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Sirenia - Dim Days of Dolor

Sirenia - CD Review
Dim Days of Dolor

Sirenia - Dim Days of Dolor

CD Info
Napalm Music
12 Tracks
English Lyrics


It has been a while since my last review. I believe that the last album review I tackled as a solo-writer, without the fantastic assistant of C., was Sirenia’s previous release from May, 208, The Seventh Life Path. In that review, I was fairly critical of the release, feeling that the album’s poor sound-mixing and slightly uninspired elements artistically restricted the album from reaching the greater heights that the music’s stronger points of well-instrumentalized emotivity promised. This album is suffused with far more craftier instances of artful music choices, blending the harsh vocals in a far more seamless fashion with that of the beautiful, fluid voice of the band’s new vocalist Emmanuelle Zoldan.

Emmanuelle Zoldan, a French mezzo-sopranist, is clearly well-versed in the band’s signature slightly distorted, melodic gothic metal sound, adding a much needed operatic flair with her voice. Moreover, she carries Ailyn’s lower alto notes with a deftness one would expect from a vocalist who served as a member of the Sirenia choir for nearly 13 consecutive years. One of my many complaints I had with their last album was the somewhat underused vocalist Ailyn, whose voice seemed purposely muted by either the poor sound-mixing or the inexpert overuse of the harsh vocals. In contrast with this album, the harsh vocals are used far more judicially, positioned in places where the timbre of Emmanuelle’s voice can be more fully heard and appreciated by the listener.

Most important, the guitar riffs themselves seem more tastefully utilized and incorporated, flitting their way in-and-out through Emmanuelle’s mezzo-soprano trills, underscored by a melodramatic dimension of hard vocals, in fatalistically-titled tracks like “The 12th Hour.” In the album’s title track “Dim Days of Dolor,” the sound seems partly inspired by the Avantasia song “Draconian Love” (from their most recent masterpiece Ghostlight), as both brilliantly blend the sense of the finitude of misery with a more eternal crescendo of hope, as well as a slightly subdued bombast that is never overwrought at any point. Throughout this song, all dimensions of their sound are clearly displayed, recurrent throughout this whole album, lending to a sound that leaves the listener feeling more invested in the album as a whole.

The band also never forsakes its murky drifts of lachrymose intensity. In songs like “Treason and Treasure,” you are immediately swept up in the drifts of a psychedelic, trance-like wave of deceptively predictictable drum beats and capriciously errant guitar riff, placing the listener on a vigilant watch for malevolent forces in their vicinity. Almost instantaneously, though, Emmanuelle's beguiling voice breaks through to the listener, snapping them decisively out of that watchful train of thought. Her voice is the breaker of more somber pauses throughout the music, This far more symmetrical, clearer blending of the music truly raises the quality of the album to much higher stratospheres, insofar that the band can preserve their gothic metal namesake while also bravely letting their vocalist take a far more pivotal role in the sound. In Sirenia’s past albums, their greatest problem lay with a far too constrained vocalist, whose voice was always drowned out by the sound, or was never used in a way that was amenable to the sound; therefore, the result was an often off-putting muddled clash that made the album topple over entirely. When some bands select new vocalists, it tends to be a step back, but for this album, the new vocalist seems far more familiar with the sound, contributing to a voice that never falters, but rather rises to the challenge of bravely accompanying the music.

Even though “Tragedienne,” the ending ballad for The Seventh Life Path, was darkly beautiful, the gratuitous distortion completely detracted from the full-blown beauty of what could have been an otherwise moving piece. In this album’s spiritual cousin to Tragedienne, Aeon’s Embrace has a sound, much like the rest of the album, that is balanced far better, and Emmanuelle’s voice is appropriately wistful and mournful, but not in a contrived, forced way. Her voice, overall, has a soft , yet forceful clarity, encapsulating the whole awe-inspiring beauty of resounding hope that imbues the whole interior core of this soulful album. The song, like the whole of the album, serves as a surprising edifying celebration of life, even when our mind otherwise persists in a deliberate dolor.

With a more skilled, versatile vocalist at the helm though and far better sound-mixing, Sirenia's latest album is definitely worth your time and consideration, particularly if you were somehow left feeling disappointed or jaded after their last release. In my eyes, it is a vast improvement over the band’s last album, and it might potentially be my fourth favorite album of the year, topped only by the most recent albums from Tarja, Delain, and Epica, but edging out Amaranthe's latest album Maximalism. I really hope the band considers making their way over to the states for a tour, perhaps opening for a band like either Delain or Epica, because they are now in a position they can competitively enter the fray of other bands that have improved leaps and bounds to the point of being real contenders in the symphonic metal world.