Here’s something strange to close off the year with…
When you say Sigh, you say weird. Starting out as a second wave black metal band from Japan, Mirai Kawashima has taken Sigh into some truly deranged places, adding layers and layers of orchestration, samples and exotic instrumentation to a solid base of extreme metal, always surprising and challenging listeners and never releasing the same the same type of album twice. Heir to Despair is no different in that respect.
Alethea opens the album and immediately unleashes the calculated madness onto the unwary listener. It’s a slow, mid-tempo start to Heir to Despair with vocals entirely in Japanese, weirdly swirling melodies and a host of uncomforting sounds, percussion and flutes bubbling just beneath the surface, audible enough to make you sit up and take notice. Homo Homini Lupus follows that up by almost being the antithesis to the opening track, easily being the most straightforward and metal song Sigh has released in a long time. There is some deliciously meaty riffing here, rolling drums and almost NWOBHM guitar leads to spice things up.
Hunters Not Horned continues the heaviness whilst also bringing the flutes and keys back in what’s otherwise a solid rocking track. Gone are the orchestrations that have been a staple in the band’s sound from 2009’s Scenes from Hell onwards, instead offering a more bare-bones heavy metal approach this time around. The only truly strange, disconcerting stuff on Heir to Despair is the Heresy trilogy, where warbling voice samples are layered on top of electronic beats and almost dissonant keyboard melodies, reminding a little of the avant-garde stuff a band like Arcturus used to really excel at back in the day. It’s the haunting stuff you’ve come to expect from Kawashima. Part 1: Oblivium, by the way, features one the of the best flute solos you’ll hear all year. Closing off the trip are Hands of the String Puller, another fairly straightforward metal track with some truly ominous riffs, and the title track which brings the album full circle with more mid-tempo creepiness.
The production on Heir to Despair, I’m glad to say, is great, allowing each element to Sigh’s complex sound to breathe properly without drowning in a muddy pool of noise. At almost fifty-three minutes, the album also has just the right length. Adding one more song would probably have amounted to overkill. In the end, Heir to Despair is another stellar addition to Sigh’s incredibly varied discography, adding to the breadth of what these guys and girl are capable off. Consider my hat tipped.
Label: Candlelight Records, 2018
- Aletheia (07:23)
- Homo Homini Lupus (05:33)
- Hunters Not Horned (06:47)
- In Memories Delusional (06:17)
- Heresy (Part 1: Oblivium) (07:28)
- Heresy (Part 2: Acosmism) (01:45)
- Heresy (Part 3: Sub Species Aeternitatis) (02:26)
- Hands of the String Puller (04:48)
- Heir to Despair (10:15)
- Mirai Kawashima – vocals, keyboards, taishōgoto, flute, piccolo
- You Oshima – guitars
- Satoshi Fujinami – bass
- Dr. Mikannibal – vocals, saxophone
- Junichi Harashima – drums
Review by Ralph Plug