Friday, August 19, 2011

Astarte - Sirens (2004)

Sirens continued to mold Astarte into a more accessible act than their rather nondescript (if competent) earlier works, but not without paying a small price. Always one for appreciating a well endowed gorgon, I'd have to say it's the most attractive record they've released on the surface, but in places it's just an inkling too simple for my tastes, and lyrically it chokes on a number of occasions, though the worst is the exclamation of 'outbreak/motherfucker die!' that enters with the first track, "Dark Infected Circles". That said, there are still a number of positives here which render this fourth full length somewhat more distinct than a Doomed Dark Years or Rise from Within, if only because it doesn't just sound like another band riding on the Scandinavian coattails.

The production, as ever, is a forte, with strong if not standout guitar tones and clear, potent drumming. Much of the album moves at a mid pace, with a lot of open chord riffing threaded with somber, almost folkish melodies. The attraction to the riffs here often reminded me of a few of Rotting Christ's records, so perhaps it's the case that Sirens is the most 'Greek' of the Astarte catalog, though their brand of composition is not wholly comparable. Plenty of double bass and tremolo riffing to go around, but clearly there is a noticeable rise in traditional heavy metal influence that makes the album more appealing to those who don't get on with the more traditional black metal leanings. You still have some tracks, like "The Ring", "Bitterness of Mortality", "Black Mighty Gods" or the bridge of "Oceanus Procellarum" which revert to the pure blast beats and rushed riffing, but these are never the strongest.

Instead, the epic and spacious, restrained songs like "Twist, Nail, Torture" and the tranquil, atmospheric pieces like "Sirens" or "Lloth" (the latter named for the fantasy spider queen, and a former incarnation of Astarte) seem to provide the more compelling fragments of the album. It's fairly well balanced and paced between periods of calm and aggression, and without question the most versatile effort they've recorded, but ultimately not on par with its predecessor Quod Superius Sicit Inferius, upon which the ladies seemed to finally be headed somewhere worth revisiting. Sirens is in no way bad, but it's just not as seductive or hungry as it looks, as the riffs are just never that interesting. Pleasant enough to have on in the background, and perhaps a decent gateway drug if you're trying to turn someone onto more accessible black metal rooted in solid mythological or fantastical concepts, but not all that inspired.

Verdict: Indifference [6.75/10] (salty beast of naked desires)

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