"This album is way beyond the conceived notion of how metal, or music, should be," states the warning label on the back of this, Sigh's third full-length CD. "In essence," it continues, "it is a film without pictures; a celluloid phantasmagoria." That description makes sense, given how the music is constantly jumping from one scene to the next. But just what kind of movie would this be? It's hard to say -- maybe something involving David Lynch, an ancient Far East empire, ritualistic curses, physical torture, and an '80s thrash band on some sort of time travel escapade. At any rate, the album starts out normally enough with "Hail Horror Hail," an up-tempo track that sums up Sigh's less experimental aspects pretty well: raspy black metal-type vocals atop a guitar/bass/drum foundation that is otherwise more rooted in '80s thrash metal and even '70s hard rock than in modern black metal. Soon, though, the band starts piling on all sorts of unexpected tricks, such as lush classical strings, female choir vocals, old analogue synths, and even a vocoder. Things become fully surreal by the third track, "12 Souls," a seven-minute collage that wanders from a symphonic John Williams/Star Wars-type intro to the sound of footsteps and a whimpering dog, then from a discordant classical chamber music section into heavy metal riffing, a '70s porno jazz synth line, more dark metal, and what sounds like a duet between a computerized symphony orchestra and a spastic drum machine. From there on out, the curveballs just keep flying -- "Invitation to Die" sounds like the Rolling Stones' "Monkey Man," only with black metal vocals, strings, a soothing oriental folk interlude, and liquid-toned jazz fusion synths piled on top. For all its experimentation and wide-ranging sound sources, Hail Horror Hail is still very a metal record, but only the more broadminded metal listeners -- well, make that listeners in general -- will likely be curious enough to give this strange, dark, and fascinating album the attention it requires.
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AllMusic Review by William York