Sigh - Hangman's Hymn - Musikalische Exequien (2007) - Another avantgarde institution from Japan - 92% (16/02/13)
Sigh is one of many unique avantgarde metal acts from Asia. The four Japanese and their eleven guest musicians play a very challenging form of symphonic extreme metal that I would compare to the works of Taiwanese act Chthonic, some songs of the Chinese metal bands Screaming Savior as well as Terminal Lost and at some points also to Western acts such as Akphaezya, Le Grand Guignol or UneXpect. The record company also suggests this kind of music to fans of Cradle of Filth, King Diamond, Mayhem and Slayer but I wouldn't have mentioned the last two ones. The record "Hangman's Hymn - Musikalische Exequien" is a concept record devivided into three acts and features many religious influences such as majestic choirs, symphonic arrangements and a few organ passages as well as Latin or German song titles even though the lyrics are entirely in English.
At first try, this band is quite hard to digest. The opening "Introitus/Kyrie" starts with a big bang and takes no prisoners. It presents us fast paced but later on quite progressive and thought out black metal with emotionally driven vocals. It's only towards the end that the song gets more orchestral and includes some atmospheric and quite cinematic breaks. It feels as if the song had been inversed. The ending is a calm introduction while the beginning moments are quite agressive and uneasy. The band uses many ideas like these and nevertheless manages to create a sane balance between atmospheric and introspective breaks on one side and true extreme metal fireworks on the other side.
What really surprised me is the fact that the band is also able to write very catchy choruses and gripping hooks despite it's overwhelming approach. Many songs need a few spins to impress you and give you the time to fully understand or digest them but once this step has been taken, the songs only get better and remain unforgettable after three to five spins. The sacral "Dies Irae/The Master Malice" reminds me of a mixture of Cradle of Filth and King Diamond and has an unforgettable high pitched chorus as well as a catchy orchestral overture. The reoccuring choirs and vivid orchestral elements in "Salvation In Flame/Confutatis" add a schizophrenic note to the almost circus music inspired spectacle. One might identify these passages as addicting leitfäden or as rather annoying and repetitive elements but they definitely do make this song unforgettable.
Unforgettable, that's what resumes this record very well in fact. Vivid extreme metal meets a lot of atmospheric and progressive avantgarde passages including epic synthesizers, overwhelming circus music and majestic choirs. A first contact with this band might be disturbing but will soon become fascinating as all songs and also the album concept itself have a more than solid growth potential. A true filler can't be found on here even if some tracks impress me less than others. Many songs have catchy choruses, hooks, riffs or even orchestral interludes and apart of the opener, the transitions are done in a very smooth and healthy way. That's why I prefer this record to others of the band such as the overloaded "In Somniphobia" that created more headaches than pleasures at first try. From what I've listened to until now, this album is absolutely recommandable and could be cited as a highlight in the band's long and large career and discography. If you care for courageous and groundbreaking bands in the metal scene, Sigh is an institution you should definitely have on the top of your list.
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