Scenario IV: Dread Dreams

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Sigh shows no signs of turning back on their strange, evil ways with their fourth album, aptly titled as it does evoke a palpable feeling of dread and unfolds with all sorts of illogical, bizarre (and thus dream-like) twists. Most of the main ingredients of their previous album, Hail Horror Hail, are still intact, from the scratchy black metal vocals and '80s-flavored thrash riffs down to the lush string interludes and occasional solo piano or vocoder touches. The song structures are not quite as bizarre as a few of the more collage-like tracks on Hail..., but they're certainly not conventional either. "Black Curse," for example, derails into a faux-country section midway through, then cuts abruptly into a funk breakdown, in the process sounding quite reminiscent of John Zorn's Naked City. The instrumentation -- including handclaps, harpsichords, and an array of vintage synth tones -- offers surprises throughout the album, but, at the same time, the music ultimately centers on a really raw, down-to-earth metal foundation, which makes for a strange contrast. Helping tie it all together are the consistently well-written guitar riffs, calling to mind influences ranging from old Black Sabbath to Venom, Motorhead, and Iron Maiden. Shinichi Fujinami's guitar solos, which have a dirty and at times even bluesy quality to them, are another highpoint. Scenario IV may be a tad more accessible than its predecessor, mainly because of all the catchy guitar parts, but it is still out on a limb compared to most other metal. No one else sounds like Sigh.

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