Ashes of course.
It's dark, atmospheric, haunting and very emotional. Every song is masterfully composed and arranged, if you REALLY listen to them. I know a lot of people dislike the change of style or shall I say the lack of choir and symphonic elements. But I personally prefer a more emotional record than just some bombastic music with lots of repeatitive choirs. Sure I love the sorprano vocals of Vibeke, but her toned down vocals also suit the style of Ashes perfectly. Very dark and atmospheric. (did I use that word again?) She doesn't need to stretch her voice so high to prove her abilities. (I'm sure she's tired of singing sorprano All the time, experiment with new vocal style is a good thing) This just shows how talented Vibeke is, she is such a versatile vocalist. This album definitely touched me deeply. It brings Tristania even closer to my heart.
I like Sirenia too. Morten's composition is very chatchy, very accessible. I enjoy both ASAS and AEFE very much but the problem is, there is not one song I can recall even after 8-9 listens, there is no memorable moment. All I can remember is pretty bombastic music with lots of great choir. They all seem too similar. Also, I dislike the clean vocals on both albums. Don't get me wrong, they are not bad, as a matter of fact you can even call them pretty. It's just that they don't move me at all, there is no emotional performance which I crave most. the lyrics are not very good either.
Since many people prefer Sirenia's albums because they sound like the older Tristania albums, esp. Beyond the Veil, I'll do a comparision here. On "Beyond the Veil", the music is bombastic at times but it has many slow touching moments, many memorable moments, not to mention the lyrics are just beautiful. Every song is unqiue, majestic and magical, I can't even begin to describe the beauty as it still blows me away from the first second to the last even after hundreds of listens. Vibeke and Osten's vocals are so good, so haunting that I just want to weep. However none of the Sirenia albums has these elements. Without a doubt, Sirenia makes enjoyable, easy listening gothic music. Magical? Nah. Not even close
Tristania continue to deliver atmospheric, emotional music. This is what Magic is all about, as least it is for me. Sorry Morten fans