Arcane Astral Aeons
Sirenia, a shining star in the Nordic symphonic gothic metal world, released their ninth album “Arcane Astral Aeons” through Napalm Records. I fell in love with this album when I first listened to it before interviewing Morten, on their latest tour. The dark fantasy style lyrics were brought to life by beautiful vocalist Emmanuelle Zoldan, complementing the rhythm and symphonic guitars and mystical keyboard. Combined with the contrasting Morten’s death metal singing, and the powerful heavy metal drums and bass. Forming their unique style and sound.
This is one of their first albums where all members of the band played in the recording studio. Morten is joined by Jan and Nils join on guitar, with some epic solos. Emmanuelle showcases her operatic, gothic vocal range, marking this as their second album together. Emmanuelle’s talents never cease to amaze, as she also brings French lyrics into the mix, in “Desire” and “Nos heures sombre”, which translates to “Our Dark Hours”. They were accompanied by the Sirenian Choir, consisting of Damien Surian, Emilie Bernou and Mathieu Landry. For recording they also invited guest stars Yannis Papadopoulos (Beast In Black, ex-Wardrum), Østen Bergøy (ex-Tristania) and Stéphanie Valentin. The secret up their sleeves was Stéphanie Valentin on violin, adding to the folk metal vibe. I particularly loved her solo on “The Voyage”. So, it really was a gothic metal collaboration, drawing inspiration and elements from across the genre.
My favourite track, of course, is the entrancing “Love Like Cyanide”. The single was released on the September 21st, 2018, with a lyric video directed by Swedish filmmaker and musician Owe Lingvall. The track starts with a gentle tune on the keyboards, then Emmanuelle’s vocals draw focus in the first rendition of the catchy chorus. The lyrics captivated me, on a personally level, funny how coincidental timing can be sometimes. Emmanuelle shows of her varied vocal talent, switching with ease between high and low pitches, with powerful, deep heavy metal vocals. She’s joined on vocals by the talented Yannis Papadopoulos, from the Finnish band Beast In Black. Halfway the vocals fade to allow the instruments to take centre stage. Going back to the light and mystical keyboard solo that started the song. There’s a twang and the mystical yet foreboding instrumental kicks in. As the heavy metal drums, eerie symphonic guitars and choirs deep and dark vocals are added to the mix. Then, for the last time, Emmanuelles’s beautiful voice calls out in the final rendition of the captivating chorus, above the throng of musical instruments, which fade til only the keyboard remains once more. Ending as it began.
One of the other key highlights of the album is “Into the Night”, which was also released as a single along with another stunning music video by Lingvall. It also starts with a light tinkling tune on the piano, joined by soft vocals by Emmanuelle. Then they suddenly pick up the pace, adding layers of heavy drums and symphonic guitars. With a catchy back and forth between Emmanuelle’s lyrical vocals and the deep, heavy male vocals, in the shared, repeated chorus. With the occasional bit of French thrown in for good measure! As the tracks draws to a close, the layers unpeel, until only the gentle mystical keyboard is left once again. Slowly fading into darkness.
I would also definitely recommend listening to “The Twilight Hour”, “Aerodyne” and “Glowing Ember”. “The Twilight Hour” picks up the pace with pounding drums as the other instruments pile in. Then Emmanuelle’s strong and powerful vocals call out above the heavy metal instrumental back drop. Creating a gothic masterpiece, that transcends into a symphonic power metal anthem. As Nils shows off with an electric fast solo.“Aerodyne” starts with a techno space odyssey vibe, which is contrasted by the added layer of a fast, symphonic, gothic organ melody. Flying open the doors to the church of heavy metal. Østen Bergøy (ex-Tristania) brought with him deep, sultry and raw vocals. Which beautifully complimented Emanuelle’s magical, lyrical vocals that ring out above the fast & heavy drums.
For a lighter change of pace, “Glowing Ember” leads you on a mystical tour, and then suddenly the heavy drums and deep vocals kick in. Switching effortlessly between the two styles throughout the track. Emmanuelle beautiful yet powerful vocals are backed by the Sirenian Choir. A powerful battle march, with pounding drums, calling all the forces of darkness. The lyrics tell tales of battles past, and glory won. Full of hope, dreams and desires, really telling the story within someone’s heart. Of the light that shines out in the dark.
I have always been a big fan of symphnic metal music (with folk elements), since first hearing Nightwish, and Sirenia do not disappoint. I was caught by the stunning combination of the mystical, fantasy lyrical vocals by Emmanuelle and Morten’s harsh and heavy metal vocals. And for this album they also added new styles of vocals by calling on the skills of Yannis, Østen and The Sirenian Choir. Backed by the hypnotic combination of heavy metal drums and bass, with symphonic and rhythm guitars. The lyrics follow their usual themes of love and hate, war and glory and mental strife, leading the listener down the path into a powerful, gothic metal masterpiece. Perhaps the best Sirenia album to date!