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Slither on over here, sweet serpent - 67%

autothrall, August 20th, 2011

Sirens continued to mold Astarte into a more accessible act than their rather nondescript (if competent) earlier works, but not without paying a small price. Always one for appreciating a well endowed gorgon, I'd have to say it's the most attractive record they've released on the surface, but in places it's just an inkling too simple for my tastes, and lyrically it chokes on a number of occasions, though the worst is the exclamation of 'outbreak/motherfucker die!' that enters with the first track, "Dark Infected Circles". That said, there are still a number of positives here which render this fourth full length somewhat more distinct than a Doomed Dark Years or Rise from Within, if only because it doesn't just sound like another band riding on the Scandinavian coattails.

The production, as ever, is a forte, with strong if not standout guitar tones and clear, potent drumming. Much of the album moves at a mid pace, with a lot of open chord riffing threaded with somber, almost folkish melodies. The attraction to the riffs here often reminded me of a few of Rotting Christ's records, so perhaps it's the case that Sirens is the most 'Greek' of the Astarte catalog, though their brand of composition is not wholly comparable. Plenty of double bass and tremolo riffing to go around, but clearly there is a noticeable rise in traditional heavy metal influence that makes the album more appealing to those who don't get on with the more traditional black metal leanings. You still have some tracks, like "The Ring", "Bitterness of Mortality", "Black Mighty Gods" or the bridge of "Oceanus Procellarum" which revert to the pure blast beats and rushed riffing, but these are never the strongest.

Instead, the epic and spacious, restrained songs like "Twist, Nail, Torture" and the tranquil, atmospheric pieces like "Sirens" or "Lloth" (the latter named for the fantasy spider queen, and a former incarnation of Astarte) seem to provide the more compelling fragments of the album. It's fairly well balanced and paced between periods of calm and aggression, and without question the most versatile effort they've recorded, but ultimately not on par with its predecessor Quod Superius Sicit Inferius, upon which the ladies seemed to finally be headed somewhere worth revisiting. Sirens is in no way bad, but it's just not as seductive or hungry as it looks, as the riffs are just never that interesting. Pleasant enough to have on in the background, and perhaps a decent gateway drug if you're trying to turn someone onto more accessible black metal rooted in solid mythological or fantastical concepts, but not all that inspired.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

A Femme Fatality - 50%

XuL_Excelsi, December 10th, 2009

Being an all-female extreme metal band effectively attracts attention. Whether it’s simply for aesthetic appeal or to see if their music is worth anything remains to be seen.

However, at some point people tire of gimmicks and you actually have to back it all up with some talent. Now don’t get me wrong, Astarte can play their instruments, but somehow I just can’t sit through “Sirens”. It’s a bad sign if you’re halfway through the tracklist and you’re dying for it to end.

The main irritation factor for me is the vocals. It’s a forced, pseudo-distorted mess that makes the album’s duration a torturous one. Clearly an attempt at death metal, but the vocals are way too throaty for my liking. It’s a grating sound, making “Sirens” a chore to endure. Furthermore, while it is clear the musicianship is exemplary at times, it is mostly a predictable formula of riffs we’ve all heard before, and cheesy acoustic interludes. The guitars have decent death metal riffs now and then, but they’re too few and far between to salvage the overall impression this album makes. Ranging from death to thrash, the guitars and bass are intriguing at times, but generally mediocre. The bass stands out well enough with a few impressive moments.

While “off-beat”, unpredictable tempo’s are fitting in deathcore bands, here it becomes an indistinct noise and the instruments blend into one another in the worst way. Nonetheless, the drums are very well-executed, with fast-paced sections and lots of pounding double-bass. Another nagging sore is the horrible snaredrum sound, much louder than the other drums, it is overly accentuated and eventually I hear nothing else.

