It has to be said that Sigh are one of the cornerstones of black metal, and without shadow of a doubt one of the most enriching and interesting bands to have ever come from the scene. Starting in 1990 with their “Desolation” demo, Sigh have ploughed on throughout the years with an extremely consistent back catalogue. Quite simply, one can pick any studio album they’ve ever released and you can pretty much guarantee that it will be extremely enjoyable – albeit completely individual and not what you’d expect from your average black metal band that would normally come from Scandinavia. For the most part, Japan is one of the most interesting and weirdest places in the world – and Sigh are typical of such a band, who throw the rule book completely out of the window.
With their 11th studio album, “Heir To Despair” is certainly no exception. The album artwork in particular catches you off guard, and features a smiling woman watering a plant on a windowsill with a dull typeface for the album’s text. You play the album, and then it dawns on you that not all is what it seems, because the woman on the album cover is watering a dead plant, there’s a curious shadow in the background, and she’s grinning maniacally. Gotcha! You’ve been dragged down the rabbit hole, into Sigh’s unique brand of sonic weirdness. What’s immediately apparent is this new album is somewhat stripped back, almost stepping away from being the full on black metal albums with strange instruments and other oddness thrown in the mix. Even more tellingly, the songs contained in the album are almost exclusively sung in their native tongue. However, worries about the album not being sung in English is a lesser concern, bands such as bands Sigh let their music do the talking – after all, it never hindered Rammstein, did it?
The opener ‘Aletheia’ is typical of what Sigh is best at doing – throwing a whole bunch of stuff into the mix that on paper shouldn’t work; old school metal riffs meet black metal vocals, oriental folk instruments, searing guitar solos, and then ends with distorted vocals and deranged piano chords that are somewhat nightmarish. ‘Homo Homini Lupus’ bounds forth from the speakers with confident metal riffs that speeds up to dizzying levels that is reminiscent of their earlier material; acting as a perfect showcase track that demonstrates what they do best. ‘Hunters Not Horned’ is one of the more catchier tunes, that goes into an almost Dream Theater like instrumental interlude half way into the track and then picks itself up with a mix of chanted and black metal style vocals. The album takes a trip into Mr Bungle-esque weird town with the 3 part ‘Heresy’ tracks in the middle of the album that will really weird the listener out; taking a sinister turn with whispered vocals, strings, horns, and strange samples; that in parts sounds ethereal and dreamlike, to veer off into sounding murderous as it drowns in its own insanity – like a underground horror film that’s still banned in most places in the world, that all of a sudden has some floaty happy ending.
‘In Memories Delusional’ dials the weird interlude back, adding some incredible musicianship and melody to proceedings that in all honestly make most bands of the genre look like piss poor amateurs in comparison – with musical flourishes like you wouldn’t believe. ‘Hands of the String Puller’ is very reminiscent of the best Sigh tracks of old, that is extremely infectious and peppered with flutes amongst the noise; that is typically unhinged and yet harbours an air of sheer brilliance, to close with the title track as an exhaustive finale and a fitting conclusion.
It almost boggles the mind how Sigh can be so productive – as the songwriting in this album is certainly top notch, never faltering throughout the entire duration of the album. Granted, the middle of the album may be too weird for some people – but this is what makes black metal so alluring to many, the sheer individuality and abundance of ideas that Sigh bring to the table is the stuff of almost super human powers; something that demonstrates that humans – essentially war mongering shaved apes with an elevated sense of purpose – can create truly amazing things.