Band Interviews, Music Reviews, Sirenia

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I arrived at the gig venue for the interview and I was led backstage, down the stairs and along a winding corridor. We found a small back room that was further away from where they were sound testing, but could still hear the booming drums on the background. It was fantastic to meet the talented Morten Veland, of the gothic metal band Sirenia, all the way from Norway. It was an absolute pleasure chatting with Morten, and hearing about his creative processes. Sounds like Sirenia have found their perfect line-up, musically and socially, now Nils and Emmanuelle have joined the band. And this will only mean bigger and better things for Sirenia in the future. With Emmanuelle and Nils injecting a fresh sound and unique vocals, they’re at the helm ready to help Morten propel the band to new heights.

How did you create the new album “Arcane Astral Aeons”? Any particular inspirations or influences?

M: Pretty much the same influences as always. I found that the Scandinavian winter is very inspirational to me; it gets cold and dark early. It makes me really calm, and gets into the composition mode. I can draw inspirations from anything around me, anything around me that makes an impression. (i.n.: Yeah, I can imagine! Must be really beautiful and peaceful.)

How did you come up with the album title “Arcane Astral Aeons”?

M: The album title is normally the last thing I do. I write the compositions, and then move on to lyrics. I normally have some basic ideas that I build from. Lastly, I chose a title, try and find one that reflects what the album is about, or the general atmosphere of it.

It’s been two years since the previous album with Emmanuelle on vocals – what has changed on the songwriting part and what are the new elements that you introduce on the new album “Arcane Astral Aeons”?

M: Most of the composition techniques have remained the same. But with Emmanuelle joining the band it has opened up a lot of doors and possibilities. She has a great voice span, whatever we throw at her, she can fit it. It’s a songwriters dream! She also contributed some lyrics on this album too. For the song “Desire” I wrote half the lyrics, and Emmanuelle wrote the French side. She also translated some parts from French to English for me. (i.n.: A girl of many talents then!)

Why did you decide to do a pledge campaign for “Arcane Astral Aeons”?

M: I started my music career 22 years ago, I have seen the whole industry changing a lot. Some for good, some for bad. In general there is less money in the music industry now. I want to keep improving and creating better and better music, but it’s hard with reduced budgets, so that’s challenging for sure. But we’re definitely not compromising on quality. And we saw the rise of crowdfunding, and thought it would be great to get the fans involved, and enable us to do what we needed to do to make a top quality album.

Do you believe that “Arcane Astral Aeons” is even more cohesive and ambitious as an album than the previous ones?

M: Yeah, I think we’ve broken in as a group now; we’ve been working really hard, and touring more than ever. So I feel we’re more fixed as a band, they all give a good proportion of their time to the band.

You also have a new lead guitarist on board, Nils Courbaron. Even though he has played live with Sirenia before, he is not regarded as a permanent member of the band, right? How did this occur?

M: He joined a year ago, he was filling it as lead guitar, and it fit really, really well. We were actually looking for a bass player, but couldn’t find anyone with the right fit. Then Nils came along, as it just fit perfect, so I decided to switch to bass, and let the other two guys take guitars. I’m very used to playing bass in the studio, but not much live. So it’s actually feels really new and fresh.

Funny how things work out, you can never predict it! But it’s great that you found a good fit and to complete the line-up.

M: Yeah it wasn’t what we were planning, but just felt right from the start!

Q: How have fans responded to the new album?

M: The album’s still really fresh, but we’ve had a lot of great feedback already! We had a release party in Russia, St. Petersburg on the day it came out. And the crowd was singing along to the new songs even though it had only been out for a day! And we’re really enjoying playing the new songs live.

How did you come up with the name Sirenia initially?

M: I’ve always been in to classical Greek mythology and Norse mythology. (i.n.: So, I was curious and had a quick look up about Sirenia in Greek mythology, it’s derived from the sirens of Greek mythology. That lured men to their deaths, and gave roots to the myths of mermaids.)