This album had the potential of being excellent death metal, but evidently not enough time was spent on innovation, and the result is a tiring tracklist that drags terribly. There are no clearly horrible songs, but no standout songs either. “Sirens”, for me, was forgotten the moment it was over.

The highlight on the album is undoubtedly the guest appearances by Shagrath and Sakis respectively. Generally, however, “Sirens” showcases limited talent spread painfully thin over an album that just refuses to end. Perhaps they make good EP’s?

Harder, Faster, But Still Melodic - 87%

OccultCryptor, January 4th, 2007

I had listened to Astarte's third album Quod Superius Sicut Inferius and two years later I checked this album. During the first three seconds of listening I recognized that their music had changed. The mighty godess of war and fertility had changed from atmospheric Black Metal to very violent and fast BM. This stuff is also combined with some melodic effects and elements of Death/Trash Metal.


Front lady Tristessa has a multidimensional voice. She combines feminine singing with half guttural growls. Her vocals are very hoarse and hatred. Simply a low female throat. Tristessa's special growls are clearly distinguishable from male growls and that's pretty good. Her singing style represents aggression and femininity like the godess Astarte represents beautiness and fertility as well as war, hate, and brutality. Angela Gossow and Rachel Kloosterwaard are great vocalists but they try to sing like men and have nothing special. Rachel even has a guttural voice as low as most of the male voices. Fuck this, Tristessa is different! She also performs high screaming in the song The Ring, where she is joined by Shagrath of Dimmu Borgir. I once rode an interview with Tristessa. She said that Shagrath really likes the music of Astarte. The guest appearances of him and Sakis of Rotting Christ show us that Astarte is getting more attention in the Metal scene.


The guitar and bass playing is based on modern Black Metal riffs and Death/Trash stuff. There are some mainstream Hard Rock riffs at the beginning of the song Twist, Nail, Torture and in the title track Sirens. Twist, Nail, Torture becomes a brutal Death/Trash song at about 0:30. Deviate is a wild Death Metal song and perfect material for headbanging vacuum heads. Although there is one part in this song, which is based on Melodic Black Metal. Tristessa performs very sad growls in that part of the song. Dark Infected Circles, Black Mighty Gods, Bitterness of Mortality, Oceanus Procellarum, and The Ring are mostly consisting of modern Black Metal riffs and some creative melodies. The instrumental track Lloth is very marvellous. Trash Metal chatter joins a beautiful piano melody. This song is dedicated to the mighty spider queen Lloth and represents, once again, beautiness and hatred.


Ivar is drumming much harder and faster then on Quod Superius Sicut Inferius. His style is very similar to Nick Barker's brutal style on the Dimmu Borgir albums Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia and Death Cult Armageddon. The double bass bangs as fast as a machine gun. I really love this fast and massive style of drumming. It's funny to say, that Astarte and Dimmu are both Melodic Black Metal bands with very brutal killer drums. Anyway, I admire both bands. They are brutal as well as atmospheric.


The fast and massive riffing is not continuous. There are some breaks, which give emphasis to catchy atmospheres. I want to mention the break of the song Oceanus Procellarum. You hear an acoustic guitar and a romantic keyboard sound. In my opinion this part of the song represents a sort of moon shine atmosphere. A great keyboard line is the eerie intro to The Ring, joined by a painful moaning soprano voice. Black Mighty Gods also consists of an atmospheric break with a melodic lead guitar. This song is my favourite one. The beginning of the song Sirens is based on a very soft keyboard sound. If you are very into brutal Black Metal and Death Metal, then you don't have to listen to Underwater Persephone. It sounds as sad as Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan of the album Once by Nightwish. The songs Sirens and Underwater Persephone are the disappointments of this album, because their sound doesn't fit with all the aggression of the other songs.


Maybe proud fans of True Norwegian Black Metal will dislike Sirens. At all, I can highly recommand this album to open-minded fans of extreme Metal and thoose, who are interested in talented female Metal musicans.


Praise Mother Astarte!


Occult Cryptor