Getting Into: Sigh


Written by: ScreamingSteelUS
Published: 23.03.2016


The articles in this series begun by our own Baz Anderson are designed to give a brief overview of a band's entire discography, so as to provide a clear point of entry for the uninitiated. It offers a different approach from the typical review format, for the curious newcomer to a well-traveled band.

Sigh
Avant-garde black metal, everything else

Japan's premiere black metal band emerged from its nativity as kvlt as they come - corpse-painted Venom-worshippers who attracted the attention of Euronymous himself and saw their debut album released on his label, Deathlike Silence Productions. Soon shaking off the burdens of this unidirectional career path, Sigh quickly grew into a band on the run from convention and simplicity. Over the years, they have managed to seamlessly incorporate countless musical genres into each other and into their own sound, all the while maintaining an off-kilter inchoateness that, though at first the mark of the amateur, has since been shown to be purposeful and calculated. Racking up an impressive array of masterpieces, successful experiments, and guest musicians, Sigh have proven themselves time and time again to be one of the most dynamic, thoughtful, and downright inexplicable forces in metal.

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Scorn Defeat (1994)

Atonal by both design and circumstance, furious in its assault, and fraught with the disjuncture of many an underground black metal release, Scorn Defeat reaches for somewhere beyond its station. The ambitions of later Sigh leak through the coarse noise-screen here and there, but for the most part these songs are simply supra-average black metal songs performed in an unremarkable manner. A few songs employ some light and suspiciously musical keyboard usage, though usually as interludes; Sigh had still not determined how best to integrate outside influences. Even if they had never evolved into their unusual hybrid style, however, they could have become one of the greatest acts of the black metal scene. The ideas are clearly here, though tenuous in their execution.
Standout Tracks: "Ready For The Final War," "The Knell," "At My Funeral"

Infidel Art (1995)

Already by the second album, Sigh had become much more adventurous in their songwriting. Mirai Kawashima splashes keyboards all over the place in symphonic flourishes, classical accentuations, and sweeping atmospherics. Infidel Art bears the same brutish roughness of character as its predecessor, but it strongly tempers the raw black metal fury with a much greater sensitivity to mood and flavor. These songs meander a bit more, spend more time in softer plains, and exhibit an understanding of musical complexity that gels strangely with the stripped-down, anti-musical skeleton of black metal. The theatrics found in songs like "The Zombie Terror" foreshadow the great epics they would forge later in their career, while also making for some excellent tracks in their own right. Infidel Art is still a very rough, loose album that can be easily off-putting to listeners, but as an early example of the experimental potential of black metal, the album has few equals.
Standout Tracks: "Izuna," "The Zombie Terror," "The Last Elegy"






Ghastly Funeral Theatre [EP] (1997)

While these "Getting Into" articles tend to focus solely on full-length studio releases, Sigh have a habit of spelling out their name with their album titles (using the first letter of the name of each release). The first time around, Sigh included the Ghastly Funeral Theatre EP in the acronym, which acknowledgement necessitates the EP's inclusion here (as does the phenomenal musical odyssey offered in these scant 23 minutes). Ghastly Funeral Theatre bridges the gap between Infidel Art and Hail Horror Hail, preserving the coarse and unsettling texture of the former, but adapting the Sigh sound to increasingly progressive pastures. While black metal remains observable in the vocals and primary instrumental tones, the song structures themselves (as well as the keyboards and other ancillary instruments) stray into bizarre amalgamations of traditional heavy metal, doom, and horror movie soundtracks.
Standout Tracks: "Doman Seman," "Shikigami," "Shingontachikawa"

Hail Horror Hail (1997)

