Sigh, how can anyone really describe a band like Sigh. The Japanese Avant Garde bands could be grouped into Black Metal, and certainly albums like Hangman's Hymn, which is perhaps their most famous, can be seen as a Black Metal album. Before Ihsahn and Shining took Saxophone's into Black Metal, Sigh had redefined the Jazz instrument as a satanic and darkly alluring weapon of sound. Despite this, each of their albums have been distinctly different but distinctly Sigh, making them a little difficult for audiences to get into, and to be able to classify. So taking Black Metal, and more broadly Extreme Metal, or even broader still music in general, into more and more experimental areas... we have Heir to Despair.
The album feels like a meditation on concepts, keeping a similarity but being completely unafraid to be completely versatile. In fact, only 'Hands of The String Puller' is recognisably Sigh's Black Metal. The rest of the album perhaps could be considered closer to Arabic sounding Metal – or something. 'Aletheia' sets this tone with a meditative use of various instruments – windpipes, eastern string instruments and chants – only occasionally will guitars and rasped vocals come back in. Also, as part of this central focus is the three part song collection of 'Heresy'. This keeps this meditative vibe so strongly, that easily flows between each part, but leaves the album as an awkward listen for anyone expecting clear cut Metal. If listeners are happy to absorb new atmospheres in exploratory music, then these tracks are so much more on point.
It is therefore harder to consider this album as songs and not just as a whole. This was no doubt by intention, almost so that they can cast their spell. 'Homo Homini Lupus' perhaps could make for a stand out song in its own right. Despite it fitting in with the rest of the album and having the guitars and Metal tones that is otherwise largely absent, it has slow and melodic guitar lines and riffs that are almost instantly memorable. Slow and with far too many chants and clean vocals for it to reach the level of Black Metal, that is associated with the band, it still manages to impress as a Metal song in its own right.
If it feels that Black Metal is being emphasised its because it is important to note that Heir to Despair and perhaps even Sigh should be understood as entities themselves. Completely separate but dipping toes into Black Metal and Extreme Music. It is too dark for anything that most Metallers would hope for. Though if understood as a completely experimental take on what music can be pushed to be, then this odd, strange and inventive album can be given the chance to blossom. Sigh are unique in the very true and progressive sense of the word. Music as the atmospheric and meditation, the decision to entrance and ensnare. Sigh can be dark, they can be seemingly random, but they never fail to make a lasting impact.