SIGH — Heir to Despair (review)

SIGH — Heir to Despair album cover Album · 2018 · Avant-garde Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
voila_la_scorie
Though I’ve lived in Japan for nearly 20 years, I don’t know many Japanese metal bands, and until recently, I didn’t know Sigh either. Then within the space of about a week, not only was Sigh mentioned in two metal album discussion videos I watched on YouTube, but their album “Heir to Despair” showed up in a recommended albums message from Amazon. Being a sucker for album art, I ordered the album right after checking out whose album cover this painting graced. Then I made a quick visit to YouTube to make sure I hadn’t ordered something that would leave me dubiously scratching my chin.

The artwork really intrigued me. It has a very 1950’s/60’s, Showa” Japanese look to it. The woman is smiling as beautifully as though she were a star actress posing for a movie poster. And yet the plant she waters has withered and the room behind her looks not only austere but items on the floor and torn images on the walls suggest that someone had a serious freak out session in there. Word is the image and the album are about insanity? (The Japanese text translates directly to “Inheritor of despair”, by the way)

I had no idea about what music to expect except for that it would be metal. That Sigh cover black metal, avant-garde metal, progressive metal and more was unknown to me; however, before the album was over I could have guessed most of that myself. The music is speedy, melodic, symphonic at times, suggestive of power metal in a spot or two, and holds a fudge ton of progressive and odd bits to make sure that the album never becomes repetitive. One thing I’m very glad to hear is the variety of additional instruments, particularly traditional instruments like koto and shamisen, but also a good variety of other sounds and affects. Flute also figures in prominently in some tracks. The “Heresy” trilogy is the most exceptional moment on the album with distorted vocoder vocals, electronic effects, sounds and voices, and a liberal amount of creative editing used to great effect.

Actually, the whole album very masterfully weaves together such an eclectic melange of metal styles so that crunchy guitars yield to Eastern music for a space, flute delightfully plays along to distortion-enriched power chords, symphonic elements add the extra “umph” to some parts, accordion lends a folk feeling, and traditional Japanese instruments expand the soundscape further. As another reviewer stated, one never can be sure of where the next track will go or what will follow.

I’m not especially a fan of Japanese vocals in any popular music genre because I find them usually too similar in a predictable way. But here, the vocal styles and sounds I would expect from a Japanese metal band don’t remain stuck in a trench. They are principally black metal croaks but joined at times by growls. There are also chanted vocals and rapid fire, staccato utterances. Most of the lyrics are in Japanese for which I’m grateful as I sometimes cringe the way some vocalists struggle with English phonetics. (To give an example from another band, “I cross my heart / I cross my eyes” when “cross” was supposed to be “close”). Yet, to give praise where it’s due, none of the English on “Heir to Despair” has stood out for being poorly pronounced to my ears. Then again, I’ve mostly been enjoying the sounds of the music and vocals and haven’t concentrated on the lyrics.

Having never heard any other Sigh albums, I have nothing to compare this to. But I’m very impressed with the package presented here. I love an album of creative and diverse musical approaches, and the recording quality captures all the band’s efforts really well. It’s a delight to listen to this album!
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4 months ago
Alright, looks like I have a band discography to inspect!
Tupan wrote:
4 months ago
Man, check out Gallows Gallery, is one of my favorite albums!
siLLy puPPy wrote:
4 months ago
All their albums are really good and each is different from the others. Personally this latest album is probably my least favorite but it's still a very good album. IMHO i think they shine the most with their weirdest and avant-garde stuff.
4 months ago
As I said in the review... Thanks Otto Kohrekt!
4 months ago
Thanks, guys! As I said I The review, I know nothing about Sigh apart from this album. I like a band that changes their sound and tries to do something different, so I think I should check out Imaginary Sonicscape and an older album or two. Maybe I might even have the chance to see them live somewhere!
UMUR wrote:
4 months ago
Personally I enjoy the last couple of albums before Imaginary Soniscape a Little more (they are a littlle more powerful and not quite as experimental), but if you go for the most avant garde/progressive Sigh, Imaginary Soniscape is definitely the place to go.
siLLy puPPy wrote:
4 months ago
This one is ok but if you've never heard Sigh before then you reallly need to check out Imaginary Sonicscape however they really are consistently weird and accessible at the same time.

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