June 2007 Archives

Not sure if these problems are of my own creation or not, but if you sent me email in the last 3 days or so, resend it please.

Somehow my DNS entries were reset to the values of an old hosting company I used to be with before they got absorbed by my current host. No idea why or how, the problem is rectified but will take a while to propagate around the net.

I've spent the past few weeks listening to Sigh's latest album, which in their typical manner confounds me yet leaves me coming back for more.

Like another favourite band of mine: Ulver, Sigh are keen to never release the same material twice, and in their latest opus Hangman's Hymn they have kept that promise. When this album was first announced ringleader Mirai had promised a focus on four aspects - fast, heavy, bombastic and majestic - Sigh deliver on all, framing it in a Germanic hybrid of wagnerian symphonies and thrash metal.

Taking each of these stylistic aspects separately we find:

The majestic front is deployed via gregorian styled choirs chanting sections from the requiem mass bring to mind horror soundtracks from the 70s, in particular The Omen. These really add depth and a consistent feel to the songs and buttress the light concept-album explored throughout the album. Some of the choir elements are actually from fans of the band who responded to a request by Mirai on the band's official forum.

One of the few constants with Sigh over the years has been the extensive usage of grove laden, thrash styled riffing, It's primarily because of this that I always find Sigh an incredibly uplifting listening experience. On Hangman's hymn both regular and guest guitarists continue this tradition well.

Lacking any serious budget (they have switched record labels after each of the last three albums) the bombastic symphonic elements are all keyboard derived - which I would normally hate, but Mirai's arrangements and keyboard skills make the difference. Transforming my expected hate into joy is a miracle that Mirai seems incredibly gifted with.

On the heavy front, we get blast-beats for the first time in a long time (possibly ever?) from Sigh, plus we get a return to harsh vocals from Mirai, which are as good if not better than any of his previous black/harsh vocal work.

Overall, Sigh have delivered a surprisingly accessible album, that also rewards repeated listens. These rewards come partly via exploring the themes loose story-framework but mostly through the well arranged compositions, fantastic musicality and a great mix. In the short term, a solid return to form after the disappointing Gallows Gallery, which suffered primarily from a poor mix and lack of consistent vision. In the long term, it's up there with other peak albums in their catalogue, but still not in my opinion superior to their best work to date, Hail Horror Hail.

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