Siren’s Sky is a studio project created and maintained by Herbert Kaptein, a Dutch songwriter and guitarist that has previously played in several alternative rock bands based in the Rotterdam area, such as Eyes Are Blind and The Undertow. This five track EP, titled “Heal You”, resulted from a collaboration with two American vocalists, Lydia Salnikova and Mella Barnes. Salnikova gained her reputation as a high caliber musician during her time as lead vocalist in Bering Straight, a Grammy-nominated band that released two albums and toured through the United States. Salnikova has collaborated with Kaptein before, singing on Siren’s Sky’s first album, “Forever”. Conversely, this is the first time session vocalist Mella Barnes has appeared on a Siren’s Sky project. However, Barnes is accomplished in her own right and has received a great amount of praise both for the quality of her voice and her songwriting capabilities. This EP was released August 2nd and is the second release from Herbert Kaptein’s Siren’s Sky.
This EP is a shining achievement, especially when considering it was mixed and produced single- handedly by Kaptein in a personal studio. While the sound of these tracks is warm and highly sophisticated, they still communicate intimacy through a keen sense of depth and expansiveness that allow the smooth, weighty, and authoritative vocals of Salnikova to absolutely soar. The title track establishes the essence of this album’s sound perfectly; full-bodied guitar work drenched with wide, vibrant chorus provides an enveloping anchor for a series of dynamic and somewhat hypnotic vocal performances. The EP does a good job of creating a musical landscape through integration of just enough instrumental components to move the lyrical content forward; the vocals are the definitive element of this work, but it is through Kaptein’s instrumentation that they are able to reach such a high level of significance. In short, “Heal You” sounds very good, this music has been mixed with fantastic clarity and professionalism, integrates vocals from critically-acclaimed, seasoned musicians, and has created a whirlwind of sound that submerses, envelopes, and captivates the audience. However, it is also important to understand that this EP is more than a semi-psychedelic adventure with a contemporary edge; it is definitively rock-based, and certainly is not without a harsher side. One of the best tracks from this EP is the remastered version of “Release”. It is one of the few points in the album where Kaptein cuts loose with hot, distorted guitar and gives a little bit of solo work. “Release” stands out from the other tracks as one of the more firm and aggressive songs, but serves as an excellent balance between many of the album’s softer, clean songs where the guitar often takes a subordinate position in respect to the vocals. The sound in this EP might best be described as highly produced contemporary alternative rock lead by vocals that are a combination of Stevie Nicks and Faith Hill. It has its aggressive side, yet is still very intimate and sophisticated.
The vocal performances by Salnikova and Barnes were quite good, but some might be disappointed by the sparing implementation of Kaptein’s guitar on this EP. There weren’t that many guitar solos throughout the album, most of the time the guitar served only to compliment the lead vocal, and while some of the arrangements were interesting, the instrumentation could have been much more dynamic. While it is understandable that embellishments might only take away from the basic mission of the lyrical content, it would have been interesting to determine how integrating more complex musicianship would have influenced the album.
It is amazing to consider the tracks on this album and know that Kaptein has mixed this music himself. “Heal You” is a high quality work that establishes a firm sense of musical direction and showcases excellent vocals. The principle strength of this EP is that it creates an enveloping, hypnotic sound through integration of simple components that have been nearly perfected.
~ Owen Matheson
Artist: Siren’s Sky
Album: Heal You
Sounds Like: Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac, Faith Hill
Technical Grade: 9/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 9/10
Commercial Value: 7/10
Overall Talent Level: 7/10
Songwriting Skills: 7/10
Performance Skills: 7/10
Best Songs: Release
Strengths: Very clean, sophisticated sound, excellent overall mix
Weaknesses: Light on dynamic instrumentation