You Built The Altar, You Lit The Leaves by SigilsRelease date: March 22, 2019
Hailing from Long Island, New York, Sigils‘ debut You Built The Altar, You Lit The Leaves is four tracks of intriguing doom metal that grabbed my attention because main man Salvatore Rex has such a great way with melody. The combination of crushing riffs and soaring vocals satisfied my urge for something powerful but memorable. The brief PR for the album advises that it “will chill spines and bring tears to eyes”, though I have to admit I felt neither of these on listening. However, this is still a fine release from a band finding their way.
Name checking Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Black Sabbath is a very accurate description of the Sigils’ sound, the latter especially as guitarist Tom Colello ably matches Tony Iommi for bowel quaking deep riffs. Vocalist Rex certainly was influenced by Ozzy but also one Michael Stipe. Not a name you would normally associate with doom but Stipe clearly influenced Rex in other ways, as a queer man working in the circles of a genre perhaps not particularly known for acceptance of all.
Recorded and mixed by the band, but mastered by Alan Douches (Converge, Mastodon and Kurt Vile), the album kicks into life with ‘Samhain’, sturdy grinding riffs tease out a pleasing groove and Rex’s soaring vocals weave a simple but effective melody. If this combination doesn’t please you then the song might have you hitting skip which would be to your detriment, as the track takes on a gorgeous new direction with some searing guitar lines that readily engage post rock/metal elements.
Creaking into life with a ground shaking bass riff ‘Ritual’ continues the onslaught of Sabbath heavy down tuned riffs and Ozzy-esque vocals where every word is elongated to snapping point by Rex. Sigils definitely owe a huge debt to the early Sabbath sound which I’m okay with but it might not be to everyone’s acceptance.
On ‘Faceless’, spidery guitar lines spin out over the dirge of lava flow slow riffs. Rex’s vocals begin to come across as a little one-dimensional as there is no real variety in the delivery of dragged out phrasing. With this genre of music it’s the throaty growls that I can sometimes do without but on this occasion I’m thinking the inclusion of some additional vocal dexterity might have enhanced the songs. But then that’s what you expect to hear and I suspect that Salvatore Rex wants to do his own thing with his music and to hell with expectation.
Sombre plucked guitars and beautifully melodic lead lines introduce ‘The Wicked, The Cloaked’ and Rex’s ever present strong melodies fit perfectly with the less heavy tones. Suddenly the song erupts into a fine track that Crippled Black Phoenix would be particularly pleased with as the guitars hold back with the Iommi mannerisms. I keep expecting some brass instruments to pop up and embellish the sound, but obviously the band’s budget didn’t quite stretch to that. Reaching into an epic 13 minutes the track aims high and just about makes it over the acceptable threshold with some flowing dynamics that keep the listener engaged.
Whilst not necessarily bringing anything new in terms of sonic invention, Sigils have made a very accomplished album that ensures the primal, raw, heavy tones of doom metal are present, but manages to convey grace and beauty. As an early indicator, I think there is much promise for Sigils and I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for future releases.