift from a sluggish lumber to a mid-ranged gallop with occasional sudden bursts into blastbeats with enough punch to be heard clearly while not overpowering the rest of the music. Female vocalist Fabienne doesn't even enter the rumpus for at least a few minutes, allowing Morten to deliver most of the lyrics. Like everything else instrumentally, her singing may not be quite as technically efficient as some of her peers, but it's tailor-made for this album, invoking a sensuality missing from many of her contemporaries. Sometimes the voice itself carries more weight than the ability to sing a whole slew of octaves, and Fabienne's pipes seem more influenced by French ethereal pop singers like Mylene Farmer than the usual gothic banshees and pixies. A fantastic choice of vocalist for this work.
It soon becomes apparent that while Fabienne takes the siren role to heart, Sirenia at this point was not a female-fronted band in the traditional sense. Growls and rasps take a sizable chunk of time away from the chanteuse, while the choirs and a morose clean male vocalist chime in to make this enterprise approximate a lunatic's stage-show revue. On a song by song basis, the mid-tempo gait sets the backbone for the majority of these tracks, yet the chord progressions and melodies remain memorable throughout, toeing the line between goth and doom flavored guitar passages while offering some of the best examples of both. The sole ballad track "In Sumerian Haze" sung by Fabienne without monster accompaniment is another brilliant number by laying on thick the miasmic fog, dreamy vocals and Pete's impassioned violin solos. A fitting way to end At Sixes And Sevens, a frosty ambiance drapes the song as it drifts languidly into eventual silence, concluding one of the more compelling gothic metal albums since the genre's inception.
So, despite my superficial disappointment with the album cover's possibly unintentional trickery (I have to wonder), it's a perfect sleeve for the musical material. Icy, blue, frigid, inviting, and, like a siren, inviting yet lethal. Unlike most "Beauty and the Beast" affairs which sometimes wind up resonating like a play concerning orcs versus fairies, the contrast of vocals isn't so remarkably stark since Morten's growls aren't particularly guttural and Fabienne's smooth approach to singing isn't high pitched or operatic, thus the transitions and exchanges between all of these various vocals flow effortlessly over the sonic waves. There aren't a whole slew of albums that pull off this sort of thing markedly well, let alone to this album's caliber. In this manner, At Sixes And Sevens clearly stands as one of the pinnacles of gothic metal.
Veland's departure from Tristania wasn't a bad thing at all. In fact, after that, he managed to establish a great unique sound in Sirenia (while Tristania found their own unique sound simultaneously). Although heavier than "Beyond the Veil", Sirenia's sound is still clearly in the same waters. "At Sixes and Sevens" is by far the best offering from Morten Veland yet.
Just like the previous two Veland albums, "At Sixes and Sevens" has a dark atmosphere to it. It's also remarkably heavier than "Beyond the Veil", with orchestrations given less priority (however they are still shown importance on tracks like "At Sixes and Sevens" and "In Sumerian Haze"). Guitars here are extremely heavy, almost as though they were pulled out of a death metal album. The harmonious keyboard melodies blend in perfectly with the medium to heavy riffs.
The vocal work present on "At Sixes and Sevens" is the reason why I adore it. The harsh vocals are flawless. I'm not a huge fan of growls, but Tristania and Sirenia made me enjoy them as much as the clean vocals (take "Meridian" for an example of excellent harsh vocals). The female vocals, though not as frequent, are excellent ("In Sumerian Haze”, enough said). Fabienne's heavenly voice complements Veland's growls perfectly. Though not operatic like Vibeke's, they're as breathtaking. The clean male vocals are also pretty damn good. I know that not many people are huge fans of clean male vocals, but they're actually quite enjoyable (in "In a Manica", for example, the clean male vocals present are rather high in the mix, and it's not a bad thing at all). Also, choirs are present like all previous Veland albums, and they're a breath of fresh air on some tracks like "Lethargica"
It's pointless to describe all the tracks here, since not a single one of them falls below perfection. Choruses (which are usually sung by Gondamin) are very catchy and get stuck in your head for hours (consider the choruses on "Meridian" or "Manic Aeon"). My personal favourite track on the album is "Meridian", with "In a Manica" and "At Sixes and Sevens" being close seconds. But really, every track is unique and extremely enjoyable. I would recommend this album to any gothic metal fan, fans that enjoyed Veland's previous works with Tristania, or any person who can recognize good music when they hear it.
