Released: 2010, The End Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
How do you describe the indescribable? Such is the dilemma in reviewing any release from the legendary Sigh. SCENES FROM HELL is the latest release from the Japanese juggernaut and is yet another amazing example of how the extreme, the bizarre, and the unconventional can be combined to create a unique and exceptionally heavy collection of metal tunes.
Though no two Sigh albums are alike, SCENES FROM HELL builds on the frantic symphonic elements of its predecessor, 2007’s HANGMAN’S HYMN, and pushes the “epic” factor into uncharted waters. While keyboards and orchestration have been familiar elements on recent Sigh releases, they’ve never been wasted as background ambience. From start to finish, SCENES FROM HELL is grandiose in every aspect of the word; it’s almost theatrical in its approach, sounding like a horror show on Broadway or the lost soundtrack of some epic thriller from the 1930’s. But underneath the layers and layers of sound is a raw, uncompromising metal album. The guitar riffs swing back and forth from their black metal roots to jazz experimentation and even to some straight ahead rock n’ roll lines. On top of everything is some caustic saxophone work (yes, Sigh were using the sax long before Ihsahn thought it’d be cool) that adds one more layer of “weird” to the mix.
There’s so much going on here that it shouldn’t work, but it does, and the way that all of the various instruments interact with one another is nothing short of awe inspiring. The wall of sound is pretty consistent throughout the duration of the album, but every note and every arrangement is exactly where it should be – always balanced and never overpowering. The end result is a cacophony of controlled chaos.
Throughout the band’s 20-year existence, Sigh has managed to transcend, blend, and discard genre lines, shape shifting and evolving from one album to the next. SCENES FROM HELL is yet another example of Sigh’s ability to create something that you’ve never heard before. And that in itself is a remarkable feat, especially in this day of cookie-cutter bands and sound-alike clones. Do yourself a favor – put down your Five Finger Death Punch discs (or whatever other craptastic band you’re listening to this week) and find yourself a copy of SCENES FROM HELL. Open your mind and open your ears to a truly superb listening experience.