Helsinki Horinzon’s second release ’Sirens’ is a cross-genre conceptual album, and a different kind of heavy: the more quiet, lurking sort that ambushes you when you least expect it. ’Sirens’ develops into a sphere of gravitational force, where units and subdivisions converge to make an expertly paced rotation. The more you make it spin, the more it comes alive, in a perpetual sequence of light and dark and in-between shades. It’s the kind of full-fledged album you want to commit to for a longer time (ye gods, give us more of these!). To give it a bit of an outcast vibe I will call Helsinki Horizon’s ’Sirens’ a perfectly beautiful onion. 

Music-wise, the album could be described along the lines of post-rock, alternative rock, indie rock/shoegaze. The focus is on arrangements and the soundscape as a whole, as a medium for mood and feeling. It’s a sonic panorama of greater width but also of enough depth so as to be able to distinguish most elements without anything being muffled to the advantage of something else. The audio engineering and mixing are done with masterly skill, and a penchant for playful sonic exploration. 

I admit it first caught me off guard as I was subjected to what felt like a brisk shower of ascending post-rock guitars and chilly cave firefly-like bells effects with overdrive. However, the dynamics of ’in plain sight’ and ‘layer upon layer’ of delicately balanced detail got to me, to the point where parts of ‘Sirens’ still arrest my throat in a not so dreamy take my breath away way – but rather in a I wish this was only a nightmare kind of way. 

The concept was mainly inspired from Greek poet Homer’s ‘Odyssey’, where forgetting, loss of identity and a perpetual drive to return home are central themes. These are reflected through a modern and more intimate lens. As lyrics go, there are two main poles on ’Sirens’, where alienation/othering is one, and The Child is the other. The Child clearly lives in the North, in a familiar landscape of ice, where her breath ’becomes mist’ – where she can express herself (‘Cellar Door’ ). We only hear her voice in Swedish (’Cellar Door’ and ‘Disparation’). On the cover art of the album, she is facing what seems to be offshore oil rigs in the North Sea. Water is where one is in lack of control, drifting away from safety, home and identity, while solid ground is a place of human agency, growth and stability. There is perceived danger lurking where the waters are still and the mind and soul are growing numb. 

The album kicks in with the enticingly energetic grooviness of ‘Tie Them to the Mast’, revealing the intrigue: detachment, alienation and possibly addiction, as the sirens try to lure one into perdition. The track ends with an excerpt from Robinson Jeffers’ poem ‘The Beauty of Things’, where we learn that ‘man, you might say, is nature dreaming’. Humankind cannot separate itself from the will of the gods, or in this case, the forces of nature, which are external to the agency of man. 

The track ‘Sirens’ starts off right where ‘Tie Them to the Mast’ left. The temperature drops as the lyrics cast a deep dark shadow over the soundscape with the fast determination of a total solar eclipse (‘Time I suffer less is when I don’t recall, World is in regress Is when I don’t wake up’). The song shifts focus from the sonic panorama to Öllegård’s deeper chest singing in the chorus, perfectly attuned to the vibe of the lyrics. The 80’s synth is discreet enough to allow the retro sawtooth effect to blend in with the rest. 

‘Unmoored’ breaks the mood in a rush of post-rock elements. More bells with distortion and vintage synth. The lyrics revolve around avoidance, apathy, dissociation and a creeping sense of peril, as there are “things coming this way”. 

‘Cellar Door’ (featuring cello) exhibits a busy U2-like drumming and wistful Swedish pop vocals with a customary seasoning of Håkan Hellström and Bob Dylan influence. Initially, The Child is on solid ground, but is driven away without an explanation from the others (she can’t remember doing anything wrong) and loses her shoes, which probably makes walking very painful. Without shoes she lacks strategies to walk the earth. She starts running from something – the apparent cause of her suffering, yet not towards something. 

The mood then takes a new twist, as edgy, mouth watering ’Of All Creatures’ (instrumental, featuring cello) adds an explosive, cinematic dimension to the plot. There is the cold impending sound of a cello, tension, release and doubt as the album grows ominous again. The soundtrack quality feels like zooming out from the human viewpoint. There may even be a detachment in space and time. We learn from Homer’s ’Odyssey’ that ’Of all creatures that breathe and move upon the earth, nothing is bred that is weaker than man’. The protagonist has no voice here against the whims of external forces and deadly crushing waves, and a sense of self-loathing is creeping in. 

The reverie of ’Grey’ picks up right where ’Cellar Door’ left. The visual art shows a flying elephant in an unlikely aurora setting. The brooding intro turns into bitter sweetness as the cello joins Öllegård’s now hesitant, melancholy vocals. If The Child is still there, she has grown more quiet.

‘Ættar’ (instrumental, featuring trumpet and clarinet) was allegedly written in 2008, and adds a distinct Sigur Ros flavor to the album. There is both triumph and a warm sense of settling calm to it. Could it be an attempt at closure, a homecoming? The lively wholehearted drumming in the second part is evocative of ’Cellar Door’. 

Finally, ethereal, contemplative ’Disparation’ (featuring harmonium) brings back the voice of The Child, softly echoing a verse from ’Cellar Door’: ’if I were you I’d forget my home’. ’Disparation’ plays with the sonic panorama, giving the illusion of space as the sound pops up consecutively from what feels like two different channels. The sound eventually converges on a common ground when the beautiful breathy voices go quiet. It’s an afterthought, a postlude. The album safely leads us onward to fast land, to a place of meditation and introspection. 

To conclude, there is a roundness to Helsinki Horizon’s ‘Sirens’ that promises sophisticated depth to those who look further into it. Its main achievement lies in revealing and filling in the spaces of in-betweens of apparent duality. These spaces of shrouded insecurity, lack of clarity and potential peril have belonged to nature and life since time immemorial, yet are a perpetual cause of turmoil in the human soul, as a result of an apparent lack of agency. 


  • Snorre Hovdal: bass, keys, guitars, programming, harmonium, vocals, composition, lyrics
  • Öllegård: vocals, lyrics
  • viND: guitars
  • Geir Knarbakk: drums

Guest musicians

  • Tomas Järmyr: drums
  • Johan Engdal: backing vocals
  • Kurt Sprenger: guitar
  • Dalai Cellai: cello
  • Ragnhild Kronberg Larsen: trumpet
  • Rebekka Mendelsohn Wenngren Ytrehus: clarinet

Recorded at Spiren studio, Norway by viNd

Recorded at KV2 studio, Norway by Snorre Hovdal

Mixed and produced by Rune Stavnesli at Stavmix studio, Norway

Mastered by Jim at Jimi Studios, Netherlands

Artwork by Snorre Hovdal

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