Sigh - _Hangman's Hymn_
(The End Records, 2007)
by: Kostas Sarampalis (
Sigh are an oddity. An exception in the metal world. They dared early on to differentiate themselves from the pack. Being from Japan has helped create the physical distance from the northern European explosion of black metal and later on experimental (black) metal, but it is the creative genius of Mirai and the rest of the band that has allowed Sigh to truly evolve and shine. Even as early as their second album _Infidel Art_, Sigh were turning eyes from around the world. But it was their brilliant _Hail Horror Hail_ that made theirs a household name in quality metal circles.Not that they have not had their missteps. _Scenario IV: Dread Dreams_ was nowhere near as good as its predecessor (their only album I simply cannot get into, however much I have tried), and their last one was heavily criticised for its bad production. Sonic weapon techniques or not, the sound quality of _Gallows Gallery_ diminished what could have been a tremendously good album to a merely good one.Regardless, Sigh have just come out with their best album ever. _Hangman's Hymn_ is a masterpiece, the accumulation of many years of effort and skill. Described as bombastic and majestic by the band themselves, the album is as unexpected as it is comfortably familiar. No flimsy production this time, Sigh have invested in James Murphy to master the album, and the outcome is a crystal clear sound that allows it to shine and reveal all nuances and facets of its complicated orchestration. At heart this is thrash metal, very cleverly concealed under multiple layers of musical genius.Utilising harsh guitars and fast pace, it is only fitting that Mirai switched back to his harsh vocals. Not that he doesn't use a multitude of other styles, as evident in each track, from dramatic speech to clean singing and vocal effects. Some female choir vocals also appear here and there. Another welcome surprise is Junichi's drumming, which is by far the best in any of Sigh's albums. Precise and violent at points, carefree, playful and even retro at others, the drums give not only rhythm but also volume and texture to the music.There is a fine common thread running down all the tracks on the album, a constant that brings everything together, like the repetition of certain themes, even though this is not realy a concept album. A couple of tracks stand out, like "In Devil's Arms" for its catchiness or "Dies Irae / The Master Malice" for the dramatic orchestration, but all the tracks deserve praise. This is Sigh at their best, and by far one of the best albums I have heard this year. It is a rare occasion that I have absolutely no negative criticism to nit pick in an album. Sigh are simply masters of their art.
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