By Lord Randall

Japan’s SIGH have been at it for the better part of two decades, starting their soulside journey in the formation of black metal’s second wave about the same time as a bunch of pasty-pale Scandinavians over on the other side of the globe, yet never assaulting these particular ears until 1997’s "Hail Horror Hail" on the much-missed Cacophonous imprint (R.I.P.).

Oh, how times have changed since those halcyon days. The Norwegians/Swedes – but, strangely, precious few of the Finns – beginning to adopt more avant garde elements the case of some bands, delving further into the regressive/aggressive abyss with Neanderthal primal, bestial black metal/punk in others. The SIGH remains the same, though, and "Graveward" (their tenth) shows why that’s not such a bad thing. ‘Kaedit Nos Pestis’ is born of hellfire and bred for cranking up the pit engine in concert, and if the slicing riffs and sugary-sweet J-pop vocals aren’t enough to get your body rockin’, well, your body just can’t be rocked. As much as I enjoyed the former, ‘The Tombfiller’ suffers from almost the same rhythm and song structure, deflating what to this point had been an album ready to burst with potential. Thankfully, ‘The Forlorn’ picks up the slack in a major way, neo-classical intro, stomping riffs and a low end fit for burial reminding me that this is, after all, SIGH, so expect missteps to be few and far between. You want freaky? You want disjointed as all Hell? Allow me to introduce you to ‘The Molesters Of My Soul’ and his friends schizoid glitch, breakneck time signature shifts and embattled string section. If dance clubs would give songs like this, bands like SIGH the time of day, metalheads could entertain themselves by watching ravers scatter from the shrapnel of the dirty bomb of strangeness that is Japan’s own. Finale ‘Dwellers In Dream’ finds Mirai spitting percussive lyrical madness ala Martin Walkyrie fronting, well, SIGH, You Oshima’s guitar weaving spider scales and staccato chord progressions into a solid climax.

This quintet of curiosity rarely disappoints and, as mentioned previously, when the good outweighs the bad to the degree that it does here, isn’t it about high time SIGH started getting respect from the mainstream metal community? Travel "Graveward"!