After parting ways with his original musical conception Tristania, one of the most innovative bands in the newly born Gothic Metal scene, Morten Veland sought to make music without the additional egos of his former band mates influencing him. Many comparisons to Tristania are leveled at Sirenia, primarily because Veland was the most creative force in the former before his departure, and also because there are many similarities between what is found on this release and much of the music on “Beyond the Veil”. But there were definitely some rather large leaps in the evolution of Veland’s song writing that give Sirenia its own identity.
“At Sixes and Sevens” is a rather impressive collection of musically eclectic yet lyrically specialized songs. Although there is a constant tone of sorrow, darkness, and longing in the music the arrangement of the various sounds and ambiences being used flirts with the Progressive Metal genre. The average tempo of the album is slightly quicker than “Beyond the Veil”, Pete Johansen’s violin work has been given a good deal of extra prominence, and the backing chorus parts have also become much more ambitious. The guitar riffs have also been stepped up a bit, being particularly heavy on tracks such as “Meridian” and “A Shadow of your own self”, while more minimalist riffs give songs like “Sister Nightfall” and “Lethargica” a more hook oriented sound.
While the music has clearly come a good deal further since Tristania, the expanded approach to vocal arrangements is also noteworthy. Bored with the cliché Beauty and the Beast approach of one dirty growling male voice and a clean female voice that he helped pioneer, Veland has expanded the formula to include a third male voice singing clean vocals, which could be dubbed a Love Triangle arrangement of sorts. Fabienne Gondamin has a beautiful voice, though I personally prefer Vibeke’s singing, and brings a lighted candle to what is otherwise a dark chamber of sound. Kristian Gundersen takes the role of a more handsome prince who battles with the beastly demon that Veland’s voice personifies, resulting in a highly ambitious trio approach to the Gothic Metal format.
The overall song collection on here is stellar from start to finish, as Veland does not know the meaning of the term filler. Each song on here contains a brilliant mixture of guitar, keyboard, drum and vocal work. Stand out tracks include riff driven classics such as “Sister Nightfall” and the title track, as well as more catchy yet complex songs like “On the Wane” and “A Shadow of your former self”. Pete Johansen makes appearances on several songs on here, but as was the case with his work with other bands, he shines the best during the ballads, in this case “In Sumerian Haze”. The closing song is actually my personal favorite due to its contrasting sense of longing, realized mostly through Fabienne’s vocal interpretation and the atmospheric and acoustic guitar driven texture of the arrangement.
To my fellow fans of this emotionally and musically complex art form, this is truly an essential part of any collection of Gothic Metal albums. It underscores Veland’s unique ability to mold together a large collection of ideas into one cohesive musical illustration of dark beauty. This album will have cross-over appeal to fans of Power Metal as well as fans of Symphonic and Neo-Classical music. Do not put it off any longer, get to the store and pick up a copy today.
Before hearing this one I wasn’t what you could consider an adept of harsh vocals, but after it not only I started liking it as now I consider them essential in most songs and a fan of quality growlers like Morten Veland is.
The former Tristania vocalist and guitarist left his old band and with the help of Terje Refsnes, who produced Widow’s Weeds and Beyond The Veil for Tristania, some guest musicians, and guest female singer Fabienne Gondamin, formed this new Norwegian band. Having this facts on account, is quite surprising that At Sixes and Sevens could be such a great album, with so many great tracks.
