With the passing of 2010, the hopes for a better year in terms of music got raised to the sky. If not anything else, then 2011 will at least be fertile in terms of one concrete "sub-genre", as some people tend to categorize it - the so called "female fronted" metal bands, for the joy of their followers and the abhorrence of those who still claim that women do not deserve a place in metal. Regardless of which side you stand on, one of the pioneers of the symphonic gothic metal scene marked the start of the female fronted crusade, resulting in the fifth album of Sirenia
while the ex-habitation of Morten - Tristania
, released a completely shallow and senseless "Rubicon", "The Enigma of Life
" of Mr. Veland comes to show that he's always capable of presenting the scene something else in addition to his undoubtedly great contribution as one of the founders of the style.
The first surprise is that the singer Ailyn makes an appearance for a second time - not that she didn't score a great debut in the previous opus of the band, but we all know that Morten has a bad habit of constantly changing his vocalists. "The Enigma of Life
" is the first record in a decade (excluding the EP "Sirenian Shores
"), which corresponds directly with the vocal side of its predecessor. What's more to it, the musical direction hasn't changed at all, except for the clean singing of the creator of the group in addition to his angry growls, infusing a semi-diversion - something necessary after the tragic death of Jan Kenneth Barkved who was responsible for the clean vocals in "The 13th Floor
". Yet despite the successful direction, the symmetry between the two albums is somewhat irritating - whether because of the almost identical compositional structure or the sharpened focus on Ailyn's sweetened voice, many of the songs sound dangerously similar to each other and are easily forgettable. Therein lies the only stain on the entire picture - something that wasn't exploited to such an extend and therefore was not a problem several years ago.
Having this in mind, everything else is gradually what one would expect from an album with the Sirenia
brand on its cover - the choir participation of Morten's constant companions of his favorite French choir formation (which crowned the debut of Mortemia
not long ago), as well as a lot of pleasant symphonies, enriched by violins ("The Twilight
in Your Eyes
", "The Enigma of Life
"). The atmospheric approach is captivating as always - despite the overall feeling of a melancholy spreading its thick veil all over the entire record, now and then Mr. Veland goes for a different, more cheerful sound (“This Darkness
”, “Winter Land
”, “This Lonely Lake
”). The choir use and the duet lines between Ailyn and Morten are well balanced with his familiar melodious solos, shaping the final image of the songs. Floor
in order to not stay behind the shining stars from the discography of the band up to date, the album has several impressive contrast moments as the soundtrack keyboard magic "A Seaside Serenade
" and the hit orientation of "Darkened Days to Come" and "Coming Down
", strangely occupying the very middle of the record.
The opus makes use of a convenient, but in no way unpleasant repetition of an old formula, which will win over the fans of late Sirenia
and maybe even the followers of Morten's works in general. Those who still live and breathe with hopes for "Beyond
part 2" and want more of the same but despise female vocals, are free to check out Mortemia
's "Misere Mortem
" in which Veland is at his best; not to mention we'll probably hear the second album of the project by the end of 2011. Until then, "The Enigma of Life
" is an album capable enough to reward the patience of the fans.