Do you prefer to be on the road or on the studio writing and recording?

M: I like both; both have their charms and up-sides, and their challenges. I love being in the studio, creative part, writing songs from scratch, building them up to get better and better. It’s a very satisfying process. But after working for long periods of time in the studio, you feel a bit anti-social, so you can’t wait to go back on the road and meet people. But again when you’re on the road for a long time, you start to miss the studio! So it’s great to have the two together, they balance each other.”

What are those lessons that you have learnt over the course of your career and what are those things that keep you going on after all these years?

M: The whole time, from the beginning to now has been a constant learning process. Seeing the industry changing so much and so fast. It’s about trying to adapt to the new stuff that’s coming out, which is challenging for sure. You build your experiences and try to learn from them and take away the positives. When you’re travelling it is great, you meet so many different bands, and it’s very social, so you can learn from each other experiences too. It’s a lot about trying and failing, especially in the beginning, and there’s a lot to be learnt from doing mistakes.

Yeah, try and error is often best! Not so much at the time, admittedly, but it the future! You always learn the most from your mistakes.

M: You won’t make the same mistake again!

What are your future plans after touring?

M: For now it’s a lot of promoting the new album. Then we’ll have a small break. And then off to a festival in the Czech Republic. And then start touring the beginning of next year! So a lot on the horizon.

If you could play in any country, where would you choose?

M: At the top of my list would be Japan, it’s one of those countries we haven’t been to yet. And I’ve been wanted to go for ages. It’s a country that’s really different, and has its own unique culture.

Ohh, I love anything Japanese, so I’m definitely onboard!

M: We’ve been in discussions with someone over there, and I’m hoping we should be over there within the next year. And a run of ten shows in China and other countries in Asia.

Ah brilliant, so a full Asian tour! Would be a bit of a trek for one show! I’m very jealous.

M: I would also like to do a show in Africa, as it’s the only continent we haven’t performed in.

Ah, so you need to tick it off your checklist!

M: We have had some offers from places in South Africa, but they didn’t go through in the end. But we’d love to do one soon for the experience.

Anything you want try or explore in the future? Such as, genre, instruments or lyrical themes.

M: For every album I try to come up with something different, something new, or something we haven’t tried before. So I’m always on the lookout for a new sound, or new instruments. This album kind of drained me a bit, so I will take a little break before starting the new album. For now I’m just enjoying being on the road, after months in the recording studio!

What shall the fans expect from Sirenia in the future?

M: We haven’t played much in the UK yet, so we would like to tour around the UK more.

Concert Reviews, Music Reviews, Sirenia

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Sirenia are a delectable gothic metal band, hailing all the way from Norway. Started by the talented Morten Veland, famous for his time in Tristania. I luckily caught them on their first leg of their tour, since releasing their ninth album “Arcane Astral Aeons” in late October 2018. They are joined on this tour by the fantastic Triosphere, Paratra and Mind Whispers. Sirenia combine powerful drums and bass, with rhythm and symphonic guitars. Which bring to life the deep and dark lyrical themes of love and hate, life and death, emotions and mental states.

With three supporting acts, the small room was pretty packed before Sirenia hit the stage, with cheers ringing out at their first step onto the stage. Since the delectable Emmanuelle joined the band in 2016, they have developed the depth of their songs. Adding in layers of new elements and sounds, whilst bringing back components and their mind-set from their earlier days with Nightwish. Which struck a chord with me personally, as Nightwish were the first band that got me hooked on symphonic power metal.

They played one of the songs from the new album “Queen of Lies”. It started with deep, heavy drums and Emmanuelle’s high falsetto scream. The contrast between the high, lyrical female vocals and the deep, death-metal male vocals. Creating an impressive vocal range and combination of sounds. In response to the raucous applause, Emmanuelle says “Thank you very much, we love you guys”! Which was answer by a fan in the audience shouting out “we love you too”!

