The Enigma of Life

01. The End Of It All
02. Fallen Angel
03. All My Dreams
04. This Darkness
05. The Twilight In Your Eyes
06. Winter Land
07. A Seaside Serenade
08. Darkened Days To Come
09. Coming Down
10. This Lonely Lake
11. Fading Star
12. The Enigma Of Life
13. Oscura Realidad (bonus track)
14. The Enigma Of Life (acoustic version; bonus track)

Ailyn - Vocals
Morten Veland - Clean/Harsh Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Drums, Keyboards, Programming

At Sixes and Sevens (2002)
An Elixir for Existence (2004)
Nine Destinies and a Downfall (2007)
The 13th Floor (2009)

Sessions musicians: Stephanie Valentin - Violins
The Sirenian Choir: Damien Surian, Mathieu Landry, Emmanuelle ZOldan, Sandrine Gouttebel, Emilie

"The Enigma Of Life" was written, composed and arranged by Morten Veland
Produced, mixed and engineered by Morten Veland
Pre-Produced in Audio Avenue Studios (Tau, N)
Mastered by Mika Jussila, FInnvox.
A+R: Jaap Wagemaker

Released 21/1-2011
Reviewed 16/2-2011

nuclear blast

A lot of beauty origins in Norway. Fjords, mountains and nature more beautiful than most places. But Norway is also the home of some of the worst music in the world – the one created by idiots that thinks Satan is the coolest guy in the world and make music that’s only suitable for hell. Sirenia, however, can’t write themselves in to the group of bands doing that. This is the band that was formed after Morten Veland went separate ways with Tristania in 2001.

I Loved Tristania, but not the Tristania after Veland left the band. After he left the band completely fell together and I don’t really like anything they did from that point. When Veland instead formed Sirenia none of this mattered, because where Sirenia started with ‘At Sixes and Sevens’ (which actually is a pretty funny title if you consider Daniels review about a week ago where the new album got just six out of seven) is pretty much where Tristania was when Veland left the band. ‘An Elixir of Existence’ that was released after ‘At Sixed and Sevens’ was even better and got an 8/10 in the fourth issue of the printed version of Hallowed. After these albums came ‘Nine destinies and a Downfall’ and ‘The 13th Floor’. All four of these albums each had a different female vocalist fronting the band and ‘The enigma of Life’ is therefore the first album by Sirenia with the same female vocalist as the one singing on the album before and with this in mind one can easily think that perhaps this also is the best album Sirenia have done.

Too bad for us, it’s not that simple to conclude anything with such a logic. The best Sirenia album ever is something that depends on what you like and not something we can determine. What is possible to conclude is that for this album Sirenia have toned down some of the over atmospheric sound they’ve used before. The choirs and the sacral elements in the music is not as apparent as before and overall this is instead a more popular music oriented album. It has more electronics and programming than ever before and Ailyn is also a vocalist that sound more radio pop than any of the earlier vocalists, which is more apparent on this album than the last one. Still, there’s a lot of these choirs and churchy tones on this album and the dark vocals are also here. Velands beautiful melodies are still here and the atmospheres that he can create are there as well. One can almost call this album a Sirenia light – a bit more radio friendly but still very much Sirenia.

The songs are built around a mostly pretty melancholic sound with toned down guitars in an overall fairly low tempo, with a few exceptions. Most songs are almost composed as small symphonies with strings and orchestral arrangements and choirs on top. The foundation is in the electric guitars and they build the songs around a hard rock sound. Melodies get their fuel from guitars that never even try to push through the wall of strings, choirs and bombastic elements. Instead the album is very driven by the vocals and what Ailyn choose to do. Generally the flow very often gets interrupted and the album gets split up into lots of fragments that lose the overall picture. I don’t feel at all that the album is one album going from start to finish, instead there’s these short parts of music before an interruption of some sort and after that the album can either continue with more or less the same melody or something completely different. Not that it mix styles or anything that radical, it keeps in the same boundaries but still with these constant interruptions. Now I might sound very negative about this album, but the fact is that I like it very much! Sure, I think this is a really negative thing with the album but the album is still very good and Sirenia light may be Sirenia light, but it still is Sirenia.

Except for the starting song, End of it All, there’s a bit of shortage on hit-sounding songs. This even though the album, as stated earlier, feels more radio friendly than any other Sirenia album. Ailyn sings almost like a mocking bird, her voice really could wake the dead with its heavenliness (it reminds me a lot of Sharon den Adel in Within Temptation if that’s any help). But Ailyns voice also has some traces of someone that isn’t that keen on doing her homework, like someone that isn’t working and training her voice all the time but satisfies herself with one of the two. Then when Veland comes in with his male voice he either does it with screams and shouts or some more clear vocals. Often he only does short parts and honestly – I don’t know if they really do any good for the album or not. Sure, there’s no real negative with them but neither does he contribute with anything really positive with his vocal parts.

The production is also very good and doesn’t leave anything more to wish for than what it already have. The album has a good bite in it and is cleanly and nicely done, which is how an album like this is supposed to sound. And they also succeed to deliver that feel to it as if it had been recorded in an old stone church – you know that bombastic, large feeling where the sound echoes the way it does in old churches.

Sirenia keep their class, but it feels like they are starting to move away from the sound they inherited from Tristania and towards something of their own. Absolutely nothing negative with that! I personally like the older sound better but ‘The Enigma of Life’ is still a really good album and will continue to be so even considering opinions like mine – a good album is a good album no matter what the band have done earlier. And far from everyone will think that Sirenia was better in the past. Sirenia is far from the biggest enigma in life and this album is hardly the enigma of life either –it’s a really good album and it ought to be appreciated by plenty. That’s something I’m prepared to put my honor as a reviewer on.


Label - Nuclear Blast
Three similar bands - Tristania/NIghtwish/Epica
Recensent: Caj Källmalm