2016 was a tumultuous year: some ebb of good but mainly there was a flow of uncertainty. Norwegian symphonic metal band, Sirenia, contributed no small amount of uncertainty of their own when they announced a change in their lineup (along with minor alterations to their usual musical style) by replacing their long-standing vocalist, Ailyn.
Sirenia was formed in 2001 when Morten Veland left Tristania due to creative differences. Veland has proven to be innately talented in every endeavour he has undertaken and his continued masterstrokes are prominent with each Sirenia output, on top of his one-man side-project which he formed in 2009 – Mortemia.
Ailyn, vocalist since 2009, was replaced in September 2016 by Emmanuelle Zoldan, a regular of the band’s Sirenian Choir for the past 13 years. Zoldan’s mezzo-soprano voice makes her a more than capable replacement, and this just one of the distinct changes featuring on the band’s latest album, ‘Dim Days of Dolor’, released through record label Napalm Records.
Vocally, previous albums carried a melodic, almost poppish aura thanks to Ailyn’s idol-like voice, whereas ‘Dim Days of Dolor’ gives off a more borderline symphonic power metal edge as Zoldan’s commanding operatic voice carries a range that is on par with the likes of ex-Nightwish vocalist Tarja Turunen or Xandria’s Dianne van Giersbergen. Not only do Zoldan’s vocals provide emotional depth but they fit comfortably with the dramatic nature of the lyrics on the album, concerning love, death, mental degradation, betrayal and the human condition.
‘Dim Days of Dolor’ has several other facets that stand out from previous albums: there is a significant lack of harsh vocals from Veland (only 3 tracks featured), the gloomy heaviness that gave each song aural intensity is absent and the symphonic/choir arrangement that is part and parcel of the band’s style is restrained. This all equates to an album that keeps the bare essentials but still sounds like a typical Sirenia album.
The first track “Goddess of the Sea” showcases Zoldan’s classical opera training straight off the bat, reaching notes unheard of before. The other track that makes excellent use of Zoldan’s talents is “The 12th Hour” which delivers a haunting performance – expect frisson.
“Playing with Fire” is easily the album’s most accessible track with a catchy chorus and soothing gothic metal melody alongside heavy guitar play that is sure to become a staple of live shows.
2016 brought out politics in every quarter and the track “Fifth Column” is a wry and subtle political track with lyrics concerning enemies of the state and forces bent on disrupting society.
Criticisms that need to be mentioned: the aforementioned reduced harsh vocals and the symphonic/choir elements which feel underutilised, along with the fact that there could have been more interplay between the two vocalists but the album has them perform separately like two lovers in separate rooms of the same house.
Another point worth mentioning and this may be nit-picking: Sirenia have a way with making their brand of symphonic metal a little on the corny side, especially with regards to lyrics. That’s not to say it is bad (Veland is an exceptional musician), but it is easy to notice how the formula is consistently applied throughout the album and while this might bore a more discriminating ear, it does makes their music generally more accessible to others.
‘Dim Days of Dolor’ is an ambitious album with a new vocalist brought to the forefront; several liberties have been taken and the rest of this review can only make fans guess what Veland and crew have in store for Sirenia as each consecutive album with a new vocalist has shown gradual improvement, if past albums are a reasonable indication. In the end, ‘Dim Days of Dolor‘ is an enjoyable and competent album.
Morten Veland – guitars, drums, harsh vocals, bass, programming, keyboards
Emmanuelle Zoldan – Female Vocals
Damian Surian, Mathieu Landry, Emilie Bernou – The Sirenian Choir
Jonathan A. Perez – Drums (Live sessions)
Jan Erik Soltvedt – Guitars (Live sessions)
‘Dim Days of Dolor’ Track Listing:
- Goddess of the Sea
- Dim Days of Dolor
- The 12th Hour
- Treasure n’ Treason
- Cloud Nine
- Veil of Winter
- Ashes to Ashes
- Elusive Sun
- Playing with Fire
- Fifth Column
- Aeon’s Embrace
- 'Dim Days of Dolor' - 8/108/10