Nils gets the crowd clapping along to a song from their new album. The drums and guitars create a slow, deep and ominous backdrop to Emmanuelle’s gentle and mystical lyrical solo. Then the drums crash in, signifying a change in tone, as everything deepens and darkens, increasing in pace and heaviness. Creating a dark magic concoction of sounds. “Come on London, let me f***ing hear you”! “My Mind’s Eye” starts with a beautiful and mystical opening few bars, then in crash the drums marking the split change in genre. And lastly, ending on one of their classics, “The Other Side”. Then all too soon it was over.

With the crowd screaming and chanting “one more song, one more song”… they couldn’t disappoint their fans, and returned for a killer encore. Starting with probably their most famous song “The Path to Decay”. Which starts with this psychedelic sci-fi meld of sounds, then slowly builds up, and crashes into a heavy metal storm. Finally, they went back to their roots in the final song, and playing one of their classics from their first album, “Sister Nightfall”. “Thank you so very much, it’s been a pleasure as always”…

Triosphere, the Norwegian heavy metal band, were the final support act. Their songs were filled with fast pounding drums, electric guitar riffs and high, screaming vocals. With Tor and Marius joining Ida as backup vocalists, adding an extra dimension of depth with the combination of male and female vocals. They made a formidable line up, with the two guitarists and bassist owning the stage, with wide stance power poses. And impressively head-banging their long hair in unison.

They treated us with a few songs from their new album, such as “Steal Away the Night”, which started with a fast pounding drum beat, with the audience clapping along. Then the guitars crash in. Lastly, joined by the soft vocals that grew in speed and heaviness, as did the instruments, as the song progressed. “Time to get those fists up in the air”! “Hey, hey, hey”! The crowd chants and pumps their fists into the air. Then in smash the drums and guitars with a fast, heavy beat. Only out down by the triple vocals harmonising. Afterwards Ida sips from a water bottle and holding it up, she adds a little humour an says: “I really wish this was a beer, but there would be a lot of mess on stage”!

Another fantastic song from the new album was “Breathless”, starting with a beautiful, gentle vocals, with a light drum background, created a mystical beginning. Building into a hard rocker, as the guitars and heavy drums crash in. But interchanging between the soft and heavy tones throughout. Creating a varied and different sound to the previous songs. They ended on two last songs from their new album, “Relentless” and “The Hearts Dominion”. They had wonderfully heavy, deep and dark vocals and drums. Finishing with the gracious; “Thank you so endlessly much”!

Paratra are a novel Electronic Rock band hailing all the way from Mumbai! And confessed to being a little nervous, as it was their first time playing in the UK! Their unique sound comes from their mix of old and new instruments and genres, which contrast yet also complement each other. This comes from the combination of the enchanting Sitar, modern Synth and the amazing high falsetto screams. They started with some killer songs, such as “Inferno”, “Waves of Time’ and “Willpower”. “Duality” started with a strong beat, getting the audience to clap along. Continuing the audience interaction they got them chanting along with the “oi oi oi!”… ending on the fantastic song “Stairway”.

The first supporting act was Mind Whispers, a Melodic Death Metal band from France. They had a powerful aesthetic with the band in matching black military uniforms, and the lead singer in contrasting white. All the more surprising when he came out with brilliant deep, raw and throaty screams and growls. “Again” was my favourite song they played, it had a slow ominous start. With a gradual crash on the keys, the guitars and drums slowly joined the mix, building in pace and intensity. It would be the perfect soundtrack to a gothic horror!

Sirenia are a mystical Viking metal storm! With the amazing contrast between Emmanuelle’s high, lyrical vocals and falsetto screams next to Morten and Nils deep death metal vocals. Although Emmanuelle and Nils joined not that long ago, they seem to fit in perfectly and altogether make the best line-up for the band yet. Starting the next chapter for the band, and ensuring they are all set to take the symphonic power metal genre to the next level!

Album Reviews, Music Reviews, Sirenia

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Arcane Astral Aeons

Album Review

Napalm Records


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 SurianEmilie 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!