Sigh – Hail Horror Hail (1997)
Traditionally, this is where Sigh went off the deep end, or where they really started to push the overt black metal ancestry out of their sound, although it’s a long road to walk between this and Imaginary Sonicscape. Good thing we have automobiles!
Uh… last time I used anything even resembling that metaphor was to discuss Lepaca Kliffoth by Therion, which was similarly transitional in that band’s discography. Sigh pulls off the transition more effectively on this album, although their next album (Scenario IV: Dread Dreams) stumbles in a similar fashion at times. Maybe if you’re using Therion as an analogy, comparing to Symphony Masses is more accurate?
From an overt sonic stance, Hail Horror Hail is pretty similar to its predecessor (Infidel Art), but things are generally denser and muddier, which may or may not work in this album’s favor. Sample quality on the keyboards isn’t too great – things are obviously synthetic in ways they wouldn’t be on later Sigh albums. Songs here are also more compact, and that is definitely an improvement, since for all Infidel Art‘s high points, some of the song structures there were nonsensical and random. A few years of songwriting practice have given the tracks here a more coherent voice in spite of the ever increasing genre shifts and asides, and that helps to smooth over some of this album’s nonsense and make it fit.
It also seems that on here, Sigh prototyped a lot of the songwriting devices they’d use through the next few years. For instance, repetitions within a section are often distinguished by sound effects and little flourishes, which for instance shows up in the verses of “42 49”. The transitions between sections remain fairly abrupt; maybe even more so than Infidel Art, which is probably on purpose and always seems to be a useful way to create an unhinged atmosphere. But above that, the most notable aspect of these compositions is the emphasis on melodrama; generally everything is as big and ridiculous as possible, which is especially obvious in synthesizer heavy parts of the songs, which are all over the map in terms of actual content. The corollary is that the metal instrumentation sticks to the black-doom mold enough that you begin to understand why Sigh washed out the pan on Imaginary Sonicscape…
Ultimately, I figure that Hail Horror Hail contains just enough tension between its two competing approaches that it’s all the more striking… which might mean Dread Dreams two years later was the sound of the band being ripped apart and forced to reassemble the pieces of their cadaver. Record labels might have something to do with it, honestly, since Sigh’s been passed around between them like a cursed jewel for whatever reason. I suppose that if Deathlike Silence hadn’t exploded, Sigh would be a very different band today…
Highlights: “Hail Horror Hail”, “42 49”, “The Dead Sing”