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"The 13th Floor" really took me by surprise. After the previous disappointing Sirenia offering, I expected something along the same lines. Thankfully, this was not the case here. "The 13th Floor", in my opinion, is a step backwards, so to speak. It shows traits of the first two Sirenia albums, which is a very good thing.
Before delving into the musical and vocal difference, one thing which really made me like this album is the fact that the whole "verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus" thing that was going on on "Nine Destinies and a Downfall" is gone. In the previous album, all songs were predictable. It was like listening to Evanescence, in my opinion. This is not the case here. Tracks tend to resemble older Sirenia in terms of structure (not entirely though, they are still rather structured, just not as much). Nevertheless, the choruses are as catchy as they were in "Nine Destinies and a Downfall", and this is one of the only things which that album had going for it.
Another improvement would be the vocals. Ailyn is no Fabienne Gondamin (from the band's debut album), but I think he did a much better job than Monika, even though her voice is kind of similar sometimes. I like the fact that her voice is not one tone throughout the album. On "Beyond Life's Scenery", for example, her voice alters from the verse to the chorus, and "Winterborn 77" makes you fall in love with her voice.
Sirenia never disappoints when it comes to choirs. Just like their debut and "An Elixir for Existence", choirs appear quite frequent. In fact, they are present in every track. Emphasis is given on "The Mind Maelstrom". On most tracks, choirs make an entrance during the bridge, which always provides a pleasant contrast to the catchy choruses.
The album kicks off with "The Path to Decay". This is one of the two songs which feel like leftovers from "Nine Destinies and a Downfall". Despite this, I think it's a great opening track, and has a very memorable chorus. I can't say the same about "Lost In Life", however, as I felt it sounded way too commercial, and it is actually the only song I skip when I play this album.
"The Mind Maelstrom" is where the album's greatness really kicks in. This track feels like "An Elixir for Existence" without the heaviness, in my opinion, and is dominated by choirs (always a good thing for most fans of the genre). I found this track to be the most haunting on the album, and definitely one of the highlights. "Beyond Life's Scenery" is also a highlight here. The changing singing tones of Ailyn and the powerful chorus featuring choirs make it very memorable. "The Lucid Door" wins the award for catchiest Sirenia chorus ever. It will take ages before you stop singing the chorus in your head. "Winterborn 77" is yet another highlight due to the amazing vocal performance, presence of clean male vocals and enchanting choirs. These make it one of the most diverse songs on the album, and it pretty much has all the positive traits of the album in it.
Any fans of the first two Sirenia album would definitely enjoy "The 13th Floor". Also, fans of the genre will not be disappointed either. Having listened to this and "The Enigma of Life" in the span of just two weeks, this was a very big surprise, as it was the only one of the latest three Sirenia albums which actually has that Veland feel to it. I highly recommend this to any fan of the genre, especially those new to the band, as this is more or less a combination of the previous three albums, and it worked.