Analysing the tracks, one by one:
Meridian: This one is probably the track that will sound rougher overall, and it’s precisely this one that put me addicted to death growls in this kind of metal. It starts out with powerful harsh vocals, which fill in most of the track, prior to some choirs in latin. The chorus is quite well achieved, initially with Veland’s growling, and in a second part with the heavenly voice of Gondamin. The track sounds solidly strong all over, is kind of addictive, and has some dark power on it. Guitars don’t play a major role on the track, which is a point against technically, but the inebriating quality of the rest of the track makes for it completely. 9,5/10
Sister Nightfall: This starts out pretty strong, mixing the drumming with the guitars and some keyboarding. Vocally, firstly we hear some male clean vocals, joined shortly after by Gondamin’s vocals. As in Meridian, the chorus has two distinctive parts: in the first we have again death growls; in the second one, not quite like in Meridian, we have two voices, the clean male vocalist and Fabienne Gondamin, in a pretty emotional simultaneous duet. Reaching the end, we can also hear some perfectly put-together grunts and growls. This one combines emotion and power in grandeur, being one of the tracks where we can hear all kinds of vocals present in this record. 9,5/10
On the Wane: Another track with great ensemble of all kinds of voices and tonnes of power. Starting with the female vocals, soon the violin makes it’s first great appearance on the album, mixed with a powerful riff (probably the strongest in all album). The chorus is made only of death vocals, which alternate perfectly between grunts and growls. Clean masculine vocals are also present, but they have a low tone, so they sound great. Closing this one, we have a fairly good Pete Johansen’s violin solo. 9,5/10
In a Manica: Starting with some distorted clean male vocals, kind of too high for my taste in gothic metal, this song is clearly the worst of this release. Not even the death growled chorus saves it. The violin isn’t as good sounding as in other tracks, female vocals have little importance in here and the choirs lack emotion. Disappointing track. 6/10
At Sixes and Sevens: After such a week track, we have this gift, which has the same name as the album. The intro of the song is one of Excellency, putting a melancholic atmosphere into the music, making use of the acoustic guitar, the violin and the female vocals. Then it powers up, entering the distorted guitars and the heavy drumming, followed by the harsh vocals, mixed with Latin choirs. The chorus, all in death vocals, is quite catchy, well performed, and doesn’t get out of your hears easily. The violin solo at the middle of the track precedes a second half of the song that is similar to the first half. The piano appears in the journey through the end. As I view it, we are facing the best track of the album, and an epic one. It’s near to perfection, in gothic metal terms. 10/10
Lethargica: Strong intro, with the typical Morten Veland guitar entry (hear other Sirenia and Tristania songs). There’s lots of vocals alternating in here again, but the track isn’t as captivating as most of the album’s are. It’s better than In a Manica, nonetheless. 7/10
Manic Aeon: This one has almost whispered female vocals, and also male growls. Is has also piano, guitars, violin and some not very heavy drumming. The choirs also show up nearing the end of the track. Kind of atmospheric good track, but it’s not among the best. 8/10
A Shadow of Your Own Self: Very well achieved intro of guitars and drums, just before the female and clean male vocals. Then the pattern repeats itself, as we have another growled chorus. But the song sounds good, the choirs are well put in, and it’s easily a likeable song. The mixing of female vocals and a low-pitched choir is one of the highlights of the track. The finale is quite atmospheric, mixing synthesized sounds with drumming. 8,5/10
Sumerian Haze: This song is clearly the calmer of the album. It will please all the fans of melodic metal without harsh vocals. The drums work quite lightly in here. The song is melancholic, sustaining on the beautiful and kind of depressing vocals of Gondamin, and in the sound of the acoustic guitar. Some whispers and the violin also make some company to the female vocals. There’s a really superb solo of violin as we reach the end of the song. 9/10
Overall, I think this will be a great buy for all open-minded metal heads, especially for those who enjoy “Beauty and the Beast” vocals, here quite above average, tasteful ones. An excellent album putting another Norwegian band on the map of quality, where Tristania and Theatre of Tragedy already dwell.
Sirenia is an instant favorite of mine. This album is the epitome of musical perfection in so many ways and achieves a solid inner peace with its beautiful and seductive female vocals and clean male vocals. Let Sirenia take you to distant shores and ice capped mountains.
The first song, Meridian, invites you to the alturistically depressed lyrics of Sirenia. Screeching male vocals display utter abandonment and loneliness with a smooth mixture of love. This song takes you from barren fields to bleak grey-cloud-sky sceneries. The female vocals are ingeniusly revealed at a certain point that, when combined with the orchestra arrangements, makes this song beautiful and unforgettable.
The second track Sister Nightfall guides you through crystal staircases caressing the heavens and lets you touch the stars. Once again Fabienne the female vocalist, Morten and Kristian display the best type of musicianship I have ever seen in this genre. With well placed guitars and hypnotic keyboards this song takes you far away.
The third installment in this album, On The Wane, is alot darker in tone. Lyrically, it discovers the mind imprisoned by its own bars. Medium guitar riffs compliment a keyboard melody that dances in your head. Yet another great achievement of dreams.
