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The 13th Floor - Extended Edition - 40%

h_clairvoyant, February 5th, 2011

Sirenia is a band that could easily have been defined as a band of constant change (be it growth or regression, that is a discussion for another time and place...). The Enigma Of Life seems to have shattered that view of Sirenia. Having had more than its fair share of frontwomen, perhaps holding onto Ailyn for another album warrants the lack of growth found here; however, there is little to be found here that hasn't already been heard on The 13th Floor.

With regards to the steadfast leading-lady, Spain's Ailyn, all is performed well and without any outstanding flaw. Every now and then she can sound whiny, mainly in choruses. For the most part though, her voice is unarguably sweet, delicate, and wholly pleasing. But compared with some of the hard-hitters found elsewhere in the genre, or even in previous Sirenia releases, there is much to be desired. Seldom comes a time when the listener is awe-struck or fast-forwarding to hear her again. The majority of what she does sounds rather uniform, without highlights or climax. She is safe, far from the best and even farther from the worst. Yet, more than once throughout the album, I was hoping for a Vibeke Stene or even a Henriette Bordvik to come soaring in (listen especially to 'Darkened Days To Come' from like :30 to 1:00, that transfer from Veland's dark, soothing voice to Ailyn's more poppish style is a bit disappointing).

After having written some of the most powerful, most endearing, most beautiful music to grace the gothic metal scene, it is elementary to expect the best of the best from Morten Veland, Sirenia's mastermind and songewriter. Of course, after the recent releases of Sirenia and his side-project, Mortemia, fans seemingly cannot expect 'Beyond The Veil'-caliber masterpieces anymore. As with The 13th Floor, you'll feel the tiniest memories of Morten's Golden Era for a few seconds on a random track here and there, but the bulk of the music is what us fans have come to expect. It is shortened, shallowed, and less enveloping than Veland's earlier works (It will be so difficult to get over the change, though it has in effect for years now.) This is far from bad music, in fact it is pretty good, despite the obvious blemishes.

Each individual track seems to follow the same 'template' of sorts; there is the nice intro, the nice verse, the nice chorus, rinse, repeat. Before three tracks have finished, the listener already knows what to expect from the next ten on the album. And really, if you've heard The 13th Floor, you probably will know what to expect before the first track has come to a close.

The everlasting trademark of Veland and his projects is the choirs, which, as expected and welcomed, are indeed present. Yet again, we are blessed with the strength and perfection of Sirenia's enigmatic choirs. They are commonplace now, and some may argue overused throughout Veland's career, though doubtly from the majority. The Enigma of Life's choral stretches are not the best we have heard, nor do any in particular stand out, but they are well-placed within the music, perfectly executed, and only enhance the pieces they grace.

Occasionally, the guitar-work will be permitted to shine, and those moments are among the highlights of the album. Most of the instrumental segments are executed via keyboarding though, which could be an upside or a downside, depending on who you ask. However, it is safe to say there still needs to be more 'music' and less of the repetitive vocal passages (and why do song lengths continue to shrink?); it is almost impossible to differentiate any sort of identity within each song, as they all sound so close to one another.

In the end, it is a listenable and at times enjoyable album by Norway's Sirenia. But compared with what they have released in the past, it is a dud. It's very similar to their 2009 release, The 13th Floor, only watered down quite a bit more, with less shining moments. Though less progressive of a step than it's predecessors, it is just another step down the path of the mundane.