The story around Circle of Sighs is one shrouded in mystery. The band did this on purpose, they prefer to let the music do the talking. I have no problem with that, so let’s honor their wish and get to the tunes right away.
Narci, after an EP and another full-length, is the third significant release of this supposedly progressive doom metal band. Supposedly, because, up to a certain pint, I do recognize this label in their first two releases, be it only partial, but if that label applies just as well with Narci remains to be seen. In all honesty, the self-designated synth-doom label seems much more accurate. Either way, Narci is about a mental disease that is spread through digital transmission and that preludes the end of the world. It opens with a most peculiar composition that sounds organized in its very disorganization. It’s called Spectral Arms and it’s a ten-minute long tribute, or introduction if you like, to what awaits still. Not that that was a surprise in the first place given the description of the genre Circle of Sighs has chosen to play. That doesn’t exactly leave much to the imagination in that department. Anyway, back to the tunes themselves. Although seemingly random and absolutely chaotic, there is certainly some logic to be found, provided you are open to it. Despite about a dozen different styles that jump from a sole piano to Black Sabbath-ish riffs, equally many varieties in speed, heaviness and whatever else you can think of it still sounds like an actual song. Successor We Need Legends certainly is not inferior to Spectral Arms where it comes to peculiarity, with a major role for the synth-part of CoS’ music. If anything the first two songs clearly show Circle of Sighs treads many genre borders within metal music, merging a torrent of influences into extremely complicated compositions that require your full and undivided attention to avoid losing track altogether.
In the next three songs, disregarding the 49-second intermezzo Segue 04, the band seems to hold back on the peculiarity, as the songs are less peppered with unexpected, seemingly random soundscapes, tempo changes and intermezzos. That does not mean that these songs are any less intricate, enthralling or adventurous, they simply are more written with the traditional song structure in mind. Both harsh and clean vocals, more or less lasting rhythms, recurring pieces and even a hint of a guitar solo in Narci, it almost sounds normal. Luckily, or not, depending on your point of view, none of the songs are completely devoid of peculiarities, of which the spacy soundscapes in A Crystal Crown of Cosmic Pain, that has a rather distinct early Black Sabbath vibe, and the jazzy outro in title song Narci are examples. And while in Heaven in Flames the synth returns, the band has one last surprise up their sleeve in the form of album closer The Man Who Stole the Wind that, arguably, can easily compete with any other ballad by any other metal band, proving Circle of Sighs is not only adept at composing synth-doom but also at more mainstream, or regular if you will, metal.
Now, if you’re looking to relax with a good glass of Scotch and a cigar while playing some chamber music, you really don’t want to put this into your sound system. If you, on the other hand, are looking for organized disorganized tunes that will keep you awake and focused, this might just be what you’re looking for. Although the first two songs can prove a challenge for many listeners due to their complex structure that has no obvious logic, it pays off to give them a chance or at least sit them out, as the rest of the album is certainly easier to take in. Having said this, either way you slice it, Circle of Sighs’ music is an acquired taste and will never reach the large mainstream audience. Nevertheless why not step out of your comfort zone and put this one, there’s a good chance you might be positively surprised. Not for the faint of heart, but certainly a rewarding listen.