Review Summary: In attempting reinvention, Kawashima may have created Sigh’s most palatable—and best—record in nearly 20 years.
Kawashima’s eyeroll-inducing claims that Heir to Despair
would be wildly different and “hated” by ardent Sigh fans falls like a lead balloon. After decades of turning black metal into a circus, even the boldest moves don’t feel entirely unexpected. Even at its weirdest
, Sigh’s latest still feels in line with the band’s genre hopping sensibilities; a quintessential example of modern Sigh—irreverent, eclectic, and a total blast.
Weirdness in mind, it’s been increasingly difficult to declare Sigh a “black metal band.” Skirting the edges of progressive rock, heavy metal, and psychedelia, Sigh’s custom sound has strayed its furthest yet from the bleak confines of black metal, featuring more electronics and world-music styles than ever. Songs like “In Memories Delusional” and “Hands of the String Puller” have hints of the genre, but they’re hidden amongst J-rock choruses, chunky time changes, and pan flutes. Now,Heir to Despair
, despite the overblown claims of being a complete change, really is markedly stranger
than most Sigh outings. The “Heresy Suite” is a dark electronic trio of songs with thumping bass lines, vocoder vocals, and light sitar. Likewise, the title track closes the record with eastern flair, remittent with bevy of instruments and haunted vocals. Even one of the more standard tracks, “In Memories Delusional,” takes unpredictable turns towards a blackened power-metal fiasco. Again, it’s pretty strange, but never is it tasteless.
After the galumph of Graveward
, all bets were off the table—Sigh have embraced their decades-in-the-making sound fully, and thankfully it is here to stay. As bizarre as Heir to Despair
is at times, it feels like the tightest and purest example of Sigh’s signature sound in the modern era. Instead of blaring horns to add weight and cadence, Kawashima uses subtle electronics to add ambience and sparse instrumentation to cultivate genuine feelings. It’s Sigh’s most palatable record since, perhaps ever. Rather than bludgeon the listener with out-of-left-field whackiness, Sigh smartly use their avant-grade sensibilities to make their most substantial record in over 15 years. It offers so much more while feeling like less.