Althought the fourth and fifth songs are very good in structure and power, my absolute favorite songs are Lethargica and Sumerian Haze. Those songs truly reach out to my mind and shroud it with images of dreams and stars, the setting sun, the rising moon and the beauty of losing your path.
In all its glory, Sirenia is an intoxicating listening expirence that I will never soon forget. I recommend anyone to at least give this band a try.
When I (and admit it, most of the rest of you) hear the term "goth metal, I immediately think of boring, monotonous, milquetoast-y shit along the lines of Lacuna Coil or Flowing Tears. That's why I was completely bowled over by At Sixes and Sevens. This IS goth metal through and through, but utterly unlike any I've heard to date. And that's a VERY good thing.
For starters, the guitars are (relatively) heavy as fuck, with strong melo-death influences. When they do go soft, the melodies are much more tuneful and interesting than your average whitebread gothic miasma. Although the standard mid-paced drum patterns common to the subgenre are employed most of the time, there's plenty of great double-bass work to keep things from getting monotonous. The keyboards are put to EXTREMELY good use and never stifle the other instruments. There's also some very tastefully done violin work which I'm disappointed wasn't used more often.
And now for the vocals. Sirenia has quite possibly the most diverse vocal approach I've ever heard. Growls (real growls, not faggy gothcore screaming), a couple different clean male vocalists, some good (although not stellar) female vocals, and a choir in case all that's not quite enough. Done poorly, it COULD be incredibly confusing- but it's so well-arranged it never does.
At Sixes and Sevens is a soaring, epic, starlit masterpiece. It's also good, original goth metal- which is right up there on the rarities list with hen's teeth and honest politicians. If you only ever get one album in the subgenre, make sure it's this one.
Who ever knew Morten Veland's departure from Tristania would be such a positive thing? Sirenia have arrived with a new slice of gothic metal in the vein of Tristania but have done a great job in differentiating their sound into a unique blend of gothic metal. No mere clones, they have expanded their sound into uncharted territories for this genre. Perhaps one reason is that it seems Morten Veland has modernized the sound on this album somewhat which definetly didnt turn out such a bad thing. The heavy yet soothing guitars, memorable keyboard work and the combination of WELL PLACED growl-screamed male vocals of Veland and angelic female vocals of Fabienne Gondamin are just a few highlights of this album. Who could forget the occasional beautiful violin work as well? :) All of the different elements of the music makes for an amazingly beautiful listening experience. The closest comparison that comes to mind is Tristania's Beyond The Veil and the only true similarity I can find(other than using most of the same instruments which sound like two entirely different albums) is they both have flawless production.
Some of the standout tracks on this CD include Sister Nightfall, On The Wane, At Sixes and Sevens and a Shadow of Your Own Self. My personal favorite being On The Wane. Every part of the song I find incredible. Soothing angelic vocals, great lyrics(amazing imo), great blend of acoustic/distorted guitars and a killer chorus courtesy of Morten Veland. Even the choirs stand out the most on this song! It has everything. This being said, all the tracks on this album are top notch!!! It feels almost criminal not mentioning the majesticly beautiful closer In Sumerian Haze which is a softer track many people who aren't even as much into the gothic metal genre could enjoy with its exquisite piano and some of the best violin parts on this album or even Meridian with the intense opening for the album leading into one of the most memorable vocal performances of Fabienne Gondamin on the album as well as some amazing keyboard work. I could go through each track in how epic, intense, beautiful and amazing each track is but what is most important to remember is that if you are into gothic metal, you shouldn't let this amazing CD pass you by. I also recommend this CD (especially the tracks On The Wane, A Shadow of Your Own Self, In Sumerian Haze) to those who are new to this style of music and are more into the beautiful aspects than the more distorted male vocals. Everything stated, At Sixes and Sevens is not for everyone. If you are looking solely for excellent speed riffs or blazing solo's from guitar virtuoso's you will not find much enjoyment here. It is for people who are very open to different styles and still might be hard to digest. It can grow on you though, I know first hand. This CD makes me believe Morten Veland can do no wrong. Sirenia will never be the most innovative gothic metal band like Theatre of Tragedy or Tristania, but what they have done is put out an incredible album that has raised the bar for this style of music currently. Well done Sirenia!!!