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The formula is over-used, but it's still good - 75%

TrooperOfSteel, May 4th, 2012

Our hats must be taken off to Morten Veland, after all he is a musical extraordinaire. Veland not only sings vocals, but also plays numerous instruments including guitar, bass, keyboards and drums. Veland is also a songwriter, producer and engineer - the guy just does it all. His band Sirenia is entirely his creation and aside from a female vocalist and a few added musicians to help out with either drums or guitars, Morten Veland basically does it all on his own. We saw his impressive one-man band Mortemia with the release of ‘Misere Mortem’ back in 2010 and now in early 2011, we get to hear the 5th full-length release by Sirenia, entitled ‘The Enigma of Life’.

Where Morten Veland falls short amongst his musical prowess, however, is that he has continued to write the same song, using the same riffs and the same structure on almost everything he’s released since 2007’s ‘Nine Destines and a Downfall’ (a breakthrough album for both Sirenia and Veland). Moving away from the more traditional gothic metal sound that was heard on Sirenia’s first 2 albums, and also back when Veland was a part of Tristania, ‘Nine Destines’ was a slab of “commercial” gothic metal brilliance. The chunky low end guitar riffs, the atmospheric and emotional choirs, plus the combined vocals between Veland and Monika Pedersen (who left the band shortly after the release) was fantastic. Over the following three years, Veland continued this formula for the next Sirenia album ‘The 13th Floor’ and for Veland’s side project Mortemia. While it was no surprise to hear it on ‘The 13th Floor’, the formula eventually ran a little dry on ‘Misere Mortem’.

Hearing the same thing for two more albums shows that Veland has either run out of ideas because he’s so busy doing everything else himself, or that this is the peak of his song-writing brilliance. While ‘The 13th Floor’ was a solid album, new vocalist Pilar Giménez García, aka Ailyn, I felt did not grab me as much as Pedersen did. Whether it was the lack of spice or conviction in her vocals, Ailyn to her defence is a young singer and will most definitely improve with experience.

So on to the new album, ‘The Enigma of Life’ and surprise surprise, the disc yet again continues the same song structures and riffs we’ve already heard before. Yes, even the choirs make it back for their mandatory appearance in the middle of most tracks. Talk about a lack of diversity. This repetitive issue is a double-edged sword – a new listener of Sirenia would find this album to be quite refreshing, interesting and vastly entertaining, while the Sirenia fan who has been there from the start would roll their eyes at realising that the latest cd is pretty much ‘Nine Destines and a Downfall’ rehashed yet again. That might sound like a harsh comment, but in reality I feel it is quite true. We as fans don’t want to hear the same formula repeated over and over on following releases (even if it did work like a treat the first time round), as eventually it becomes stale and boring and loses interest very quickly.

However, taking the album on its merits, ‘The Enigma of Life’ still has a lot going for it. Ailyn’s vocals have improved a fair amount (maybe a tad too high-pitched in areas) and the majority of tracks (despite the severe case of déjà-vu) are done very well. Veland has tried his best to re-shape the song structures so they sound and feel different, but the best part of the album is that there are, in fact, a bunch of kick ass tracks. The atmospheric and orchestral elements throughout each track add depth, while I don’t think anyone can ever get sick of hearing Veland’s ferocious growing tones.

Veland’s guitar-work is also worth another tick, with some top-notch solos thrown in here and there. The tracks on the cd range from the popish side of gothic metal, to the harder-edged and more powerful gothic metal roaring tracks. Highlights include the memorable “All My Dreams”, the groove infused and melodic “This Darkness”, “Darkened Days to Come”, which features Morten Veland on clean lead vocals, “This Lonely Lake” and “The Enigma of Life”, both softer sounding and slower-paced tracks which shows off Ailyn’s ever-improving vocals, and lastly the cd opener “The End Of It All”.

While Morten Veland can still create kick ass and memorable tracks, he’s needs to realise that the identical formula used for each track and also used for the past 3 albums he’s been a part of, will eventually work against him. Fans want change, fans want diversity and fans want their favourite bands to evolve just as they do. Veland’s a creative guy, but for Sirenia I really think he needs to obtain some outside input rather than his rule, his way, 100% of the time. ‘The Enigma of Life’ is quite good (marginally better than ‘The 13th Floor’), but if only it contained material that we haven’t already heard before. For Sirenia newbie’s however, this release will definitely be a highlight in your gothic metal journey.

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