If I'm understanding properly, this is the debut studio album of Finnish goth rockers Sirakh, although they formed in 2013 and have been knocking out singles for seven years now. They don't call what they do gothic rock, because, as they suggest, "rock fans think it’s too heavy, metal fans call it pussy music and goths never accept anything post-1985 to their ranks anyway." So this is a Dark Alternative album, which actually makes more sense than it probably should.
Initially, it feels like it's going to get heavy with an ominous opening to Yours for the Breaking, only to find a danceable beat and add bubbly keyboards. The lead vocal is delivered by Marina Trench, who sounds like a member of Abba thinking about symphonic metal because she's clear and sweet but with an underlying darkness. There's a male voice here too, though only occasionally and clearly there with the goal of supporting rather than leading. I presume that's lead guitarist Nikki Angelus.
I see the band's dilemma, because this does hint at metal but stubbornly remains in a more pop/rock mindset. Tear Me to Shreds becomes a gothic take on a-ha, especially during the chorus, even if it first reminds of a UFO stormer and the guitars do have a buzzsaw quality to them. Apparently, their home town of Oulu, seven hours north of Helsinki and the gateway to northern Finland, is fundamentally a metal city, the home of Impaled Nazarene, Sentenced and Kalmah, along with apparently hundreds of others. Sirakh see themselves as outsiders for playing it softer. Then again, Padre Mortis does chime in with some harsh vocals here and there to play along.
While there's a gothic feel throughout and Sirakh see themselves as "torchbearers of the early 2000s Fenno-goth movement", the name that leapt out to me most overtly here was a surprising one. There are ten songs here and the first half is gothic rock, heavier than usual but not heavy enough to count as gothic metal. That's the core sound, even if Downfall gets all funky for a while. My favourite songs are probably the first two on the second half, Grown Apart and Mirrors, and they sound to me rather like Fleetwood Mac as goths, Marina Trench channelling Stevie Nicks.
That's a really interesting sound to me, especially with lyrics a lot darker than Stevie would ever sing: "When you told me to pay my dues, would you like it in cash or in my bodily fluids?" It's still a darker love song, so that works, and the mix highlights everyone like Fleetwood Mac did in their heyday, the chiming keyboards in Grown Apart almost duetting with Trench and the bass audible throughout and even leading the way in Mirrors. A few more harmony vocals and the resemblence would be complete.
So yeah, this is an agreeable mix of styles, one that sounds great to me and different enough from the glut of Finnish gothic music that it'll either be utterly ignored or the spark for a whole new sound. It has to be said that the most traditional song here is probably New Black, which features a clean male vocal and incessant rhythm section that reminds of H-I-M at their heaviest, but more Teutonic, a vibe that the arrival of Trench halfway through doesn't nullify.
I like this. I like the poppier end of the album, that a-ha chorus in Tear Me to Shreds. I like the heavier end too, epitomised by the crunchy guitars that drive many of these songs or the solo histrionics that kick off Downfall. More importantly, I have absolutely no problem with all those sharing space on the same album. The band are clearly capable but then there are a lot of capable bands out there. Not all of them embrace being a little different from everyone around them. I especially like that. No crisis of faith needed.