ARCANE ASTRAL AEONS
Release date: 26 October 2018
Two years after ‘Dim Days of Dolor’, mastermind Morten Veland presents the ninth Sirenia album: ‘Arcane Astral Aeons’, once again reflecting the Norwegian’s love of title alliterations and succeeds in infusing the darkest night with the brightest colors. Veland began composing for the album at the beginning of 2018 during the break of an intense North American tour that Sirenia finished in April, and details revealed that it will have the same production as to that of their predecessor work. In contrast to any other Sirenia album, all members contributed in the recording studio. Specifically, live guitarists Jan Erik Soltvedt and Nils Courbaron both played guitar solos on several tracks. Additionally, Emmanuelle Zoldan wrote the French lyrics in two songs.
Getting into the album, ‘In Styx Embrace’ opens the album with a very powerful sounds of symphonic metal and with band’s own Sirenian Choir, I was really amazed how impeccable the string arrangements is and how heavy it was, really awesome!
In Styx Embrace
Into the Night
Love Like Cyanide
Queen of Lies
Nos hueres sombres
The Twilight Hour
Love Like Cyanide - Edit
The classical mezzo-soprano voice of Emmanuelle compliments well with symphonic orchestra in the chorus line, giving the song a very warm but dark tones. Ferocious black metal to calm acoustic thrown into the mix proves how varied and well-orchestrated Sirenia has gotten since the predecessor. ‘Into the Night’ comes in with atmospheric keys and the soft vocalizations of Emma. In the next verse the song goes all out symphonic, following the same formula from the previous track but more melodic, and Emmanuelle displays her operatic voice before going more into the rock style. With a catchy chorus line with the choir chanting to the song's title, and the an epic guitar solo, the song can really get you first-pumping and headbanging at their shows. ‘Love Like Cyanide’ is the band's single, and features Yannis Papadopoulos of Beast in Black. This song has surprising range musically with each singer associating to the sound; opening with symphonic sound of the piano with Emma’s angelic vocals, transitioning to heavy metal when Yannis comes in with his harsh clean vocals, and then to the traces of black metal. The chorus has some pop influences, while feeling out of place in this metal infested track in to coexist to get fans hooked to song, in which it certainly did for me. Next, ‘Desire’ is personally my favorite of the album, starting off very retro with the sounds of sci-fi from the ominous synthesizers; extraterrestrial melodies that makes this song very catchy and bouncy. Emma sings seductively, especially in her native language around 2:50 mark as the song takes a whimsically turn and sounds as it was being played on an old time radio, the only downside is the black metal is also sprinkled into this song which felt it was getting overused at this point, hoping this song would separate itself from the first half of the album, but overall Emma's voice is really a standout in this track. ‘Asphyxia’ continues the soft electronic atmospheres before going in heavy gothic metal with a very groovy tone of the electric guitar. Powerful and complex instrumentals with an engaging chorus line, must have be a challenging song for the band to record into making this a melodic masterpiece. The sixth track ‘Queen of Lies’ has certainly caught my attention because by the title, it sounds like a heavy track. Right off the bat, already starts off with thunderous riffs, thunderous percussion, and a lot of orchestral work. An epic, upbeat start until moving out the way to the black metal favor of Morten's growls, and with Emma's operatic vocals before the song intertwines the light and dark creating compelling melodies in the shortest track on the album.
‘Nos hueres sombres’ (trans. Our Dark Hours) is a track solely written by Zoldan, an already straightforward metal track with French lyrics, the song is very catchy in the chorus and with strong buildup as it progress through the song. Heavy chugging riffs takes of in ‘The Voyage', beautiful lead vocals paves the way in a rhythmic matter. Technical yet heavy, the band put some variety of acoustic and a lovely classical violin solo, but I think Sirenia played a bit safe on this one. ‘Aerodyne’ features a very special guest, and also former bandmate of Morten in his Tristania days, Østen Bergøy. Opening with big string arrangements, and then already changing in a heavy upbeat mood with Emma's light vocals and catchy lyrically melodies. Midway we go more acoustic and hear the smooth baritone vocals of Bergøy, throwing us back to the sound of classic Tristania, and then to heavy ‘Perils of the Deep’ verses with intense growls until it recapitulates to the catchy mood. ‘The Twilight Hour’ breaks in with epic orchestral and power metal arrangements with a operatic lead soaring through the verses with the choir, and a guitar solo after the midway point. Last track ‘Growing Embers’ closes the album by starting off with acoustic tones and hammers down to very tight guitar playing while Emma brings out the emotion of the lyrics with her beautiful voice. The song has a complicated instrumentation; alternating between soft-slow and heavy-fast, amazing riffs and string arrangements with powerful Epica-like choirs, closing the album on a strong note.
This a great successor to “Dims Days of Dolor”, though I have some complaints about the album that it tends to repeat the same formula track after track, but still a very solid album that emphasizes the symphonic and gothic elements that describes Sirenia and soon reaching the heights to where Nightwish and Epica stand.
I give this album a 8.95 out of 10.
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Morten Veland – vocals (harsh), guitars lead, rhythm, acoustic) bass, keyboards, drums (programming)
Jan Erik Soltvedt – lead guitars
Emmanuelle Zoldan – vocals
Nils Courbaron – lead guitars