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And here we have Sirenia's debut of Ailyn, the first of their 4 songstresses to appear on two albums. The 13th Floor is without question a solid gothic metal release; the always amazing Morten Veland (well, almost always...) proves yet again that he deserves the title 'King of Gothic Metal'. Sirenia walks the line between the often-dull-traditional-gothic-metal-style and the oh-my-god-this-is-pop-not-metal-gothic-metal. You get the bleak, sad, hopeless atmosphere that most gothic metal releases SHOULD have, but don't. At the same time, though, there are the catchy choruses and memorable verse melodies.
When compared to this album's predecessor, Nine Destinies And A Downfall, there is a small step backward (on Sirenia's inevitable path to 100% pure pop-metal), away from the new sound they seemed to establish there. It has more than a few touches of what fans of Veland know and love from the Tristania/early-Sirenia era (just touches though, don't get TOO excited...). The catchy, verse-verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure remains on the majority of the songs though, and they are still short (radio-safe?) like on NDaaD.
Unfortunately, although it is a solid album, it is only that. A handful of the tracks don't really go anywhere; they just there, not necessarily fillers but certainly not masterpieces. They all 'sound good', but with Veland, more than just that is to be expected. Then there are the choirs, the always lovely choirs, and the same guitar-work that is to be expected from Sirenia.
Ailyn was initially a breath of fresh air. It goes without saying that she is a good singer, and probably a fair handful of people will disagree with me here, but her vocal performances seem so static. After listening to her for 10 minutes, it becomes hard to listen anymore. Her voice is sweet and enigmatic, but also whiny and unnerving. The unfortunate part is that, with her, Sirenia broke the tradition of replacing the front-women with every album.
'Sirens Of The Seven Seas', the final track on The 13th Floor, deserves a special section in this review. Guest vocalist Jan Kenneth Barkved of Elusive brings the track to a whole new level, reminding the listener perhaps of Beyond The Veil (Tristania) where there are three styles of vocals coming together. It's just beautiful, and perhaps among the best Sirenia songs to date. Plus the nautical theme that so suits Sirenia is played upon here like no other track before it has.
While The 13th Floor has its flaws, and its highlights, it is no more than a solid album. It is very bland at times, but still has 'Veland's magic touch'. A couple tracks make it an album any fan of Sirenia or gothic metal should have, but those who are either new to the genre or not fans of the genre should probably spend their money elsewhere.