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Sirenia's first two full lengths At Sixes and Sevens and An Elixir For Existence are the absolute epitomes of the gothic metal genre. It is rather unfortunate that Nine Destinies and a Downfall doesn't come close to matching the pure stroke of genius that the first two full lengths did but comparisons aside it is an album that has several good ideas but ultimately falls.
Nine Destinies and a Downfall has a sound much different than other previously comparable bands in the genre e.g Tristania and Trail of Tears. Sirenia have decided to go for a much more straight forward symphonic metal with gothic undertones, with song structures perhaps most comparable to the shorter length tracks of Once era Nightwish. The major factors that have attributed to that are less subtle use of guitar, female and choir vocal parts, being dead front and center here, the drastic reduction of Morten Veland's mostly great growling and crisp production values for all areas. Not much to be said about the drum work of Jonathan A Perez, his work is just fine here.
There are no components of Monika Pedersen's vocals that are slightly operatic as being part of the symphonic metal genre would make you assume. She still gives quite a strong performance with a powerful female voice most akin to Floor Jansen or Simone Simons non operatic voices. For most of the album her voice works out quite well except there are some devastating mishaps along the way e.g My Mind's Eye chorus. The choirs are flawless as usual when it comes to Sirenia's work and Morten even provides more contrast using a very good gothic feeling clean voice on a couple of tracks. Songs to measure the amount of good ideas and contrast level at its capacity would definitely be Downfall and/or Sundown.
Nine Destinies and a Downfall simply doesn't live up to the sum of its parts due to it's painfully predictable song structures that run like clockwork. All songs apart from Glades of Summer being a ballad follow very similar formulas and it will become obvious over several listens. Each song has it's intro then verse, chorus, a majority of the songs having another part similar to the intro, verse, chorus, surprising part that if the whole album was like then it would be great and finally closing chorus.
The pace of the album is entirely uneven. Each verse is very melodic and the songs pick up pace during the chorus only to halt then slow back down during the next verse, you will grow tiresome of it after repeated listens. The lyrics upon inspection are really quite dark but Pedersen's voice is much too cheerful here for you to interpret them that way. Veland is really uncreative with the lyrics at times using several combination of words way too many times e.g I've been.
Being my first Sirenia album it was quite enjoyable during my initial discovery of it but the enthusiasm to listen to it over and over fades quite rapidly. It doesn't really fit well in the context of music with lots of replay value but I can see it being quite a competent gateway album into the symphonic/gothic metal genres. There are actually many good ideas here except none are expanded upon very much. It has much more commercialism and straight forward soundings than previous Sirenia full lengths but it's still way too heavy for it to be on mainstream radio stations.
As a standalone album release it has its good and its bad ideas, however the real problem is that there is nothing here that resembles a solid foundry or a reason that will make you want to listen to Nine Destinies and a Downfall again and again after a few initial listens.