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The all-inclusive, ever-changing, and uncomfortably flexible guide to all things music in the 2010's.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sigh - Scenes From Hell: B+ / Fang Island - Fang Island: A-

Talk about sensory overload. If you want your faith in the unpredictability of modern music to be renewed, look no further than the newest from Sigh and Fang Island.

Sigh play avant garde metal, a label whose sound can bring up many different interpretations. In this case it is, essentially, black metal with one major addition: a full orchestra. Singer and saxophonist (and yes she uses it) Dr. Mikannibal's orchestration is incredible if not surprising juxtaposed with the downright ragged production of the band itself (Every time there's a drum break, I think the band's going to go into the Scooby-Doo theme song).

Scenes from Hell still manages to be a cohesive product despite its contrasting styles. It even sounds, at times, irrevocably immaculate. The guitar solo in "The Summer Funeral" is a surprisingly crisp bout of "November Rain" quality guitar heroics, and it's just one hidden gem in an album full of them.

However, sometimes gratifying moments are spaced out too far, at times leaving listeners with just the stylings of a lo-fi metal band, which can get grating if it seems like there's no orchestration break in sight.

No doubt Sigh have no problem separating themselves from their metallic brethren. At the very least Scenes from Hell will be the most interesting metal album you will hear all year.

Much like most of the albums in The Great Catch-Up, Fang Island was initially listened to on a computer with only one working speaker. And where most albums made in stereo suffered greatly (Axis: Bold As Love still sounds pretty good without drums, though), Fang Island's newest's sounded all the more intriguing. The palm-muted triplets played by the rhythm guitar in the introduction to lead single "Daisy" were recorded in the right speaker, so its elevated volume only drew greater contrast between them and the relatively light tone of the song. However, after listening to the album on multiple sound systems, I realized my original predicament had not created a new quality to Fang Island, but had accentuated one of its most prevalent themes.

Although the contrast in metal-influenced technique on the otherwise pop of "Daisy" throughly surprised me, it was by no means an isolated incident. In fact, all of Fang Island has this quality of a grab-bag-of-music-technique; so much so that one could almost call it post-rock.

Not only in genre-bending is Fang Island unique, though. As it progresses, the album becomes less of a collection of songs, but of snippets of song ideas, albeit excellent ones. Only a couple of songs have verses, let alone choruses. "Davey Crocket", for example, is a six minute coda to the song preceding it. Even though it is simply an addendum to a different song, it broods and builds to an inevitable release that comes after a wait longer than both its reference point and any other song on the album.

Fang Island is a refreshing rejection of the conventions of pop songwriting, always keeping things interesting but never getting confusing or difficult. It's the kind of album where you wonder what the band that made it will do next. Maybe we'll even hear a bridge. That would be neat.


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