SIRENIA – The Other Side
November 21, 2006, 12 years ago
By Carl Begai
When vocalist Henriette Bordvik announced she was leaving SIRENIA in September 2005 the expectation was that the band would continue on its goth metal path unhindered. After all, finding a classically trained female singer willing to take a chance on the metal scene is hardly a chore these days. Sirenia mastermind Morten Veland eventually found Bordvik’s replacement in Danish singer Monika Pedersen, introducing her to the fans in April 2006. But along with her entrance came a noteworthy change in Sirenia’s musical direction that, at least at its core, had very little to do with her. Veland has taken a bold and dangerous step forward with new album Nine Destines And A Downfall, trading in Sirenia’s dark shroud of goth elements for a heavier, symphonic metal sound in the vein of Angtoria and the more obscure tracks on the Evanescence debut, Fallen. No questions, this mainstream-ish vibe is sure to see some fans drop the band faster than a handful of razorblades, but Sirenia’s escape from an increasingly stagnant goth metal scene is sure to earn them twice as many new ones.“We tried to do things in a different way from before and we’re really happy with the result,” Veland says of the album. “I was composing the new music way before I found Monika. In fact, I’m composing all the time, so right after I came back from the studio recordings for An Elixir For Existence (in 2004) I just started writing new material. The songs I was writing then were pretty much in the same style as Elixir, and as I went I realized that the process was actually boring me a bit (laughs). I felt I was repeating myself a little too much, so I made some changes. For example, I’ve always played a standard six string guitar and I went over to a seven string just to get some new input and see if that would help me come up with new ideas. I kept on writing like that, and the deeper I got into it the more the direction began to change. At the same time I was looking for a singer, and I decided I needed a singer that wasn’t a classic operatic singer. I needed someone special, something different.”
That need countered any fear Veland might have had of shooting himself in the proverbial foot. And while there has been a significant overhaul to the Sirenia sound, the familiar goth metal undertone is still there. In fact, Pedersen’s non-operatic singing voice contrasts surprisingly well with Veland’s symphonic compositions, as on the lead track ‘The Last Call’.“We kept the choir elements in our songs, which we’ve had since the very beginning, and I feel that the fans will get enough of that classical element through the choir parts,” says Veland. “So, when we started auditioning singers we found that Monika had something special in her voice that fit perfectly with our new song material. What we wanted to do with this album is to take the band to a more melodic place. The female vocals play a much bigger role now and my growling vocals don’t have as much of a place in our music as they used to, but at the same time the music is much more powerful than ever before. I don’t think we’re going in a softer, more commercial direction than before. I think we might actually be going in both directions (laughs).”
Nine Destinies And A Downfall is easily the most diverse album Sirenia has ever released, making it a much easier listen compared to previous albums. From the welcome Angtoria symphonics spread throughout the album melded with a Sisters Of Mercy rock vibe (‘Sundown’), and one annoying pop music bounce (‘My Mind’s Eye’), the songs are instantly memorable.“I have the same opinion,” agrees Veland. “When I look back at an album after we’ve finished it, I’ve never been as happy with a production as I was for this album. It’s an album that I stand by 100%. It’s not like I took one step forward as I’ve done with each album. I think in the case of Nine Destinies And A Downfall it’s more like two steps forward. As I said before, we had to move in this direction because I was really becoming bored with what we were doing before. I’m sure that if we hadn’t changed singers we would have stayed in that more gothic direction, because when Monika joined the band I was in the middle of the songwriting process. As soon as we started working together and I discovered where her strengths were, that helped me find the direction I wanted to go in. There are many types of singers, and for some reason a lot of them have problems singing songs composed by other people. Monika had no problems with that whatsoever, and it was pretty much clear from the first day that she had something in her voice that I hadn’t heard anywhere else. It was an easy choice asking her to join the band.”
Veland elaborates on the idea of hiring Pedersen to be the band’s voice while keeping a tight hold on the songwriting for the new album.“I’m really only able to write music when I’m alone,” he explains. “I’ve tried in the past to write with other band members and it works to some degree, but I always come up with my best ideas when I work alone because that’s when I’m focused. Monika did have room to move when we were recording, though, because it was important that she sounded like herself. But, the vocal melodies are all ideas that I’ve had in my head for a long time.”
Watch for an interview with Pedersen in BW&BK; #102. Nine Destinies And A Downfall hits stores on January 26th, 2007.