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Thursday 1 June 2023

Reviews: Sirenia, Dark Side Of The Moon, Paracrona, King Of The Dead (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Mark Young)

Sirenia - 1977 (Napalm Records) [Matt Bladen]

As the symphonic metal genre expands from it's late 90's beginnings, more of the veteran bands are adding new strings to their bows, from moving towards folk or pop, and adding lots of electronics from the dance music scene, bands such as Sirenia are doing what they can to stay relevent more than 20 years after their formation. 

On 1977, the band have found a musical time machine to add synthwave and 70's/80's pop sounds to their already established symphony metal pomp. Again Morten Veland plays and produces everything with the exception of guitar solos and drums, using his gruff vocals agains the classically trained Mezzo soprano of Emmanelle Zoldan who is on her fourth album with the group and fits in comfortably no matter what style they are attempting. 

Always a bit edgier and darker than many of their contemporaries, Sirenia weave a more gothic web with tales of loss and melancholy on Fading Into Deepest Black. Continuing the thematic style they started on their last record, Nomadic is epic and cinematic, the use of the pop is brought to a much heavier sound on A Thousand Scars as well as the bouncy Dopamine and synthwave is the driving force behind Oceans Away and Timeless Desolation. The fusion of genres make sure that there are pieces that will get you excite and engage you. 

Closing out with a cover of Twist In My Sobriety by Tanita Tikaram, which sticks close to the original though it has a metallic twist, even having a synth-oboe. Sirenia still evolve but never shift too far from being one of the symphony metal originators. With synths and danceable rhythms 1977 is another worthy addition to their catalogue. 7/10

Dark Side Of The Moon - Metamorphosis (Napalm Records) [Matt Bladen]

Surprisingly not a Pink Floyd covers band, Dark Side Of The Moon however do throw in a few covers on this record, which has an over arching concept of being heroes. Something of a collaborative project featuring members from Feuerschwanz, Amaranthe and Ad Infinitum, Metamorphosis is their debut album and comes about as the result of a dare between vocalist Melissa Bonny and guitarists Hans Platz, Hans won and challenged Melissa to record a metal version of Jenny Of The Oldstones from Game Of Thrones. 

From here's it's spiraled into other covers/metal versions plus their own songs dedicated to heroes from fiction, film and TV. From Lord Of The Rings captured on Misty Mountains, which features Tom S Englund and Enya's song May It Be which features Charlotte Wessels, to League Of Legends (Legends Never Die), Harry Potter (Double Trouble/Lumos Hedwig's Theme, the theme from the TV show Vikings; If I Had A Heart and The Woven Storm from The Witcher video game. 

There are more covers than originals here but The Gates Of Time (dedicated to the Legend Of Zelda series) but with the excellent playing of all those involved especially Bonny's vocals, The Dark Side Of The Moon could easily evolve into a fully fledged band with their own influenced metal sound if they record fewer covers next time. 7/10

Paracrona - Sun God (Self Released) [Mark Young]

Paracrona are another new band on me, hailing from Oslo and bringing with them their spin on black metal, adding in some symphonic and progressive touches on their debut Paracrona release, Sun God.

New Impunity has some tight riffing, low end in effect. BM vocals, double bass as per usual. There is a heady mix of musicality and brutality on offer here as it moves through it’s near 8-minute run time in a suitably grand album opener. This is a great start and Carry the Cross keeps the good stuff coming – heavy on the melodic, some brilliant guitar work, all tasteful and working for the song. Thriller starts off with an almost heavy rock intro that gets discarded for some dirty trem picking that races along. Vocals switch from BM to deep DM as they unleash some chord moments that almost lighten things up. Almost, as the chords ring out against manic drumming and some more excellent chugging. We break free of the chug and take off for the final minutes for a cool melodic break, drumming once again on point.

Sun God with a slow start and deeper than deep growls then straight into traditional Black metal. Just furious stuff but managing to keep that melodic side of things in full view. Their ability to mix up genres / styles within the same song but keep it in context so it flows is just marvellous. The use of piano here is sparing as they drop into an atmospheric break with ethereal singing that allows them to launch forward, keeping this backing there. Again, it is cracking stuff and certainly gives them on the debut a high platform to kick on from. Mendacious echoes Sun God with that deliberately measured start before they hit the gas and deliver another tear through. Its quality in itself, possibly too much like the preceding track, but this is the sort of thing they will look to avoid with the next release.

River Of Pain on the other hand starts fast, with that quick tempo that Black Metal is renowned for. What they do here is temper it with those shining chords again, set against some speedy double bass. When they drop a gear to start chugging it just gets the head moving, mixing it up with speedier riffing that’s not just one note. There is a brilliant break that feels almost Egyptian in attack that’s not overdone. Again, the arrangement here is fantastic, everything finely balanced. An almost swing-type feel heralds the start of Therefore I Move The Time before those blast beats kick in and the guitars come to kick your head in. There is some frenetic movement here and is one of the stand-out tracks.

With that, we head to the Gates Of Immortality for the final track. Everything leading up to this has been top class and of course they nail it. Full on melodic attack without sounding grounded in the past, its fresh and sounds royal. Excellent end to a very strong debut here, each of the songs is crafted well and executed to a high level. Minor criticism aside, It should be on year end lists, certainly for debut releases (is this a thing?) and for me is one of the great releases of the year. More please!! 8/10

King Of The Dead - Perdition (Self Released) [Mark Young]

Well, this is unexpected. With an almost Freddy Mercury style belting out over an organ/choir intro, The Sermon For The Cursed slides into your ears with an almost straight up earworm melody. It’s an energetic opener that sets the tone for the rest of the album to follow up.

The Hunt is a solid, no fills rocker that just cuts along nicely. What impresses is that they are here just to offer a rock album that you can dance and sing along too. Its really that simple and luckily for them they have got some decent songs to back it all up. Courage is more of that heavy rock with a touch of Van Halen in the application and although it may feel a bit tame compared to a lot of the stuff, I’ve listened too this year it still powers along. Who’s Left To Blame has a bit more of harder edge to it with some muscular riffing, again with the Hammond organ present.

Crawl follows that classic rock approach of loud opening, sing along bits and manages to parcel it all up in 3minutes or so. Its good stuff for those who go in the lighter direction, for those who love singers who sing, not singers who don’t. When It All Comes Down has a downright sleazy opening riff that backs off to allow the vocals to stretch, again in the classic rock style

So, what we have is a collection of bright, well produced rock songs that do what they need to do and zip along. It takes the best of 70’s rock and tries to give it a modern shine. There is some class Hammond Organ going on that gives you Deep Purple vibes, and it trundles along at a decent pace. It is certainly inoffensive and is very well put together. Certainly that 70’s feel is front, and centre twinned with some strong riffage. Trying to find information on them online (there is PR included with the albums - Ed) was difficlult, in that they are termed as a Horror-rock so possibly in the live arena there could a bit of stagecraft to go along with these songs which would be good thing. 

The song lengths are pitched perfectly, crafting them so they stay within that 3 – 4-minute range which is difficult to do – Ask Pete Townshend, he’ll tell you. As EP’s go it has got a lot going for it and it is really suited to driving in the summer with windows open. 7/10

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