Whatever angle you approach them from ‘synth-doom’ collective Circle of Sighs are going to confound your expectations. Whilst synth doom might suggest a slightly heavier take on the prog noodlings of someone like Zombi, what you actually get for your money on the band’s second full-length is a shifting, sometimes whispering soundscape of different mashed up ideas and sounds that flits between such a bewildering variety of backdrops – including a song (We Need Legends) that flits between jazz fusion and King Crimson’s more metallic moments in frankly mind-funking fashion – that it’s very difficult to ever get a firm handle on what’s going on.
A Crystal Crown of Cosmic Pain harbours elements of Thomas Gabriel Fisher at his most mercurial, whilst the disturbing Segue 04 might get you scratching your head thinking you’ve heard it before somewhere in Sabbath Assembly‘s back catalogue. Then the title track sees the band adopting ‘proper’ metal for the first time in the shape of some grinding dissonance and a belching, sulphurous vocal delivery signally absent elsewhere. Then we’re back to a sort of woozy Warrior/Snake vocal style and some distinctly neat soloing just to remind the listener that what we have here is rooted in metal.
That solo is supplanted by cro-magnon metal fan-taunting jazz sax, and obviously this is where the progressive impulse meets outright obscurantism, but I have to say I like it; however the scittish nature of the way the album is put together, sequence-wise, is sure to be off-putting to those of a more prosaic world view. At one point I was starting to make connections between CoS and Brit proggists Crippled Black Phoenix but they were fleeting, and mainly because of album closer The Man Who Stole The Wind; but CBP, good though they are, remain positively earthbound in the prog rock stakes compared to the stratospheric pretension of the ‘Sighs, leaving this reviewer with the feeling that Circle of Sighs may well be one of those positively unique bands on the world stage today that really, honestly defy categorisation.
Penultimate track Heaven in Flames is, strangely, the most ‘out there’ track on offer in the context of the album whilst simultaneously being the one where the CoS Modus Operandi makes the most sense. A brooding, doom-laded slice of synth driven, Bowiesque strangeness, it’s an absolute delight to listen to. These folks may be a difficult listen, torturous even, but my word the results are more than rewarding. Give this record a go, I beseech you…
Narci releases on June 4th