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June 12, 2007

{     Sigh - Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien     }    

If all those creepy demon-ghost babies from J-horror films grew up, got really into Wagner, Venom, Dario Argento and Mayhem and started a band, I imagine this is what it might end up sounding like.
That may even be selling Sigh short, as their pool of influences is a bit deeper than that analogy allows, combining elements of thrash, symphonic orchestration and cinematic ambiance with a profoundly diverse take on black metal. Now I'm not exactly "black metal guy", so I don't know how well Sigh's particular brand of it plays with genre purists, but I can confidently say that Hangman's Hymn easily out-evils most of what passes for BM these days.
The album is divided into three Acts, each comprised of 3-4 tracks which weave in and out of overarching themes (both lyrically and melodically), building to weird crescendos and denouements. It's a very loose jazz-like structuring, with repetition falling off-measure and different levels of instrumentation and vocalization rising and falling throughout in a chaotic swirl that only makes sense the more you listen to it. Layers of sound, screeches, maniacal laughter, thrash riffs and thunderous choruses pop in out of nowhere like boogey-men out of the closet or monsters from under the bed, adding a little pants-pooping shock-and-awe to the proceedings.

And it's hard to talk about Sigh and this album without conjuring up horror-film images and haunted house references. Perhaps it's frontman Mirai Kawashima's perpetually mad carnival cackle or the demonic calliope synth-organ lines that blast throughout the album, but I just can't shake the feeling that I'm strapped into a greasy roller-coaster car with no seat belt, being ushered through a funhouse full of real-life devils and ghouls, and the track dead-ends up ahead somewhere in the blackness, emptying into a pit with no bottom.
Act I ably sets the scene for what is to come, and the chorus introduced in the first track, a punk-screech bleat of "Born again, born again", matches the blast-beat drumming's ferocity and vigor, breaking from the thrashy melodic structure adhered to up to that point. At the two-minute mark, a blood curdling "WAAAAAAAA" swoops in, and a shrill banshee chorus rises up to echo the refrain. Weird riffs fracture off from the main structure, and the whole song seems to be in a constant state of collapse and rebuild, collapse and rebuild. By the time the first track ends, it has dwindled off to the sound of heavy rainfall, a storm breaking, raining down upon the listener.
And that level of surging intensity is held throughout the remainder, layer upon layer, Hangman's Hymn never lets up. At moments it's almost too much, as though you were listening to two albums at the same time, the brain can't decide what to latch on to, before things suddenly resolve into a sucker-punch chorus or solo. The scope and intricacies of the album and the risks that it takes make this an extremely ambitious endeavor. Ultimately it pays off by transcending genre and breaking form to create something previously unheard, a malevolent sonic dervish that at it's finer moments is able to chill the soul to it's core.

     » Sigh


whoa dude, i was sold on the cover alone (didn't i say something similar about your last review?). i want that on a shirt with no text.

but yeah, doesn't sound too much like my cup of tea, but I'll still check it out since i'm so down with the horror...

Posted by: garrett at June 13, 2007 3:08 AM

This is some wacky shit. It's like they've taken Dimmu Borgir's commercialized BM sound and added some of the most Engrishtastic proggy whateverness. Odin bless the Japanese.

Posted by: Aaron at June 13, 2007 4:09 AM

Dimmu Borgir? I haven't listened to them since '96 when their album showed up at WMUL accompanied by an 8x10 promo glossy of the band all wearing plastic Dracula capes. I hated them.....

Posted by: Adam at June 13, 2007 5:02 AM

That's it. Feel the hate. That's what the caped face ones want of you.

Posted by: Aaron at June 13, 2007 1:03 PM

tr00 dat.

Posted by: Adam at June 13, 2007 5:05 PM
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