Pizza is a sacred thing. When it’s good, it’s damn good. When it sucks, it’s an affront to humanity. An atrocity on a level with the Biafran revolt, just about every Adam Sandler movie, some genocides, and Illud Divinum Insanus. If you’ve read more than one of my reviews here on AMG you will know that I often equate music to food, not just because it is an analogy I think most people relate to, but I love these two things more than even my family members who aren’t reading this right now. I’m not a guy for pie without tomato sauce on it, aside from the occasional amazing BBQ chicken pizza, but that is not to say I can’t objectively critique or appreciate a slice of bacon chicken ranch. The Seventh Life Path may not be my pie of choice, but during my tenure as a music critic, I’ve heard enough from the formative years on to be able to approach an album with at least relative objectivity.
Much can be taken from Sirenia‘s newest slice with extra cheese. First and foremost, mastermind Morten Veland, aside from being only in bands that end with the letter A (Tristania, Mortemia, Sirenia), is certainly a talented lad, handling lead vocals, grunts, guitars, bass, keyboards. Not a surprise, considering that as a co-founder of Tristania, one of the bands that launched this moody ship, he’s responsible for many bands in that boat’s wake being in the water in the first place. To call Sirenia his “new” band wouldn’t exactly be on the ball since they’ve been around since ’01, but considering the impact Tristania had on the scene, there has been much debate as to how Sirenia holds up to his alma mater. Almost 15 years and countless albums from countless bands in the symph goth fleet later, does it matter?
Pick a band. Xandria. Leaves’ Eyes. Amaranthe. Epica. There has certainly been a formula to much of metal through the decades but seldom has it been this predictable. Attractive female vocalist. Loads of keyboards, choral vocals, and melodramatic lyrics. Sirenia does little to push the envelope in a genre that could sorely use a steel boot to the ass. In the promo photos there are two of female vocalist Ailyn solo. What message does that send and how does it contribute to taking Sirenia more seriously when the eye candy is clearly a focal point? Would anyone, ANYONE, have liked Britney Spears‘s music if they never saw a video or picture of her in the early days? Clearly Sirenia‘s marketing team know the answer to that question as well as the rest of us.
The album teeters over an hour, most songs are well over six minutes and, for the most part, they blend seamlessly into one another, whitewashed by an overall lack of original ideas. There are some moments that make the ears perk. “Sons of the North” has the most palatable parts on the album, with a very clever breakdown at around 90 seconds in that is jarring in its odd timing, but rather than having me think, “Man, that was cool,” I think, “Why don’t they do that kind of stuff more often??”
Ailyn’s clean female vocals dominate most the material, peppered with Veland’s raspy snarl, which walks the line between death and black metal. On “Elixir,” there are the first real noticeable clean male lead vocals, with Morten sounding as schmaltzy as a Norwegian Sammy Davis Jr.. “Earendel” goes into a medieval-tinged waltz about halfway through, and is another head-scratching moment and when they do something out of the box like this, it only serves to make apparent how vapid much of this music is.
There is no doubt these guys can play, but having musicians with this kind of skill perform the music on The Seventh Life Path is like having a paisan from Brooklyn make you a DiGiorno, or a master pastry chef a chocolate-covered Rice Krisipies treat. By the time the syrupy album-closing ballad “Tragedienne” puts a fork in it, all I’m pretty sure I have diabetes.
If you like your music predictable and full of pomp and pretense, The Seventh Life Path will float your dreamy boat right over to your local Renaissance Faire like an Into the Pandemonium without the burden of all that taste and innovation. Me? I’ll pass on that dish and start my insulin doses as soon as the pharmacist fills the prescription.