"Far Beneath the In-Between"
Formed in Tokyo in 1990, Sigh isn’t like most extreme metal bands. To the uninitiated: imagine a mad scientist who has left traditional morality behind in his quest for discovery. Imagine Mr. Bungle, doubled down on metal brutality. Imagine John Zorn as a founding member of Iron Maiden.
In 2010, Sigh's Scenes from Hell delivered epic, symphonic metal while adding Dr. Mikannibal, a scantily clad saxophonist, to the band’s lineup. The band's latest, In Somniphobia, follows a storied history of risk-taking, boundary-ignoring metal — but still finds ways to surprise.
In Somniphobia opens with a pair of self-described “very heavy metal” tracks — they’re loud, fast, and brutal, as one would expect from a band so influenced by classic European black metal. But Sigh can’t help but add organs, saxophone, keyboards, and a whistled melody that sounds like it was ripped from a lost Sergio Leone film. Even listeners who aren’t used to the harsh guitars and vocals of metal can find melody to latch onto, and songwriter/front-man Mirai Kawashima is no stranger to crafting a catchy tune, with composing credits on everything from TV shows to videogames.
Yet despite all the detours, Sigh plays metal, and when its instrumentation doesn’t fit the genre, the tone remains aggressive, foreboding, and frightening. If ever it seems that metal is stale or formula-driven, In Somniphobia shows that some bands aren’t afraid to push it outside its comfort zone.
- Tom Harrison
"The War on Wisdom"
It's another year, another release from the incomparable Melvins, whose new five-song EP The Bulls & The Bees precedes a new full-length album in July as Melvins Lite(with Mr. Bungle bassist Trevor Dunn).
But without getting ahead of ourselves, The Bulls & The Bees provides plenty to enjoy, with some of the best material to come out of the group's Big Business era. "The War on Wisdom" begins with a killer blend of riffs, beats, and elongated, dramatic vocals between guitarist Buzz Osborne and bassist Jared Warren. The duel drums of Dale Crover and Coady Willis provide the usual percussive heft — not too overbearing and not too bland for the band's melodic sludge.
There's less experimentation than on the Melvins' last full-length, The Bride Screamed Murder, but the fourth track, "A Really Long Wait," provides a somber string backing for squealing, swirling effects a set of subdued vocals. Though the rest of the EP is rooted in the group's sludge-rock prowess, "A Really Long Wait" reminds us of the Melvins' yet-untapped potential, only a mere 29 years into its career.
Download The Bulls & The Bees for free today at Scion AV.
- Scott Morrow
Igorrr: "Remixou Morbidou"
Old-school death-metal legends Morbid Angel received some flak for their forays into electronic and industrial music on last year's return to the studio, its 2011 album Illud Divinum Insanus. It is fitting then that Season of Mist has released a remix album of Illud featuring the work of many prominent electronic and industrial artists.
This may be an issue of framing and expectations, but many of the songs on this double-disc release seem to work a lot better with the names of DJs and producers attached, rather than from one of the most well-renowned death-metal bands of all time. Though tracks like "Destructos vs. the Earth" had a slightly off-putting nü-metal feel on the album proper, Combichrist's remix ends up much closer to something like Nitzer Ebb's "Join in the Chant."
Laibach fittingly opens the album with a baroque, synthesized rendition of the intro melody of "I Am Morbid," before unleashing a droning cacophony in place of the original song's mid-paced rhythmic stomp. Some of the EBM moments on this album are a bit cheesy, but there are also many examples of artists capturing an aggressive, post-apocalyptic feel with these tracks that was missing on the original release. This is an exercise in dissecting what makes a song great, as changing the aesthetics and the name attached to a track can significantly improve its value.
- Todd Nief
Making a weighty seven-song debut with The Shadow Gallery, Brooklyn hardcore quintet Primitive Weapons should be one of the year's emerging names in metal.
On its own, the EP stands firmly in one genre, leaning on muscular but catchy riffs and powerful rhythms. Even when the guitars drop out, a sludgy bass or rolling snare line keeps the music moving, ready for throaty and pained screams. But in pairing those elements with a few legit choruses and a handful of post-rock effects, The Shadow Gallery is more than a pure beat-down record. And with plenty of performances at this week's SXSW, Primitive Weapons should earn more of the buzz that it deserves.
- Scott Morrow
Cannibal Corpse: Torture (Metal Blade)
Chains of Love: Strange Grey Days (Manimal Vinyl)
Henry Cole & The Afrobeat Collective: Roots Before Branches
Nedry: In a Dim Light (Monotreme)
Krzysztof Penderecki / Jonny Greenwood: Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima / Popcorn Superhet Receiver / Polymorphia / 48 Responses to Polymorphia (Nonesuch)
Spawn of Possession: Incurso (Relapse)
Vijay Iyer Trio: Accelerando (ACT Music)
Whirr: Pipe Dreams
Xerxes: Our Home is a Deathbed (No Sleep)