SIGH’S HANGMAN’S HYMN: MADE IN JAPAN
Well paint me like a corpse and call me Necrosenberg: between the latest releases from Melechesh, Watain, Behemoth, Dimmu Borgir, and now Japan’s Sigh, 2007 has gotta be some kind of banner year for black metal (I know a lotta people really like that Mayhem record I can’t stand, too; I suppose getting three Enslaved albums in as many years would be too much to ask?).
The music on this album – and I mean this in the nicest possible way – could only have come from Japan, the land that gave us karaoke and anime and Pokémon and Takashi Miike movies and car commercials starring Sean Connery. Hangman’s Hymn would work just fine as either a stripped down, Sworn to the Dark-style slab or blackened-to-a-crisp metal or an operatic, symphonic satanic mammoth like In Sorte Diaboli, but Sigh, ambitious motherfuckers that they are, went ahead and recorded an album that’s both. Sigh do for black metal what At All Cost do for metalcore – maintain the tropes that make their genre so satisfying while emphasizing creativity and originality over tired clichés. But it’s possible that Sigh do it with an even greater amount of reckless glee.
Fact is, Hangman’s Hymn is like the soundtrack to some black metal circus – the carnival-like organs, monkey-banging-on-a-cymbal beats, what sounds like a full choir of gremlins belting out the chorus of “Inked in Blood,” or whatever the fuck that is that sounds like a dying giraffe filtered through the Doppler effect on “Me-Devil” – which, by the way, has an incredibly catchy chorus that might work pretty well for a polka number – these totally off-the-wall, bizarre, cross-eyed fucknuts elements are placed alongside more traditionalist bits like rolling horns, Shinichi Ishikawa’s razor sharp guitars, and Mirai Kawasima’s ghoulish vocals.
What’s so damn amazing about this recording, then, is how well it all fits together. Hangman’s Hymn sounds like a bus, on fire, swerving violently down the road while the driver laughs all the while; and yet, said suicidal madman bus driver is clearly in complete control of the vehicle at all times. Combine all that giddy weirdness with such strong hooks and you have an album that’s totally bad-assed and just plain fuckin’ fun to listen to.
As a matter of fact, if I have any complaints about this disc, it’s that, like most black metal, I wish the production were just a little, I dunno, bigger – that it sounded as breathtakingly monstrous as the material clearly aspires, and has the full capability, to be. But that’s not the biggest quibble in the world; the thing was mastered by James Murphy, so you know that all is not lost.
Here’s the best part: even though I am, for whatever reason, only just learning about Sigh now, this is apparently their seventh full length album; obviously, I have six other CDs to track down ASAP.
(four out of five horns)