The electronica music duo, Sessomorte, is comprised of lyricist/vocalist Liliko Ogasawara and musician/producer, Vincent Sirico. Since their formation in 2001, they have gone on to record three albums, their most recent being 2013’s, Into the Grey. There are several unique aspects to Sessomorte’s sound, the primary one being the mixing of electronic and live instrumentation. Sirico’s background as a musician, specifically as a bassist in a progressive metal band, gives him a diverse set of skills he brings to this record. Additionally, Ogasawara has a distinct style of singing, one in which her lead vocal is often reserved and her backing vocals higher and vibrant. The combination of all these elements makes Into the Grey a remarkably strong collection of songs.
Sessomorte opens this album with “Roll It,” and instantly the electronica elements of their sound become clear. The synthesizers, while not overbearing, are intensely moody and create a dark atmosphere that draws upon the late-night musical feel the duo was seeking to create. Rather than sink into a level of ambiance however, Sirico keeps the song driving forward with a brisk drum loop that turns into a dynamic percussion track by the song’s end. Along the way the synths periodically erupt in brilliant fashion around Ogasawara’s lead and backing vocals.
The noticeable building up of songs is another wonderful feature of Sirico’s compositions. “Disturbed” has its own dark atmosphere, but it begins starkly with the intermittent pulse of a synthesizer beating underneath Ogasawara’s voice. A light guitar riff works its way into the arrangement, in addition to a stronger drum track and increasingly complex layers of vocals and synthesizers. In and amongst all this is an effectively unsettling lyric in which the song’s narrator discusses her realization that the person she’s with, really is as sick and twisted as he claims to be.
Not every lyric is quite so memorable and this is the one area that Into the Grey finds a degree of fault. “Anniversary,” despite being short, pointed, and well-produced, goes through a regretfully overdone rhyme scheme where Ogasawara rhymes, “unexpectedly,” “happen to me,” “especially,” and “anniversary,” in four consecutive lines. It feels like a string of unnecessary words just to work the title into the song and it diminishes the amount of pain and difficulty the singer is trying to convey within the story of the lyric.
This is as bad as the lyrics get though; at worst a few others are forgettable without being notable one way or the other. “Down” rather cryptically discusses an illicit affair of sorts, but Ogasawara’s voice and the bluesy guitar licks that Sirico plays are more interesting than the words themselves. This hardly constitutes a problem though since a dedicated listening to the lyrics show that they stand-up fine, they’re just put into an arrangement that is hauntingly captivating.
One of the album’s more exciting moments accompanies the song, “Rock and Stone.” This is the first song on the album where Sessomorte significantly alters their sound. Ogasawara sings her lead in a slightly higher key than the tracks prior, revealing a voice that is exceptionally melodic. Sirico meanwhile, adds more guitars into the arrangement during the opening and later parts of the track. The sound of this against the synthesizers is actually quite arresting; it grounds the electronica elements with some more conventional sounds. This has the added benefit too of making the music accessible to listeners who otherwise would’ve avoided this genre. Sirico’s background of playing in a rock band, particularly a progressive one, could easily be the reason why he’s able to create melodies that are structured, build wonderfully, and can be atmospheric without losing their drive.
Further evidence of this is heard on “In the Game,” and the album’s closer, “I’m Right Here.” The former of the two pieces sports a catchy little guitar riff that would be entertaining enough as is, but Sirico goes a step further and actually includes a rather strong solo that closes the number in forceful style. The latter song however opts for a more subdued mood and still manages to make itself distinct through a Spanish guitar sound that picks up halfway through the track and surprisingly fits with the rest of Sirico’s instrumentation.
Into the Grey is an unexpectedly great album, made that way by the talents of two distinct musical personalities. Liliko Ogasawara brings with her a commanding yet melodic vocal talent while Vincent Sirico does a marvelous job of combining live and electronic instrumentation in an exciting and accessible manner. This album should be a required listen for any fans of atmospheric electronica music and more importantly, skeptics of the genre who feel the music lacks structure and talent; Sessomorte will prove them sorely wrong.
Review by: Heath Andrews
Rating: 4.5 Stars (out of 5)