This album is a horror movie. Not a horror movie soundtrack, but an actual movie, sans video. At least, that is how SIGH frontman Mirai Kawashima conceived this release.
And so the reigning masters of truly bizarre Avant-Garde Metal present us with another 50+ minutes of mind-fucking, genre-defying, and boundary-pushing music.
If Kawashima's intent here was to evoke mental images in the listener, without resorting to any photography or videography, then this album is a success. “Hail Horror Hail” is a tortured multi-sensory landscape evoked solely by auditory input. The track “12 Souls” is especially expressive, beginning with samples of someone opening a creaky door, footsteps on a bare floor, and a panting, whimpering dog. Listening, one can actually see in their mind the isolation of this setting and can feel the sweltering heat. When the chaos of distorted guitar, pounding drums, and Mirai's instantly-recognizable scream vocals kicks in, the listener immediately senses the carnage created by the character in this scene, can smell the stench of blood, and can sense the perpetrator's psychopathic rage. Who needs video, when, with just a little nudge from Mirai and Co., the mind can create such horrifying images on its own.
The schizophrenic nature of the remaining tracks adds to the overall chaos and disorienting nature of the album. “22 49” is an occasionally heavy song that is moved forward by keyboard harmonies behind voice-modulated vocals, and is even interrupted by a weird, 1970's Funk-sounding interlude that gives the track a misleadingly light-hearted feel. More traditional fans will likely be out of sorts from such abrupt changes in direction, which is precisely the intent. Likewise, “Invitation To Die” is a Techno-Trance song whose dance rhythm belies the fatalistic content of its lyrics. While in many cases this would be out of place, and would suggest an album that lacks cohesiveness, with “Hail Horror Hail,” the listener recognizes that he is being manipulated, but cannot resist being sucked in.
The purpose of horror is to create a sense of unease and discomfort, and SIGH have achieved that with this album/”movie.” The band have created something truly challenging, yet still musical, avoiding the pretentious pitfall of discarding convention just for the sake of doing so. This is highly recommended for Metal fans who enjoy being made uncomfortable.
(Online September 14, 2009)