Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Sirrah - Acme (1996) 70/100.


Sirrah are an obscure Polish band who seem to be rather well known in their home nation, but not so much outside of it. I don’t recall how I came across them, or even why I would search out a band who’re supposedly very similar to Paradise Lost -- I’m assuming the earliest Paradise Lost era, not the latest one of gothic rock. I’ve never been a fan of the inspirational Halifax based band. I remember hearing ‘Gothic’ a number of years ago and enjoying the title track specifically, but I can’t recall anything else from the album. In fact, I’ve even re-visited Paradise Lost’s monumentally influential ‘Gothic’ in recent years and still cannot remember anything other than that one song. Given these facts, I cannot really comment on the bands similarities to Paradise Lost, other than the growled vocals of the male vocalist sound similar to a number of old-school death/doom metal bands. However, I feel it’s best not to try to pigeon hole Sirrah because, unexpectedly, they’re a very universal band which features a lot of different elements from various different genres like death, doom, gothic and perhaps even rock music.

‘Acme’, the debut full-length of this Polish band, is also supposedly the only album of the two the band have that is worth listening to. I’m not familiar with the sophomore at all having never heard it, but I do recommend this album to all fans of early doom metal with a touch of gothic overtones such as the occasional piano passage, violins and female vocals. Also, whilst I’m not familiar with Paradise Lost anymore, I suppose I should recommend this to fans of their older style as it’s apparently quite similar, or so I’ve read. What I do recall of ‘Gothic’ was the incredibly intense dark atmosphere it had and how the vocals worked their magic in such an environment. On songs like ‘On The Verge’, this feeling, though not to the same extent, is present within the song. It harbours a really dark atmosphere throughout most of its duration, despite the fact that the vocals are usually in transition from growls to cleanly sung vocals.

The music is really accessible because of these smaller elements, though the male vocals feature more than the keyboards, or the female vocals, which are restricted to songs like ‘Passover 1944’ which also features a beautiful violin based introduction. Although the atmosphere can be quite gritty and tough due to the density of the production and the heavy doom orientated riffs, which are central to the album alongside the vocals, these lighter aspects elevate the darkness over the material and allow these lighter passages to shine, particularly when the clean male vocals are layered over the top of distant female vocals on ‘Passover 1944’. The female vocalist is used sparingly, which is good. Often female vocals can destroy an album simply by existing in the foreground too much. On ‘Acme’, the female vocals are implemented into the background more often than not, which allows the consistently good growls and clean male vocals to dominate over the cool and classy riffs of the guitars.

A lot of the guitar work is layered, which is pivotal. The heavier riffs on songs like ‘On The Verge’, whilst pertaining to that darker atmosphere and enhancing it, don’t and cannot do the same job as the secondary guitar which provides a catchier riff over the top and alongside the experimental elements like the keyboards, which provide an archaic feel to the atmosphere which feels warranted and justified. The keyboards are central to the album, it doesn’t make the album a symphonic sideshow or anything. They add a touch of class here and there, but never attempt to power through and dominate the albums atmosphere. The album does tend to get a little more unusual as it goes on with the quirky ‘Panacea’ providing an unexpected upbeat tempo to the album, despite the fact that the growls are being played over them. Not only this, but this unusual track supplies the albums with unnecessary black metal-esque shrieks which really don’t do the song justice. As I stated earlier, the song really doesn’t adhere to one genre alone as the description would suggest. This song alone is a fine example of how and why I believe that. The bass led material is very jovial, despite the varied vocal displays that depict anger, grief and sadness.

‘Panacea’ feels like it’s some sort of instrumental song, but it has such a profound affect on me every time I hear it. It, strangely, leads into ‘Bitter Seas’ well with its acoustic touches and bass led style. When the keyboards are integrated into the song, the sound feels complete, especially with the formidable guitar layering only a few seconds away from sheer bliss and entertainment. Songs like ‘Bitter Seas’ showcase the absolutely brilliant song writing that can often occur throughout the album with layers upon layers of instrumentation and even vocals. The violins come back in, the female vocals are once again present and all this whilst the usual style of the band continues. The vocals can feel somewhat disjointed at times given the amount of layering, but the song is still very enjoyable for what it is. Although ‘Acme’ the full-length apparently has few changes from ‘Acme’ the demo, it still feels like a worthy re-release and is definitely worthy of being a full-length album.


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