Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Sirrah - Acme (1996)

Like a lot of folks, I was introduced to Sirrah through one of the Beauty in Darkness compilations that Nuclear Blast released; the title track to this debut featured prominently as one of the standouts there, and I had to track down the full-length debut of the same name, Acme, a name which I'm sure we associate more with the old Roadrunner and Wile E Coyote cartoons than Gothic, melancholic doom. I was taken aback by the songwriting itself, there is a bit more involved, a few more layers to peel back than you might be used to, and not unlike the first two Moonspell records, this had a more epic feel than some of the stuff coming from Theater of Tragedy or The Sins of Thy Beloved. In fact, the great use of rhythms and melody also reminded me of one of my favorite albums, Amorphis' Elegy, only if it were coming from a different background perspective than Finland and 70s prog and folk influence.

Well, that one particular track, "Acme", is magnificent even to this day, one of the more glorious individual tracks to emerge from that once-budding European scene, but it's hardly the only success this disc had to offer. The blend of higher pitched, catchy female vocal lines, mournful Goth growls, lighter toned keyboards, strings ("Bitter Seas"), and electric guitar melodies is very well honed across much of the album's playlength, and even where they drop out a bit of it and get darker with something like "On the Verge", reminiscent of earlier Paradise Lost had Fernando Ribeiro replaced Nick Holmes. You've got all those elements of Romance, Vampiric drama, and haunted castle vibes that you might have desired from Gothic/doom or even black metal, but configured in a slightly different package, perhaps due to minor cultural or regional aesthetics that the band members grew up with. Clearly this was much different than what Vader or Behemoth were coming up with, and further showcased Poland as a potential new hotbed for various sub-genres of metal.

There is one GLARING miscalculation on the album that will have you falling apart in laughter, but sadly to the detriment of Acme as a whole, and that is "Panacea", a track which resembles some old surf or cruise rock only if it were a gaggle of Gothic weirdos riding the waves. It's likely included to be a bit of harmless fun and break up the seriousness of the other material, but the rest is consistent enough that it just sticks out like a very sore thumb. That sort of thing might have fit the band Ghoul on their albums, which are quite silly all around, but it just doesn't belong here. In fact I'm shocked it wasn't omitted from further pressings, although this one hasn't gotten much action beyond the 90s whatsoever. Without that track, this is a stronger effort, but even with that warning, you owe it to yourself to check out Acme if you have any interest in that brief period where the sounds of the big British death/doom trio (Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Anathema) were blended with Goth orchestration and drama to create a wave of fresher bands.

Verdict: Win [8/10]

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