Although it’s still common to see Japanese veterans Sigh labelled as avantgarde, it’s perhaps doing them a disservice in the great scheme of things. When they formed, the very act of being a black metal band in Japan was avantgarde in and of itself; now, at over thirty years remove, that isn’t the case, and a band that sees it’s future in playing psych rock with King Crimson overtones – as they do on the wonderfully batty Fuyu Ga Kuru, one of the highlights of their new album – might more usefully be simply seen as eclectic. Eccentric even.

There’s plenty of eccentricity visible on Shiki, the album in question, but there’s a fair amount of pretty vicious heavy metal too, which is obviously pleasing to report. The recruitment of Kreator man Frédéric Leclercq and current Raven skinbeater Mike Heller gives much of the material a ruthless, crushing edge that has been missing from Sigh’s music for a while. It’s a ruthlessness born of mercenary professionalism, obviously, but it’s welcome nonetheless. Leclerq and Heller may not have changed the face of the band’s music entirely, but they’ve certainly supercharged the effect it has on the listener, and that’s undoubtedly a good thing.

But at it’s heart, Shiki merely reinforces Sigh’s reputation as metal’s most madcap magicians. Their ability to fuse their own cultural heritage with the alien tropes of Western heavy metal remains unquestioned, their primacy in the field unchallenged for as long as they continue to roll out utterly epic constructions like Shouku; A fusion of mercurial Eastern mysticism, weird electronica and a Hammond organ borrowed surely from Uriah Heep‘s The Magician’s Birthday, it’s wondrous music that bares no resemblance to anything else currently in the marketplace. For that reason alone it should be celebrated, but the fact that this album also features some of the best and most rewarding music from the band since 2012’s In Somniphobia makes Shiki a cause for double celebration. Add it to your collection today and smile at your friends as they listen, struggling to process the fact that Mayonaka No Kaii manages to fuse funereal black metal to the sort of music found in obscure seventies TV shows without anything seeming out of the ordinary whatsoever.

Shiki is out now.