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"Sonicscape" isn't even a real word!! - 82%

Cheeses_Priced, January 15th, 2006

Some of you awful elitist types out there – I know you’re reading! – surely want to jump on this band for watering down black metal with prog rock and… other influences. You silly fools; that ship has long sailed. By now we should be wondering why on earth a psych rock/heavy metal/avant-garde band would want to utilize black metal vocals.

Because, in spite of the myriad views of what constitutes “black metal”, there is just no way to construe this music as such. And because Mirai sounds awful. I thought he always kind of did; he does not emit a piercing shriek, or a menacing snarl… it’s more like Helen Keller post-throat cancer: rather effeminate and monotone.

In fairness, any black or death metal vocalist would/does sound worse in a rock or heavy metal environment. It’s music that’s designed to be sung to, whereas your Morbid Angels and your Darkthrones growl and scream precisely because there’s just nowhere in their music for singing to go. Check the first track of this album, which is a pretty straightforward rocker and is thus the most offensive in that aspect: Mirai’s just bellowing over everything and you can’t help but want him to shut the hell up. Carry a tune or get out of the goddamn way!

(Lest you think I’m being unduly close-minded on this matter, I point out that Sigh at least apparently agrees with me, as they’ve recently switched to clean vox. But I have heard but one song of the newest album.)

Well, it’s not all bad. “I am the sun, I am the moon!” he screams in Scarlet Dream – okay, that’s pretty catchy – and the artificially distorted vocals sound okay alongside the slow triphop in Nietzchean Conspiracy.

Yes, the triphop. I told you Sigh weren’t black metal anymore. At this point, I count three major categories of influence on their sound, all of roughly equal significance:

1) heavy metal… or verrrrry early “black metal”, like Mercyful Fate,
2) progressive/psychedelic rock, and
3) every other style of music conceived in the history of popular music.

I’m barely kidding. The triphop – with accompanying sax, no less – will seem much less strange after you have heard the band break directly from heavy metal into… is that reggae in Scarlet Dream? Something like that. And why put reggae (or whatever) in the middle of a metal song? Well, why not put reggae in a metal song? Perhaps you can supply your own answer to that.

Back when Sigh were still (mostly) black metal, I think the idea behind their weird sidebars was to emulate horror movies, and the way they contrast the benign and everyday with the horrific. So there’d be some tame, peaceful-sounding string (keyboard) stuff, perhaps, and then, like a stinger, comes the black metal.

I thought that worked about as well at generating a horror movie-like atmosphere as does Mortician’s habit of using sound clips pilfered from their collection of horror movies. That is to say, I did not think that it worked very well at all.

Now that Sigh’s music consists almost entirely of weird sidebars, you have to wonder how seriously they took that philosophy anyway. Maybe they just really like playing in lots of different styles – and then recording that music – and then putting it all on the same album, instead of separate ones, like sane people would. You can certainly rest assured there’s nothing scary about this album, provided that your musical horizons extend beyond CCM.

If there’s a guiding philosophy behind the avant-garde indulgences on this album, it’s something like… fun… almost. Layers and layers of tripped-out sound – excellently produced – leaping from one idea to the next without warning, while still keeping enough within the bounds of rock songwriting to remain easily digestible. Some of you might not warm up to that. I assure you that it could be worse. Suppose they were trying to “broaden the boundaries of metal by blending eclectic influences”, blah blah, “open-minded”, blah blah. Now that would be scary. And trite. And pretentious. And typical of avant-garde metal.

Luckily, this album is not typical and not pretentious. Furthermore – this is key – it’s actually listenable, provided you’re up to rolling with the punches. Reggae? Sure, I’ll go with that. I hate triphop, but I like Nietzchean Conspiracy. As “catchy” metal goes, it sure beats the hell out of listening to yet another eunuch wailing about elves. As catchy music goes, it beats the hell out of damn near everything. Why listen to only one kind of annoying music when you can listen to them all at the same time? They should play this on the radio instead of… whatever the hell it is that they play on the radio these days.