Sigh – Heir To Despair review

Experimental, highly ambitious and quite unlike anything else. For fans of extremes 9/10Sigh

Heir to Despair is the 11th studio album by Sigh and is my first taste of this avant-garde Japanese extreme metal band.

The album is an ode to madness, to seeing the world through the eyes of insanity.

The flickering of directions, distractions and complete detours in musical style gives a disorienting feel, a state of euphoria and confusion in the beauty of letting go of the ‘norm.’ The cover art by Eliran Kantor, depicts a beautiful, blissed out ‘housewife’ style character seemingly unaware that the plant she is watering is dead . Eliran did the artworks for the past Sigh albums such as “Scenes from Hell” (2010) and “In Somniphobia” (2012).

Heir to Despair commences and it is psychedelic, proggy with flutes and vocoder effected vocals with an Oriental influence, Aletheia opens our adventure and builds dramatically with heavy guitars and punchy percussion. Melodic and syncopated with spacey sound effects, acid jazz elements and an epic feel, my delight is almost as unexpected as the final few bars.

Homo Homini Lupus opens with a classically metal guitar base, which quickly becomes a gloriously invigorating speedy thrash with elements of death metal. Transitioning seamlessly from genres it is further enhanced by the guest vocals of the one and only Phil Anselmo (Pantera).  Hunters Not Horned brings heavy grooves, effervescent flutes and traditional Japanese instrumentation with choral and guttural vocals. It’s a somewhat doomy but upbeat track with frenetic electric guitars and a divine arrangement. This sentence probably makes little sense, unless you are a fan of Sigh. I am being initiated one note at a time, there’s a lot of notes. Rhythmical vocals match the percussion into a gallop and there’s no turning back.

In Memories Delusional takes us back into a slightly more traditionally ‘metal’ vein. Hard, fast with Asian influences and raw guttural vocals it’s dark and I wish I knew what the lyrics meant.  Is insanity loving what the voices say, but not registering what it means? Traditional folk instruments and strings form a tenuous bridge to normality, dropping off leaving you teetering on the edge.

The Heresy Trilogy begins:

the representation of pure madness and insanity with lots of crazy stuff going on, which has nothing to do with metal at all

Heresy I: Oblivium opens with a mesmerising dub/ trance with whispering vocals. Lulling the listener into a false sense of security. It moves into a gentle flute orientated interval which encompasses the ‘happy ever after’ feel of a Studio Ghibli movie. The sense of wonderment and unsettlement alternates but it is essentially upbeat in nature.

Heresy II: Acosmism gurgling demonic vocals, white noise, babies, chainsaws and confusion in a brief but controlled burst.

Heresy III: Sub Specie Aeternitatis soothing vocals initially release you from the memory of the preceding track, but there are flashbacks. There is no escaping this. Or is there

Hands of the String-puller is an undulating metal track with elements of NWOBHM and flutes. Flutes could be my new cowbell! Changes in time signatures and melodies that are soothing rather than disconcerting with a heavily psychedelic/ progressive theme echoing a certain Jeff Wayne concept album.

Heir to Despair is a 10 minute long epic, which ‘neatly’ (for my mind) consolidates the adventure so far. Moving whimsically through the different elements and emotions that we have encountered with a momentously unsettling psychedelic waltz before drawing to a conclusion.

Apparently Heir to Despair is Sigh’s first work to deliberately encompass a Japanese/ Asian musical flavour. It incorporates traditional Japanese singing techniques, instruments and also features Shamisen master Kevin Kmetz (ex-Estradosphere). Additionally, over 90% of the lyrics are in Japanese.

Experimental, highly ambitious and quite unlike anything else.

Incorporating elements of many genres of rock and metal, with dub, neo-classical, folk, this is an avant garde masterpiece.

Sigh cover
Heir to Despair Tracklist

1. Aletheia
2. Homo Homini Lupus
3. Hunters Not Horned
4. In Memories Delusional

Heresy Trilogy
5. Heresy I: Oblivium
6. Heresy II: Acosmism
7. Heresy III: Sub Specie Aeternitatis

8. Hands of the String-puller
9. Heir to Despair.

Heir to Despair is released November 19 and can be ordered here

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