Sunday, February 17, 2008

SIGH's Does Matter!

SIGH – “Hangman’s Hymn – Musikalische Exequien” CD ’07 (The End, Jap) – You know, there are some places I really want to go in this world. And, before any of the smart-asses out there say “Well, you’ve already gone insane, mental, whatever…” you know what the hell I mean. I’m talking about traveling, baby, so play me some traveling music! How ‘bout some Native American folk (or hell, Wardog, for that matter) for the American West. Throw on some old Lizzy or Glyder and we’ll board the boat for Ireland. Play me Tony Bourge’s opening riff to “She’s As Hot As A Docker’s Armpit” and the flight leaves for Wales today. And brothers & sisters, whadya say to Japan? Hmm…let’s see, which Loudness disc or Bow Wow album is going to be the soundtrack for that voyage? Well, over the last couple weeks since I first heard “Hangman’s Hymn…”, I’m thinking it might end up being this shiny little piece of explosive auditory cranium crush by SIGH. Now about here, it would be easy for me to play the super-intelligent know-it-all reviewer & say that I expected a mighty text of earbending pleasure like this to burst forth from the guts of this Japanese juggernaut any year now. Truth be known, however, this is the first damn thing I ever heard by SIGH. So, I’ve been living behind the door the last umpteen years, you can crucify me but at least I’ll die happy as I may spend my last few minutes listening to this CD. Throughout the course of this disc, which is divided into 3 so-called “Acts” (of 3 or 4 songs each), SIGH take a powerful punch with a highly energized brand of black metal, augmented with echoes of related genres like death, thrash & even occasionally (but not often), trad metal. So what makes “Hangman’s Hymn…” so captivating, then? It’s the angles they come from and the imagination they bring to the table that makes this record not only stand out but fly to the top of the pack. Each song is laced with beautifully varied vocal deliveries, from very harsh screaming to way more melodic. And, rather than using this effect as a mere black & white dynamic as so many bands have done, SIGH blends things so seamlessly that the result is fantastic. Add to that the use of keys and orchestration that fits like a glove into the tapestry of the sometimes complex & yet always ass-kicking songs and it’s easy for the listener to see why they’ve latched onto a real winner. As the icing on the cake, the guitar work here is just awesome. Whether we’re talking about the hacksaw rhythms or the trend-setting, edgy lead work, “scintillating” is a good word to describe the fretsmanship on offer and when the guitars actually get into dogfights with the keyboards, well, listening nirvana (not Curt!) can’t be far behind. I often hesitate when it comes to recommending really extreme metal to those on the “periphery” of heavy stuff, as I’m concerned it’ll scare ‘em away. When I sit back with this baby, though, & dig hard on cuts like “Dies Irae/The Master Malice” or “Overture/Rex Tremendae/I Saw The World’s End,” I’m pretty damn sure it’s worth the effort anyone can make to open their ears to this masterpiece.

THE MARS VOLTA – “Bedlam In Goliath” CD ’08 (Universal, US) – I really have to hand Omar & Cedric of THE MARS VOLTA a lot of credit. To put it simply, what they’ve done is to take music that is very challenging and gotten it in front of a helluva lot of people. Doing that in 2008 is about as hard as walking in front of a freight train going full speed and still making it to work that day. The thing about THE MARS VOLTA is that their music is not only challenging to the listener, it also includes damn good songs and they don’t sound like anybody else…at all. They remind me of a band from back in the early ‘70’s, a bunch of really killer musicians who are also very creative and when they get together to write & record, it’s for the sheer joy of doing it. Of course, there are many bands today who do it for this reason…that’s what this site is all about. But what puts me in mind of the early ‘70’s with these cats is that they sell a lot of records. Back in the day, you’d amble into a record store & see new releases by groups like Nektar, Soft Machine & Return To Forever right on the front racks next to Sabbath, Zeppelin, Doobie Bros., ZZ Top…and people dug it. They were buying it, taking chances on expanding their listening horizons with music that pushed ‘em yet still stirred something emotionally. I could talk about the songs being more compact here, yet still bristling with vitality. I could talk about Cedric’s wonderful vocal range or Omar’s Santana-on-prog-steroids guitar ripping but wouldn’t that be so cliché? Yeah. So, for anybody reading, this one is easy. When your significant other drags you out to Wal*Mart or Best Buy today, grab this. You’re not going to have an easier time finding a great album all year.

SAVIOURS – “Into Abaddon” CD ’08 (Kemado, US) – I saw these guys open for Witchcraft a few months back & when they did a few songs from their debut album “Crucifire,” they reminded me of what Bible Of The Devil would be like if they had a good bit less talent and WAY less impressive songs. SAVIOURS then went on that night to motor through a couple cuts from this (at that point unreleased) 2nd disc and my ears perked up a bit. Kinda like that Joan Jett-ish looking girl standing near me who had other things perking up…well, it was a bit cool in the bar that night. But, I digress. The new songs, as evidenced on this 2nd disc are surely better. Cuts like “Cavern Of The Mind,” “Mystichasm” and “Inner Mountain Arthame” are considerably more focused, giving SAVIOURS’ Maiden/thrash amalgam a boost in the catchiness department. One thing that continues to nag me about this band however is the fact that they have a pair of guitar players who come up with some very interesting riffs and yet the leads are often quite pedestrian & not very memorable or innovative at all. What’s that all about? In summary, better than they were but still a ways to go.

ICARUS WITCH – “Songs Of The Lost” CD ’07 (Cleopatra, US) – Now here is a band who has really improved a lot, from the last time I heard them. I had an EP by these guys from a few years back that, while decently played, fell quickly into the category of super-bland & forgettable metal. Imagine my pleasant surprise and delight then, when I loaded up this “Songs Of The Lost” CD and found myself totally enjoying it. As always, the main thing comes down to songs, and these dudes have stepped it up big-time, with tracks like “Written In The Stars,” “Devil’s Hour” and “Queen Of Lies” reaching into actual Manilla Road territory at points. Especially impressive are the vocals of Matthew Bizilia, much more intense and infused with melody than the vox on the group’s previous work. Also, the guitar presence of Quinn Lukas is really notable. I’m not saying he’s morphed into Akira or anything crazy like that, but the guy belts out some really nice riffs & surprisingly exploratory leads throughout the course of this disc. Bottom line is, ICARUS WITCH has come up with some serious goods on “Songs Of The Lost” & any metal fan will be making a good move by checking it out.

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