Sirena: The Past That Haunts You
Can we put a moratorium on the hardcore ballad? There are only a few creative mistakes a band can make that truly hurt more than a hardcore band whose album, overflowing with tight breakdowns, well-produced screams, and an overall cohesive sound, ends on a feel-good acoustic tune. Realistically, in the full spectrum of hardcore, it’s probably fair to say the ballad bud was nipped with Matchbook Romance’s “Tiger Lily.” Can we leave it at that? Sirena’s closing track on their last album “For Those Who Dare to Dream” isn’t even all that terrible: three minutes deep into the four-minute song, the energy picks up into what would otherwise be a great song. This one painful moment, however, is not definitive of an otherwise respectable album.
The Past That Haunts You is Sirena’s third release, their first on Dark Slate Records, and is a significant step forward from their previous self-produced album, For Those Who Dare to Dream. The mastering and production of this new release is, in a word, crisp. Vocals, growls, screams—nothing is washed out or lost, which is a significant credit to the band’s efforts in studio, and to the studio’s efforts as well.
While it is hard to demand originality from a genre saturated with similar patterns and themes between breakdowns and bass kicks, this album in particular is full of fresh vocal hooks, especially in the fluid transition between vocalists Brandon Elgar and Steve Cipparulo. In the album’s title track, the line bridging into the chorus, “This opportunity is up for grabs,” is a perfect example: pulling off of hard growling vocals into a clear yet grungy, strained, memorable line is a crowd-pleaser, and it’s also something that hardcore bands sometimes struggle with to make seamless—Sirena seems to nail it effortlessly.
The only thing really lacking on this album (ballad aside, of course), is the trade-off of the more prominent gang vocals in their previous release for what can only be described as post-production glitch fills (the song “Commends” off of For Those Who Dare to Dream specifically comes to mind on this matter). For a band that has no reason to be characterized by an electronic sound, completely devoid of any live synth or keyboard, it generally feels out of place to hear stuttered static and glitched-out guitar spattered throughout most of the songs. Not that it sounds bad, but it’s definitely distracting. Regarding the gang vocals, though, considering the sheer strength behind Brandon’s and Steve’s shared voices, it makes sense creatively to highlight them rather than undercut them with the whole group collectively howling in the background.
Admittedly, The Past That Haunts You takes effort to appreciate. Let it play in the background while driving or working at a computer and it can be tuned out, as with most hardcore. But with some TLC—paying attention to the music and reading the lyrics while listening—the album will fall in line and play well with old favorites and standards. Overall, a solid new release, improved greatly from past albums, and worth listening to given time and patience.
But seriously, no more hardcore ballads.