SIRENIA – An Elixir For Existence


Napalm Records
Release date: February 23, 2004

Guitars: C
Bass: C
Keyboards: B
Percussion: C+
Male Vocals: C
Female Vocals: A
Lyrics: B
Recording Quality: B+
Originality: A
Overall Rating: B

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Sirenia has mastered a sound and song pattern that is uniquely simple, yet somewhat ingenious in their new album entitled An Elixir for Existence. Stylistically, Sirenia toys with elements of Gothic, Death, and Power Metal in this, their 2nd release, since forming as a band in 2001. Musically, however, the first thing that makes an instant impression is the methodically smooth, yet heavy, guitar power chords and bass grooves that pace the songs and establish the true energy of this album. There’s nothing fancy about Kristian Gundersen’s and Morten Veland’s guitar playing … the chord patterns are nothing more difficult than what an average 13 year old is capable of cranking out after 3 months of guitar lessons, but it is in this simplicity that the quality of this album can be found. “They” say the best things in life, after all, are indeed the most simple, right? In the case of An Elixir for Existence, nothing could be truer.

Following suit with the uncomplicated guitar patterns, is straightforward percussion playing. Each song essentially has steady drum work, if not a bit understated and subdued. Although the percussion “crispness” is beaten down a tad, the sound is very consistent and meshes well with the overall deliberate aura of this album. Like the guitar playing, one can’t say that Jonathan Perez’s percussion work is outstanding in any way, but it does fit in perfectly with the style of the other instruments.

The keyboard work is a bit more innovative and complex, but not so much so as to create tension with the other primary instruments. If anything, my guess is Hans Henrik Varland had to “hold back” a bit to not fully showcase his talents on most songs. The end result is the keyboards are tasteful and are not overused. Track #9, the last song called “Seven Sirens and a Silver Tear,” appears to be the bands concession to Varland by letting him take center stage with an all-instrumental song lead by his piano playing.

Most of the lyrics sung by Veland are done so in the Death Chant mode, although Gundersen sings periodically and uses his natural voice in a couple tracks. Similar to the instrumental play, Gundersen’s voice is non-complex. His voice has a whiskey-rasp feel to it – kind of like he just rolled out of bed after a heavy night of boozing and partying, and someone just happened to stick a microphone in front of him and said, “Sing!” It’s unadulterated, and it’s refreshingly real. Veland’s Death voice isn’t all that bad either, as far Death Growl voices go. Sirenia made the proper decision to curtail the volume when Death Chanting – there’s a few times in the album when Veland sounds like he really needs to hook up a loogie, but overall, he comes across pretty decently. The lyrics, pervasively, are melancholy and reflective of emotional distress, futility, and sorrowful search for relief – thus the album name: An Elixir For Existence – in other words, a tonic, panacea, or pick-me-up to provide the desire to continue on with the struggles life presents.

The true feel of the band’s motif to assimilate life’s struggles comes through via the vocals of Henriette Bordvik. Her performance absolutely shines throughout this CD. Henriette’s voice is successful in conveying an image of a weary woman who has to muster up the strength to sing, and it pains her to sing, yet she must sing because that is the only way that she can convey her woeful plight. Crossing over into completely different genres, Henriette’s vocal sound comes through as a cross between Deborah Harry from the band Blondie (especially their song “Rapture,” if you’re familiar with that one) and The Indigo Girls, but clearly with more talent than both. Her performance on track #6, “Save Me From Myself,” and track #4, “Euphoria” is notably stellar.

Along with their Gothic Metal roots, Sirenia utilizes background choir singing, violins, and orchestra accompaniment in most of their songs. These musical intricacies, coupled with the simplistic primary instrument patterns, indeed results in a unique, harmonious blend. It’s pretty obvious Sirenia spent a good amount of time at the writing table when they developed each of their songs … time well spent in my opinion … and Napalm’s production quality definitely does the band justice.

Each song has something notable and original to offer, and there are no losers amongst the 9 tracks. There is a bit of a difference, however, between the first half of the album (tracks #1 – #4) and the second half (tracks #5 – #8) – recall track #9 is instrumental. The first half of the album tends to focus more on free-lancing use of non-conventional Metal instruments, whereas the second half seems to have more composure and structure. My personal tastes favor the second half of the album, however, both are certainly worthwhile – but had this album been a vinyl release back in the day, it would have definitely contained sides with 2 distinct personalities, which was one of the true benefits of the vinyl era.

In the end, Sirenia has delivered a second well-designed, well-thought out, and well-performed Metal album. The simple has been paired with the complex, and the result is something refreshingly original and diversified. At nearly 79 minutes in length, you also get your money’s worth!


  • Dan Skiba

    Dan is a former partner at Metal Express Radio, and also served as a reviewer, photographer and interviewer on occasions. Based out of Indianapolis, USA he was first turned on to Hard Rock music in the mid-1970s when he purchased Deep Purple's Machine Head as his first album. He was immediately enthralled with the powerful guitar sound and pronounced drumbeat, and had to get more! His collection quickly expanded to include as many of Heavy Rock bands of the time that he could get his hands on, such as Ted Nugent, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath, to name just a few.

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