If you're anything like me, listening to a new Sigh record is an experience that can't really be topped or explained. Each record is the most bonkers thing you've ever heard and that is, of course, since the last Sigh record.
The band has come out saying that this album was quite the endeavor to create. There are hundreds of audio tracks (often within a single song) and if you listen hard you will probably always find something new in a song. Also, I'm sure there is always the instinct and hope to make the new album bigger and weirder than the one before it, which seems tricky on album ten. In Somniphobia was a big weird record, and this album is totally bigger and might even be weirder. Case and point, "The Molesters of My Soul." From the title alone you know you're in for something different. The song itself is a mid-tempo, heavy song with a grand string section. However, the song takes breaks from the Sigh norm (which I hesitate to label anything Sigh as "norm") and features glitchy electronic interludes that fooled me into thinking my soundcard decided to take a shit, highly altered vocal distortion, a static solo, theremin, and probably much more that my show-damaged ears aren't picking up.
The album is said to be inspired by Fabio Frizzi, an Italian composer whom is most known for his work in 70's and 80's horror film scores, and this vibe certainly comes though in Graveward. There is strong vibe of a scary movie in this record, but one that is campy and dated in the most charming way. The oh so epic "The Tombfiller" sounds like a frantic escape from a killer that's getting closer and closer. "The Trial by the Dead" also has a obvious horror influence in with with sweeping strings, chanting choirs and the likes, but this song also plays of the Italian heritage of Frizzi at takes a few moments to give a nod to traditional Italian accordion. I feel like every black metal album with symphonic elements is ultimately trying to sound like a horror move, but Sigh really manages to nail it while doing so in a specific era.
I was completely caught off guard by the atypical "A Message From Tomorrow." This song is probably the most beautiful thing that band has produced that still manages to say "death" over and over. it sounds like the credit sequence to a tragic defeat in a film. Grand slow paced strings guide the song, but it still has shredding guitar solos (even an acoustic one), weird vocal effects, and more. It's unmistakably Sigh, but a gorgeous side I hadn't heard before. I'm rather surprised it didn't conclude this album, or even the band's oeuvre.
Graveward also features many guest musicians from almost every corner of the metal world. These folks include Frederic Leclercq (bassist/harsh vocalist of DragonForce), Metatron (The Means of Asphodel) Niklas Kvarforth (Swedish Shining), Sakis Tolis (Rotting Christ) and Matt Heafy (Trivium). As of now the only track identified to have a guest in it is "Out of the Grave" which features Heafy. I really respect how Sigh integrated these guests. If I wasn't paying attention I would have totally missed Heafy during the chorus of the song. He's there, but in the mix of things as to not be distracting. As for the others, I have some hunches but, I don't honestly know for sure where they come into play. I kind of prefer it that way.
At the core this is still very much a black metal band. Graveyard is a collection of twists and turns that are linked by quick, thrashy, rocking, grim, heavy metal chunks. I happily welcome these turns, but I can see how someone might argue that it is a gimmick. It may be, but the band kept me guessing with each turn and it brings me so much joy. I highly respect their versatility and composing abilities and I will forever grovel at the feet of Mirai Kawashima, Dr. Mikannibal and company in awe of their creativity.
Graveward will drop May 5th via Candlelight Record.