Sirenia – 1977
Release Date: 26/05/23
Running Time: 47:01
Review by Dark Juan
If you are a regular reader of the nonsense I feverishly scribble masquerading as record reviews, you will no doubt recall that Dark Juan is a fan of the Gothic, the Vaudevillian and the sumptuous. Dark Juan appreciates the finer things in life, like excellent wines, good food and gazing upon beauty in all its forms – be it the human form or Renaissance religious art, or Hieronymous Bosch or HR Giger. With this love of the rich and lavish extravagance comes a deep seated and barely hidden appreciation of the darkness of the human condition. There is a curious and febrile beauty in the splatter of blood up a white wall after an artery has been severed, or in the pale skin of a recently dead cadaver or in the suffering of some poor innocent getting flayed to within an inch of their life by some pervert with a bullwhip. Nevertheless, beauty comes in a myriad of forms and Dark Juan appreciates it all and so should you. Rejoice in the beauty of sexual union, in a simple glass of beer or in music of every type you can lay your grubby little mitts on. That way lies happiness.
The Platter Of Splatter™ has been coaxed once more into life and is spinning merrily as it plays the latest offering from multinational epic Gothic Metallers Sirenia, “1977”. This band have been in existence for 20 years after main man Morten quit Tristania and set up his own group. The musical blueprint is pretty much the same, although with this release Sirenia claim to have merged 70s and 80s pop rock stylings with synthwave elements. This is most evident on ‘The Setting Darkness’ which (according to the rather fucked up mind of Dark Juan, to be sure) appears to have merged a kind of disco vibe and tempo with a chorus that would be more than worthy of Papa Emeritus at his finest. There’s a proper flashy guitar solo with lots of whammy bar abuse too. Imagine Papa violating David Coverdale while Adrian Vandenberg and Steve Vai watch and take pictures while they are playing Gothic ABBA records. Yeah, that’s a mental image you won’t be easily shifting anytime soon, friends.
‘A Thousand Scars’ really does appear to reference Depeche Mode in the arrangement of the electronics during the verse – the chorus is full on choir-backed Gothic Metal pompousness, however, and the middle portion of the song goes steaming off into a gossamer-covered alcove with a luxuriously appointed kissing chair that the vocals of Emmanuelle Zoldan gesture you to after draping itself decorously over it and tells you to “Paint her like one of your French girls”.
That metaphor doesn’t really work. It doesn’t work because Emmanuelle is actually French. And it doesn’t work with any other nationality or even another French possession or province. “Paint me like one of your girls from La Réunion” does not adequately serve, and I always strive to give you satisfaction, dear reader.
‘Fading To The Deepest Black’ picks up its gorgeously appointed silk skirts and offers an intro of some uncompromising blastbeats before settling down into a song that offers a bit of lovely vocal interplay between the deep tones of Morten and the mezzo-soprano of Emmanuelle. ‘Dopamine’ directly references the highly-produced Pop-Rock of the 80s in everything from the drumming and the central guitar riff on the verse, while piano glissandos coruscate behind the vocal on the chorus. You can imagine outlandishly coiffed lad and lasses in tight black spandex throwing massive shapes on an oversized stage with ease when you listen.
So, yeah, the 70s and 80s are referenced gloriously, but does it work in a Gothic Operatic Metal blueprint? Surprisingly yes, it does. Now, think about Ghost. And drop your prejudices about them, trve metallers and types who think Metallica stopped being good after 1989. Ghost are Metal as fuck – their sound is based on 70s and 80s Rock and Metal classics and this is what Sirenia are trying to replicate, but within their signature sumptuous Gothic Metal standard and also somewhat haphazardly welding on some Synthwave sounds as well. This reviewer feels that the band could have left the Synthwave out and concentrated a little more on the retro Rock sounds. Also, and this became a major bugbear on multiple listens – every fucking guitar solo starts the same way with a rapid-fire barrage of notes. However, covering a Tanita Tikaram song in ‘Twist In My Sobriety’ in Sirenia’s distinctive fashion is a bit of a plus.
To conclude – Sirenia prove they still have it after 20 years, but also reveal why they have never been a top-tier Operatic Gothic Metal act. There is too much reliance on chugging on the guitars throughout the album and the sameness of the solos is a pain in the arse to be quite honest. It’s a good album, but “1977” is by no means a great album. It’s destined for the edge of the rack where it will be visited infrequently, and then more for the wonderful seduction of Emmanuelle Zoldan’s voice than any particularly memorable songs. A disappointment, despite a magnificently extravagant production and sound throughout.
The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System awards Sirenia 7/10 for an album that could have been hot as fuck but ends up being a bit of a simp.
02. Wintry Heart
04. The Setting Darkness
05. A Thousand Scars
06. Fading To The Deepest Black
07. Oceans Away
10. Timeless Desolation
11. Twist In My Sobriety
Morten Veland – Vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards
Emmanuelle Zoldan – Vocals
Nils Courbaron – Guitars
Michael Brush – Drums
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