Japanese avant-garde metal outfit Sigh present us this month with a marvelous slab of genre bending weirdness, their 9th full-length album. I've been struggling with how exactly to approach writing about this album, because its level of musical complexity makes it difficult to fully describe.
This is a very sonically rich album. The instrumentation Sigh employ here reaches far beyond the norm for even experimental metal groups. From the lonesome jazz saxophone of "L'excommunication à Minuit" to the energetic bongo work on "The Transfiguration Fear", musical diversity is positively dripping from every surface of this album. Organ, whistle, violin, and more all blend fluidly with the more traditional metal instrumentation. This is not merely straight-forward metal instrumentation with extra instruments added, though. One minute the guitar will produce soaring power metal leads over top of crunchy thrash riffs, and the next it will slide into hard rock riffs that would sound perfectly at home on an AC/DC album. All this woven together with an intricate ebb and flow that adds and removes layers as it transitions from one sound to the next. Laced throughout are some of the most diverse metal vocals you will ever hear collected together on a single album. These tracks really have a lot going on in them. Together, these elements create a sound that reminds me of all the best parts of a Mr Bungle record, executed even more expertly and infused throughout with a distinctly metal character.
As I was trying to decide how to approach this review, it occurred to me that the most remarkable aspect of this album is not the diversity: it's the cohesiveness. Blending so many disparate elements into the same songs could easily have created a disjointed, unlistenable train wreck of an album with all these sound sticking out in different directions and totally lacking in structure. Or it could have become a muddled mush of sound where nothing could be heard distinctly over the din. Mixing sound is like mixing different colors of paint. One person may try to keep them each separate, so each is distinct but there is a jarring lack of transition from one to the next. Another may simply blend them all together and coat the canvas in dun brown. Instead, like an expert painter with that palate of paints, Sigh have mixed and blended with enough skill to allow each individual element room to stand out as distinct from the rest without ever having to sacrifice the overall sense of unity.
If you couldn't tell already, I'm loving this album. It is complex and creative and so engaging that I can't stop listening to it.
This is another strong early contender for my top album of the year. It's complex, diverse, and brilliantly interwoven.