Siren’s Rain – Rise Forth Review

Sometimes, the cover of an album is meaningless, you know, just a cliched picture of a skull or zombie or something to adorn the record sleeve. Sometimes, however, the artwork can tell you a lot, both about what to expect from a record and about the band behind it, which presumably signed off—or in a few cases even designed—the artwork in question. In the case of Tacoma, Washington’s Siren’s Rain and their self-released debut album, Rise Forth, the artwork triggered an all too familiar sinking feeling. Rise Forth follows 2016 and 2019 EPs, Beneath the Narrows and Nightmares from the Abyss, from this quintet of folk metallers. Those previous outings sounded like the nightmare-inducing spawn of a two-night stand between Korpiklaani and Alestorm. Can a third drunken fumble produce a more palatable offspring with Rise Forth?

Call it a personal prejudice if you will but any album that opens with the sound of distant thunder and crackling flames leading into a spoken-word prologue, actually called “Prologue,” and ending with the earnestly delivered phrase, “the faintest glimmer of promise soars upon the resonance of our voices, raised in the glistening dew of the morning sun, in solidarity we Rise Forth,” has a hell of a lot of work to do to win me over.  Too much work, it turns out, for Rise Forth. Continuing where the EPs left off, Siren’s Rain deliver a brand of folk-infused heavy metal, utilizing harp, mandolin and now a nyckleharpa among others, to deliver something that entirely fails to offer anything new or interesting in the genre. Present are the clean, Siren-like female vocals from harpist Rena Hellzinger, supported by backing vocals from guitarist Ed Miller and bassist William Beritich, who deliver bass cleans and the sort of rasping growl that foreshadows blown vocal cords in the near future. Also present are the mid-track acoustic interludes, as well as the mandolin driven closer, “Folk Metal Funk,” which sounds exactly how you imagine it would and I can only hope is an optional bonus track.

Major influences on Siren’s Rain are clearly the likes of Nightwish, Finntroll and Korpiklaani, peppered with more than hint of Somewhere Far Beyond-era Blind Guardian. Occasionally, and frankly when Rise Forth is at its best, the band leans into a Maiden-esque guitar gallop paired with cantering mandolin and some solid work on the double kick bass, like on the title track and “Borderline,” with the acoustic moments of “Discarded Hope” also decent. At its worst, however, Siren’s Rain introduces spoken-word interludes and some seriously questionable percussion (sadly also on the title track), coupled with hugely derivative folk metal numbers that stand out from the crowd only by dint of the awful, and awfully audible, lyrics, with “Pennies for the Ferryman” a particular offender.1 For the most part, Rise Forth is delivered with the sort of determined sincerity which I grudgingly admire, but this makes the choice to close the album with the terribly jaunty “Folk Metal Funk” all the more confusing.

The issues with Rise Forth are legion but let me single out a few for particular attention. First, Hellzinger really is not a strong enough singer to carry this style of metal. There are aspects of Siren’s Rain, where the band is clearly emulating—whether intentionally or not—Nightwish but I am afraid Hellzinger does not approach even the weakest of the Finns’ frontwomen,2 as the ululating start to “13 Steps to Hell” make particularly clear. It’s only fair to say that “Discarded Hope,” suggests there may be more about her than we see across the rest of Rise Forth though. Secondly, the harsh backing vocals are no better, sounding simultaneously strained and mailed in. Thirdly, the songwriting and arrangement of the album precisely fail to give Siren’s Rain any consistency or sense of flow. The single biggest issue here, however, is the production, which—with the weird and notable exception of “Discarded Hope”—completely crushes what little life is to be found on Rise Forth. The drum sound is hollow and whenever the music gathers pace, most of the instruments disappear into a muddy hole, while the vocals, and the harsh vocals in particular, are painfully prominent in the mix.

Unfortunately, it’s safe to say that Siren’s Rain‘s EPs were a perfect indicator of what to expect from an LP. There are moments to enjoy on Rise Forth, with the title track and “Discarded Hope” the best picks, but these are few and far between. While the band can all handle their instruments, the songwriting, vocals and production are all suspect leading to a poor overall experience.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-released
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: October 8th, 2021

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Give me Chris de Burgh‘s “Don’t Pay the Ferryman” any day.
  2. No, I’m not specifying which one that is. Discuss amongst yourselves.
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