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Sirenia - "The 13th Floor" (CD)

Sirenia - "The 13th Floor" CD cover image

"The 13th Floor" track listing:

1. The Path to Decay (4:18)
2. Lost in Life (3:12)
3. The Mind Maelstrom (4:48)
4. The Seventh Summer (5:22)
5. Beyond Life's Scenery (4:33)
6. The Lucid Door (4:49)
7. Led Astray (4:35)
8. Winterborn 77 (5:34)
9. Sirens of the Seven Seas (5:12)

Reviewed by on April 10, 2009

"Veland’s backup growling provides just enough density to keep Sirenia’s music grounded, and out of the lofty realms of traditional symphonic metal."

The Norwegian metal band Sirenia has once again replaced its lead vocalist for their latest release, "The 13th Floor." Their new siren is Ailyn, a contestant from the Spanish talent show "X Factor" (similar to American Idol), and the result is smashing. Ailyn’s vocal style may be a bit different from her predecessors, but the quality of Sirenia’s music hasn’t diminished in the least, and fans old and new should walk away from "The 13th Floor" very happy.

Many refer to Sirenia as goth metal, but personally, I think they fall more within the realm of symphonic metal. Sure, there are gothic themes to the songs, which on "The 13th Floor" include mythical sirens and morose mindsets, but the overall instrumental compositions are of the ornate, full orchestral and symphonic sounds like their peers, Nightwish and Echoes Of Eternity.

They have also been accused of being too commercial, but ironically, most commercial music fans have never heard of Sirenia. There is, however, an undeniably radio-friendly vibe and Evanescence sound that permeates the second track on the album, "Lost In Life;" regardless, it’s a great tune, if less complex.

Sirenia succeeds where other symphonic and goth metal bands fail in appealing to more hardcore audiences, due in large part to the death metal growls of founder and guitarist Morten Veland. Veland’s backup growling provides just enough density to keep Sirenia’s music grounded, and out of the lofty realms of traditional symphonic metal. Plus, the combination of Veland’s throaty vocals and Ailyn’s clean, classical soprano voice is awesome, particularly in "The Seventh Summer," a track that tests Ailyn’s vocal range, but one that she pulls off masterfully.

The next track, "Beyond Life’s Scenery," opens with a pretty impressive guitar riff, something that’s surprising for the genre, but for Sirenia in particular. After all, Sirenia has never been into showy guitar riffs, and prior to this release, never even used a bass. Unlike the rest of the album, "Beyond Life’s Scenery" is full of minor chords, both on the vocal and instrumental sides, lending it a bit of an industrial feel.

Of course Sirenia wouldn’t be European and symphonic without keyboards. Thankfully, only two songs rely much on keyboards, and particularly in "Winterborn 77," you don’t even mind them because they’re offset by a pumping guitar and bass drum. In "Led Astray," there’s a crazy fast classical piano score that you can hear occasionally, but its main purpose is simply to provide another layer to this complex track that also features double kick drums, violins, and guitar.

The closer, "Sirens Of The Seven Seas," is the best closing song I’ve heard in a while. It sticks out as being different from the rest of the album, in part because Veland takes the helm of lead vocalist, but also because the composition is more anthemic and traditional metal than symphonic. There’s a brief return of the death growls, but the best part is how Ailyn takes over lead vocals again at the end of the track, her voice serving as the siren mentioned in the song title. This track is a good listen even for those who don’t like their metal dressed up and pretty.

"The 13th Floor" is well-written and orchestrated, and there are no bad songs, though one or two may be a bit commercial. Still, Sirenia does an excellent job at whatever you want to call their style, and if you’re into female-fronted metal music, Sirenia is a great choice.

Highs: The combination of Ailyn’s clean, classic vocals with Veland’s death growls.

Lows: A couple brief moments of dated synth sounds.

Bottom line: An album that manages to mix death growls with symphonic metal, and pulls it off in a great way.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)