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While I do admire this band for their basic skills, their musicality, and their performances here, I don't appreciate at all their subscription, wholesale, to the Emperor aesthetic, and the ways in which they are so blatantly 'influenced' (I am being kind here) by their inspirers. One listen to this - even the first song - will convince you of the enormous debt Sirius owe to Emperor, both musically and practically, as this is not only on Samoth's label, but it was actually produced/recorded in the same studio as Emperor's latest work as well. This last fact hurts this band more than anything, as the guitar sound here (as well as most of the other minute facets of the production as a whole) is so close to Emperor's that a novice would not be blamed in mistaking this for the work of Ihsahn and company. In addition (the last nail in the coffin), they actually had the audacity to record, as a cover, a version of Emperor's 'The Majesty of the Night Sky' and include it here as the last track - i.e., the song that you leave this album with, as a reminder of their style. Amazing. One can only wonder: does this band have any sense of identity at all? Are they that grateful that Samoth signed them? Do they really listen to Emperor that much? When subjecting myself to this album a few times, I had recurring visions of visiting the guitarists' homes, where, in their alphabetically-arranged CD collections, the size of the section of E titles was all out of proportion next to the others. But truly, if Emperor are as influential as they doubtlessly think they are, and a host of children have been spawned, raised on the tones of 'In the Nightside Eclipse', Sirius can effortlessly claim a preeminent position among them... their reward is/was a worldwide record deal courtesy of Samoth, and the onus of always being in his shadow.
But having said all of that, Sirius are a truly talented band, and I think if they pressed those talents in search of original music they would be one of the more noteworthy groups today instead of residing somewhere on the second tier, depressingly contemplating commercialism when their food starts running out. In addition, no amount of hero-worship on their part can mask the fact that Sirius is an able collection of musicians, both in terms of their skills as songwriters and craftsman of elaborate structures as well as their sheer technical fluency. I should note, as an aside, that to serve as an emulation of Emperor requires a large amount of know-how or expertise in any case... not many groups can face the rigors of that band's blisteringly technical guitar gymnastics on their feet, with their eyes firmly open. Thematically, Sirius differ from Emperor in that the former have taken it upon themselves to explore space or astral-related phenomena, while the latter still seem rooted in masking lyrical egotism within elaborate (if obvious) references to Greek mythology - isn't their new album based on the Prometheus legend? Also, Sirius are much less melodically inclined than Emperor: their songs are technical abstractions, where riffs combine to form seemingly sterile forms and shapes that serve, I am guessing, to mainly illustrate the 'coldness' and isolation of space, rather than exhortations to rebellion and solipsistic determination like Ihsahn's material. So, anyway, distinctions have been drawn, and I have talked enough about Emperor.
Look at the song titles here: 'Spectral Transition', the title track, which is placed first, and is an ambient introduction; 'Spiritual Metamorphosis - Destroying the Earthly', which features a heavier riffing segment where the keyboards whirl in mocking klaxons like Nocturnus - oh, and also a riff stolen from Immortal without apologies; 'Abstract Eerie Corridors' - the song is better than the title, and features a very nice theramin/AM radio sound effect in the beginning, setting the mood perfectly (I wish the intro section lasted longer) before descending into a particularly icy Nordic series of riffs... which evolve in a masterly fashion, I should add; 'Desolate Magnetic Fields, Into Forbidden Dimensions', and so on. Because the promo I was sent from Norway does not include the lyrics, I have to guess at the verse subject matter, but that isn't too difficult. What this album mainly seems to be about is a leave-taking, a process of bodily and mental abstraction/extraction, escaping from the Earth into other realms or spaces... what's striking about this is the complete departure (pun intended) from traditional black metal, and Sirius have become yet another of the newest bands who use all the accoutrements, stylistic symbols, sounds, and aesthetics of black metal to serve themes other than the standard. So, progressive? Yes. Original? Not yet, but they are getting there. Give them time.
One of the surprising things about this album (and this band as a whole) is the fact that I don't hear any Voivod influences in the music itself at all... which is strange considering their obsessions and/or persisting 'interests'. Also, I don't hear even a tinge of krautrock... if I was going to write a metal album based on interstellar/astral travel or new worlds in outer space, I would probably include not a few segments of Can or Hawkwind-influenced ethereal paranoia... who knows, maybe 'Abstract Eerie Corridors' is a tip of the hat to Michael Moorcock.
After all of these ideas, considerations, or objections have been swept aside and I am face to face with the music, left alone just with what Sirius have put down on tape using the traditional instruments of heavy metal, I really can not say that this music is anything particularly moving... it gets the job done, it moves along at a lightning pace, faster than what should be humanly possible, it adequately captures your interest for short periods, it creates an atmosphere suitable for the lyrics and the entire theme of the band... but something is missing... for the most part it is just so sterile, clean, and well-planned, and the aggression here seems so contrived and forced that it leaves a bad taste in my mouth... it is more of a demonstration or an exercise in composing the 'perfect' post-black metal music rather than a celebration or outpouring of genuine emotion.
There are those of you out there, doubtlessly, who will see this as a worthy successor to Emperor's last efforts, and if you are in any way a hardcore devotee of Norway's favorite sons and consider their music to be a subgenre unto itself, pick this album up and fit it in with the rest of your collection. It will make you smile with pleasure. If you ask for something more from your music, then give this a few listens before you spend twenty hard-earned dollars for the import... I am trying to save you a few regrets.