Sigh – Shiki 9/10
From their beginnings, in 1990 Japan’s Sigh has continued to push the boundaries of extreme music into new directions. Their Avant Garde style approach to music has never been more focused than on Shiki. For Mirai Kawashima Shiki (‘corpse demon’) is a personal exploration of the inevitability of mortality.
For a genre that obsesses about death Sigh has taken the personal approach devoid of cliches, just pure honest thoughts, and emotions, and combined it with a swirling musical maelstrom of an album that is restless, angry, at times utterly beautiful and serene, yet always moving with their own unique interpretation to the music.
Shiki is a record that is at times memory and the future, from the NWOBHM moments and the superb rocking guitar solos through to the Smokey jazz-filled syncopation, to the electronic experimentation that is supported in equal measure by the grinding fury of death grindcore and black metal. Special mention needs to be made of Mike Heller’s superb percussive skills. The drumming is outstanding, forever evolving and demanding yet always listenable, the rhythmic patterns set the ebb and tide of the musical journey. The riffs are at doom-laden or frenetic moments of insanity. Musical highlights include ‘’ Shoujahitsumetsu’’ and its superb metal riff, ‘’ “Shikabane” and its superb drumming, and ‘’ Satsui – Geshi no Ato’’and its vocals. All unique tracks yet part of the larger tapestry.
Shiki is an album of mastery and yet an air of finality its grace matched by its fury, at times it feels simple, yet it is so demanding it requires further listening and exploration. Sigh has mastered the art of subtlety and wraith; their progressive music leaves no stone unturned or avenue unexplored. It is a tremendously heavy album that carries the deepest of thoughts. Recommended
Sede Vacante – Conium 9/10
Sede Vacante hailing from both Finland and Greece has returned with their sophomore album “Conium’’ a record that bristles with vitality and is a massive progression from their debut.
Laced with high amounts of energy and enthusiasm ‘Conium’ is an album that is a heavier offering in the symphonic gothic metal genre. Their music is demanding whilst also incredibly melodic and memorable, it contains various surprises and some effortless excellent seamless time changes that challenge the listener yet never sacrifice the song.
New vocalist Stephanie Mazor is simply superb, her diction and voice are both beautiful and commanding. Her vocal phrasing elevates their cover of the Stone’s “Paint it Black” into something truly special. You are expecting a vibrant up-tempo homage and yet you receive a brooding slowed-down song that drips in emotion and melancholy. It is also on the slower closer ‘’Tattoo” that the band really shines allowing their music to envelop you with its slower intensity.
‘Dead New World’’ is their signature with commanding choruses and excellent vocals. The keyboards are matched by some excellent riffing, it is distinctly eastern European in flavor that is unashamedly emotional as it is heavy. ‘Conium’ is another highlight along with ‘’Raindrops” two tracks that will get the head moving and its choruses lingering in your head.
‘Conium’ is an album that grows in reputation with every listen. This is finely crafted Gothic symphonic metal with exceptional musicianship. Sede Vacante has truly delivered a record worthy of your attention with its subtleties, touches of romance, and yet some cracking heavy up-tempo passages. Recommended!
Drudensang – Tuiflsrijtt 9/10
The Bavarian dialect of the Devil’s ride is Tuiflsrijtt, a journey between life and death. Drudensang unleashes their inner strength and magic.
Capturing the spirit of the wild hunt this German outfit has been a predator in the night since 2013 and their brand of raw powerful black metal is true to the second generation that terrorized Europe in the 1990s. “Hexntreyber” with its hellish blast beats and cold scathing rhythms is only matched by the roar and inhumanity of Krámpn’s vocals that are deeply rooted in native alpine mythology and its personification.
“Rutengang – Ritus der Habergoaß” is preceded by a sense of calm before the onslaught continues, this is raw black metal with scant regard for trends and current sensibilities, it is cold eerie and deeply malevolent. The quieter passages offer little respite as on “Raserey der Krampen” and its intensity, it is the winter demons of the alps unleashed with their impersonations and chaotic rage both lyrically and musically. “Rouhnåchtszauberey”, and its rhythms are memorable and closer “Marterfeld – Seelenzug Ins Totenreich” contains anthemic chants. The music is hard isolationist, and incredibly fast with utter disregard for melody and other foolish notions.
Aggressive in spirit and in flesh, Tuiflsrijtt is the perfect album for the purists that combines ancient traditions with more modern ones. It is a hauntingly inhospitable experience offset by the savagery of the music contained within, its uncompromising pace, and its demonic spirit. For those of the pure blackest hearts, it is highly recommended.
Black Altar – Arcana of the Higher Principles 9/10
Poland now UK BLACK ALTAR have been terrorizing the underground with their unholy raw black metal since 1996. Arcana of the Higher Principles is a compilation of their work on three split EPS with other artists of the same mindset, Kirkebrann, Beastcraft, Varathron, and Thornspawn.
With only one new track the title itself “Arcana of the Higher Principles” is pure black metal. This is unbridled fury made audible, it is raw unfiltered aggression that is epic in its scope and loathing, the decay evident in the swarming of flies. The new track is a true highlight on an exhaustive release that covers Black Altars split works, there are Gregorian chants, excellent tremolo parts, elements of clean vocals some atmospheric moments that all add to the ritual.
“Deep Cut into the Open Wound of Mankind’’, and ‘’ I’m Demon’’ are unholy blasphemies of black metal, and it’s excellent. At a time when the genre is getting caught up in diversity, Black Altar is simply the musical nightmare of the masses, the vocals malevolent and aggressive enhanced by a musical power that is all about maximum aggression and speed. It is raw, untampered by subtlety, and supremely heavy.
The industrialized ‘’Tophet (Industrialised by PreEmptive Strike 0.1)’’ is a brief respite but the original ‘’Tophet” is far superior as is the excellent ‘’Nighthunter’’, the intros are sparse and unwelcoming, portents of the darkness contained within. Black Altar is not just a name but a personification of evil, their occultism and misanthropy drip in equal measures of hate power, and brutality as on their interpretation ‘’Pentagram Sacrifice’’ (Beastcraft cover) and their own ‘’Winds ov Decay”.
“Arcana of the Higher Principles” revels in its atmospheric pure black metal. It is raw yet excellently recorded, this is music that loathes and seethes against the constraints of morality. It revels in its corruption and the wickedness of the spirit.