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Sirenia - Riddles, Ruins & Revelations (2021) - Review

Band: Sirenia
Album title: Riddles, Ruins & Revelations
Release date: 12 February 2021
Label: Napalm Records
Genre: Gothic metal

Tracklist:
01. Addiction No. 1
02. Towards An Early Grave
03. Into Infinity
04. Passing Seasons
05. We Come To Ruins
06. Downwards Spiral
07. Beneath The Midnight Sun
08. The Timeless Waning
09. December Snow
10. This Curse of Mine
11. Voyage Voyage (Desireless cover)

To write or not to write? That is the question… At first, I did not feel I need to put my thoughts down on the latest Sirenia album, but since I reviewed the last four of their releases, I felt I owe to myself to do so. How to start? I will not be boring you with facts about who Sirenia is. I think pretty much everyone who has come across the world of gothic metal has at least the slightest idea of the band and its creative force, Morten Veland, the heart and the soul of the band. Admirable to say is, Sirenia is celebrating two decades of its existence this year, and even though there have been difficulties along the road, the Norwegian based ensemble is still going on strong. Throughout the years, they faced quite a few notable line-up changes and delivered noteworthy discography, with some stellar symphonic gothic releases, as well as a few albums, which felt a bit bland and repetitive. However, their tenth studio album, following a 2018 release Arcane Astral Aeons, brings a fresh approach to their music, which has divided the band’s fanbase.

Riddles, Ruins & Revelations offers so many aspects to go over. First is the biggest change in sound so far, as this is the first album that incorporates very straightforward electronic features to their gothic-rock inclined signature euphony. Sure, the band used keyboard melodies before to enrich the enthralling atmosphere in their esthesis, but this time they took quite a few steps further into exploring the fusion between electronic music and classical gothic metal style. It is the first album, not to attribute the classical Sirenian choir, which was consistently present on all their albums but is offering sampled Gregorian chants in the background to add a bit of mystery and arcane feel. Being a third album featuring the band’s fourth singer, Emmanuelle Zoldan, this is her best work with Sirenia, as she simply sounds more self-confident as were – you can hear she is completely comfortable within the band and knows just how to work with her voice to contribute to the overall sensation of the music.  Indeed, she is a very versatile singer, and, on this album, she displays her full abilities. One thing that cannot go unnoticed is also the dynamic guitar work, which is profoundly emphasized throughout each track and delivers some very clear-cut, outstanding guitar solos, to make sure a listener does not forget that Riddles, Ruins & Revelations is still a metal album.

Before the album's release, the band served the opening "Addiction No.1" as a single, and this track is a good example of the melange of soundscapes the album is delivering. It is catchy, rhythmically precise, with multiple layers of sounds intertwining, which translate into that representative sirenian atmosphere, a synthesis of inner struggles, mental decline, and lustful dolefulness. Another anthem with bombastic guitar riffs carrying out the tune and which also features Morten’s chthonic grunts would be the uncompromising "Into Infinity" and obscure and powerful "We Come to Ruins", which also displays a genuinely nice insertion of electronics to enhance the songs ambient. For those yearning, a bit more classical approach - and my highlight of the album - lays in "Downwards Spiral", a very vigorous and heavily atmospheric track, a song of changing tempos, enchanting guitar work and exceptional vocal work by Emmanuelle with accompanying clean vocal work by Joakim Næss. What cannot go unnoticed is the cover of Desireless pop hit from 1989, "Voyage Voyage", a nice wrap-up, taking a classical, smashing hit and metallizing it. I felt this track is also a  way to pay respects to Emannuelle, singing a  song in her mother tongue – let’s not forget this is something Sirenia has done before, as their 2011 album The Enigma Of Life delivered "Oscura Realidad" with Spanish lyrics and their 2015 release The Seventh Life Path contained "Tragica" a Spanish version of the track "Tragedienne", as their vocalist Ailyn at the time, was from Spain. The band also paid respect to their homeland with "Ditt Endelikt" and epic "Stille Kom Døden" with Norwegian lyrics on their 2013 album Perils Of The Deep Blue.

Rest assured, this is not Theatre Of Tragedy going Musique, but a well-produced, carefully equilibrated, and confident Sirenia release. The root of Riddles, Ruins & Revelations still lays in gothic metal as its main aspect is derived from powerful guitar tunes, tremendous vocal play, and steady rhythmic section, meliorated by using vintage synthpop aesthetics, portraying a wide array of obscure emotions. I only wish the use of chants would be a bit more expanded, and there would be more of Veland’s growls present to deepen and heighten the dark ambience of the sound. With this release Sirenia stated again that after twenty years, they are still going strong, being possibly more confident than ever. It may not be a release for those who still yearn for an album, which would follow At Sixes And Sevens or An Elixir For Existence, but it is a respectable evolutionary step of Sirenia.

The review was written by Ines
Rating: 8/10

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