It’s becoming more and more common for bands to use various facets of metal to explore other genres and their respective sounds, relying on their heavy side as a backdrop against which to present their ideas, instead of as the main feature of their sound. Bands skirting this fine line between metal and various other genres exist at every point on the spectrum, from the wispy atmospheric blackened folk of Agalloch to the heavily electronic and noisy industrial/drone metal artist Author And Punisher. It takes a good amount of flair to pull off properly, as well as strong songwriting chops: bringing these disparate threads together is no easy feat, requiring a delicate touch and a good ear to maintain proper balance.
Progressive metalcore band Sirens certainly has the flair and touch needed for bringing two disparate genres together on their debut album Surge. Combining earthy djent grooves and washed-out leads with spacy, ethereal electronics, they manage to merge these two worlds of design into a cohesive whole that is truly more than the sum of its parts. It’s a formula that’s been practiced many a time by other bands, but no other album in recent memory has let these two elements mingle in such an equal balance.
The key to Sirens’ success here lies with their guitarists’ comfort in letting the electronics hog the limelight for almost the entirety of the album. Really, they do seem to be entirely willing to sit back and just let their rhythmic chugging anchor the rest of the performances. And it’s there, in the ability to not force guitars into a mix where they struggle with the electronics for supremacy, that Surge succeeds where other albums that have attempted similar sounds have failed. The other instrumental performances are solid, but not atypical or mind-blowing in any way: the drums crash and pound away, throwing their percussive weight around like a heavyweight boxer, and the bass rumbles beneath it all, providing a sturdy and stable ground off of which everything else builds itself. The star of the show here is the synthwork and its constantly evolving sound: from the grimy, wobbly dubstep of “Drift” to the trance melodies of “Cloudbreak”, it ties the whole package together in a way that is both entirely satisfying and altogether different than most other bands that dabble with the same sort of electronics as Sirens does. The only other band in the metalcore/deathcore scene right now placing this much emphasis on their electronic parts is The Browning, and their much-more-straightforward mosh anthems are an entirely different beast than anything Surge does. Opting for a spacey feel that’s highly reminiscent of The Contortionist’s classic LP Exoplanet, Sirens uses their electronics to create cloudy and open atmospheres for the listener to explore.
Sirens’ consistency is their biggest strength, but it’s simultaneously the largest weak point on Surge. Not much changes across this album’s hour-long runtime, and while nothing feels like filler, it can be a chore sometimes to listen to an entire 60 minute’s worth of what is, quite frankly, a group of really similar songs. It’s a bit of a pity that they don’t introduce anything new until about halfway through the last track, “Medusae”, which comes in the form of a horns-and-strings symphonic bridge that is equally intriguing, because of how it interacts with their sound, and disappointing because, come on, why would you wait to introduce such a cool element until the last song?! Sirens has a working formula, and that’s not a bad thing at all, but the total lack of deviation from it means that it’s far easier to just listen to a couple choice tracks at a time than to sit down and listen to the entirety of Surge in one get-go. Again, though, the consistency means that just about every song has the potential to be a choice track for any listener: although similar, the material is consistently strong and smartly-written.
Sirens has an entirely different approach to the electronics-in-metal game, and it works beautifully for them. Across the ten tracks that make up their debut, they display a fantastic proficiency in their ability to write tracks centered around fluid, evolving synth parts, balancing the metal and electronica in a delicate dance that sets them apart from their contemporaries. A perfect example of how to write music that uses its heaviness as the canvas on which a different genre leaves its hues, Surge is a must-listen for anyone interested in the future of electronics in metal.