Sigh Heir to Despair

Sigh Heir to Despair
9
Japanese symphonic metal with a progressive twist, like Jethro Tull meets Behemoth? For those who felt even the slightest intrigue at that description, you've just found your album of the year. Strange doesn't even begin to describe Heir to Despair, but it's not long before words like avant-garde, unique and unprecedented get thrown around. Sigh have never been close to predictable, but when Mirai Kawashima says that a record is about "insanity," it's time to buckle up — it's about to get weird.
 
Most of this music is so overwhelming complex, you'll forget that 90 percent of the lyrics are in Japanese. Old-school prog bands were never afraid to dabble in Eastern instrumentation, but seven-minute opener "Aletheia" is clearly rooted in Japanese music with progressive metal influence, not the other way around. Those seeking cuts from the band that wrote 2012's In Somniphobia can enjoy "Homo Homini Lupus" and "In Memories Delusional." But it's the album centerpieces of "Heresy I: Oblivium" "II: Acosmism" and "III: Sub Species Aeternitatis" that slither through sounding like Massive Attack, King Crimson, St. Vincent and John Carpenter over a three-song arc that will leave listeners baffled and exhilarated.
 
By nailing prog rock, epic metal and Japanese traditional music, Sigh have probably dug themselves into a niche that could be impossible to get out of. But if any album could, it's Heir to Despair. It's the sound of a '70s echo being reverberated back to 2018. One of the year's most challenging releases, to be sure. (Spinefarm)