"Hail Horror Hail" leaps from the crypt with no warning, a truly macabre rock'n'roll mirage layered over a pulsing, deathly rasp with a romantic twist halfway through. By crudely nailing together "divers and sundry elements" that would seem to negate or cripple each other in any other context, Sigh achieved their first true masterpiece in the form of Hail Horror Hail. The phrase "blackened neoclassical doom'n'roll" may sound like nonsense, especially when interspersed with jazzy, orchestral, and occasionally horrifying interludes, but when illustrated musically, the concept takes on an unprecedented cohesiveness. More expertly than ever Mirai Kawashima integrates his myriad keyboards, many of which can only be described as the aural equivalent of The X-Files. At the same time Shinichi Ishikawa has finally come into his own as a lead guitarist; his contributions now share much more of the stage with other lines of melody, but he plays them much more tastefully and memorably. Boasting the very first Sigh songs that could be considered "catchy," while conversely marking one of the band's progressive high points, Hail Horror Hail remains an integral part of any discussion of avant-gardism in metal.
Standout Tracks: "Hail Horror Hail," "Curse Of Izanagi," "12 Souls," "Seed Of Eternity"






Scenario IV: Dread Dreams (1999)

Scenario IV: Dread Dreams shears away some of the more obscenely off-kilter digressions of Hail Horror Hail, replacing the swamps of keyed undergrowth with loud, bloody guitars - almost a return to the black metal origins of Sigh, but with much more interest in subtler musicality. Ishikawa celebrates his return to prominence with his liveliest and most complex riffs up to this point, while Kawashima shifts his focus from enveloping soundscapes to Old-West-saloon jaunts and funky extraterrestrialisms. Sigh continue to branch out further into other genres, incorporating elements of country, funk, and some instances of what can only be described as a lurid disco of the damned. The album also features memorable backing vocals from Damian Montgomery of Ritual Carnage and Chie Kouno.
Standout Tracks: "Infernal Cries," "Diabolic Suicide," "Imprisoned"

Imaginary Sonicscape (2001)

Only the phrase "Imaginary Sonicscape" accurately describes the grotesquely surreal wonderland Sigh explore with their magnum opus. Imaginary Sonicscape packs up the increasingly-ambitious, show-stopping production that Sigh had been ramping up and takes it on the road, boasting Sigh's most memorable performances to date. The album functions differently from its predecessors, with the emphasis more on tight, distinctive songs than permeating atmospheres, and with much more professional production, the diagonal shifts in tone, mood, and genre become all the more dynamic and engaging. Sigh have truly outdone themselves, voyaging from dreamlike synth odysseys to happily-blackened surf'n'lounge to what essentially constitutes a dub reggae breakdown in "Scarlet Dream." Guitar riffs mercilessly enforce the groove with weapons-grade hooks; the keyboards play the chameleon, encompassing any and every genre where necessary. Kawashima's credits on this album include "playing" the Speak & Spell and a giggling baby landslide. It seems that this band has no boundaries whatsoever.
Standout Tracks: "Scarlet Dream," "Nietzschean Conspiracy," "Voices," "Ecstatic Transformation"






Gallows Gallery (2005)
Though from the outset the guitars sound heavily sunk into the obtuse fuzz of blackened stoner, Gallows Gallery generally flirts with much more upbeat styles. The keyboards fall back from the front lines to a more standardized rock'n'roll mindset, allowing saxophones to take the spotlight occasionally, while strenuous drums push Sigh to new and intense speeds. Kawashima employs mostly clean vocals, which make the songs sound all the more psychedelically ghoulish; the unusual vocals and brighter, more melodic guitars have drawn comparisons to power metal. Rebelling against the thoroughly destabilized laboratories of sound in which Sigh had dwelt on the last few records, Gallows Gallery maintains a much more unified spirit throughout its running time - as well as a much more conventional baseline approach, if not one that Sigh had touched upon before. While not a concept album, Mirai Kawashima has described the album as one in which themes and musical tropes recur in order to give the work a sense of interconnectedness, and the songs do indeed carry a complementary mood.
Standout Tracks: "Pale Monument," "In A Drowse," "Confession To Be Buried," "Messiahplan"

Note: A remaster of Gallows Gallery was released in 2007, featuring a blue cover rather than orange, some minor alterations in song lengths, and several bonus tracks. The original issue was extremely poorly-produced, diminishing both the impact of the music and the positive reception from fans and Century Media. The reissue sounds much stronger, and is easily the better version; subsequently, it is also more readily available than the original. Metal Storm typically does not treat reissues as distinct from original albums, but this particular case warranted a staff review at the time of its release, and thus Gallows Gallery [Reissue] counts as its own discrete entity for these purposes.

Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien (2007)

Heavily Latinized both musically and lyrically, Hangman's Hymn violently tears away from the blueprints of its forebears and calls forth a hulking, speed-crazed, volcanically heavy Sigh. Shunning the dazed hypnosis of Gallows Gallery, as well as the genre-spanning eclecticism of Imaginary Sonicscape, Hangman's Hymn spends very little time on extraneous elements. While Kawashima still shapes his synthscapes and the occasional avant-garde elements still shine through, this album offers, more than anything, blackened symphonic thrash (symphonic in the classical sense, rather than the Nightwish sense). The album economizes with sound, featuring Sigh's most compact songs to date and scaling back the layers on each composition, but enough components remain to make the album sound grandiose and threatening.
Standout Tracks: "Me-Devil," "Inked In Blood," "Finale: Hangman's Hymn/In Paradisum/Das Ende"






Scenes From Hell (2010)

After the brazen machinations of Hangman's Hymn, Scenes From Hell feels subdued, even lackluster; a basis in symphonic black/thrash carries over, but Sigh also seeks a return to more experimental modes of thinking, and the two mentalities sometimes clash. Certainly the less-professional production and occasional decreased pace compare unfavorably to Hangman's Hymn, but Sigh have never made any real missteps, and Scenes From Hell offers its own diverse array of intriguing compositions. The album concentrates heavily on atmosphere, coming off more like a horror movie soundtrack than a single-minded packaging of heavy metal songs. Scenes From Hell also features the debut of vocalist/saxophonist Dr. Mikannibal, who has since become one of Sigh's most outstanding and unique elements (and Mrs. Kawashima).
Standout Tracks: "Scenes From Hell," "The Red Funeral," "Musica In Tempora Belli," "Vanitas"

In Somniphobia (2012)

In Somniphobia takes notes from both Gallows Gallery and Scenes From Hell, somehow managing to make fast-paced, melody-driven songs sound as trance-like as the meandering, aberrant dirges. The lead-instrument-pendulum continues to swing back, with the guitars dominating the songs and keyboards filling out backgrounds and adding flavorful accentuations. Meanwhile, Dr. Mikannibal's role has expanded, balancing out Kawashima vocally and Ishikawa instrumentally to take Sigh yet further into undiscovered country. In some ways, In Somniphobia serves as a career retrospective for Sigh, with some songs recalling moments from the album's variegated predecessors - but the album is, unfortunately, one of Sigh's most inconsistent releases. Sigh have never failed to deliver excellence, but In Somniphobia tends to get lost in itself on occasion.
Standout Tracks: "The Transfiguration Fear," "Somniphobia," "Amongst The Phantoms Of Abandoned Tumbrils"






Graveward (2015)

Though they have always been chameleons, able to adapt to any number of sounds and styles, Sigh sound more in their element on Graveward than they have almost anywhere else. Graveward imitates Imaginary Sonicscape in its execution, every song having a discrete personality and exploring far-flung realms of musical endeavor. Every fine detail of Graveward shines immeasurably - Dr. Mikannibal's tortured clean vocals, new addition You Oshima's blazing guitar solos, Kawashima's suspenseful synths - in order to make Graveward one of Sigh's most ambitious, unique, and personality-driven works to date. Each song is stronger than the last, and with over a hundred tracks per unit, Graveward never runs out of secrets and subtleties.
Standout Tracks: "A Messenger From Tomorrow," "The Tombfiller," "The Forlorn," "Out Of The Grave"


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Overview:

Sigh have produced a lot of albums badly, but they have never produced a bad album. Though Sigh has long since pulled away from the raw black metal of its origins, the grim coldness still informs the band's nature in a way that renders them truly inimitable. Mirai Kawashima's distinctive rasps and multitudes of synthesized armaments, now joined by Dr. Mikannibal's unsettling cries and weaponized saxophone, wrap Sigh's music in Lovecraftian levels of sublime weirdness, while drummer Junichi Harashima's supreme skills free up multi-instrumentalist Satoshi Fujinami to orchestrate the band's core. You Oshima, now taking over for the legendarily adept and insightful Shinichi Ishikawa, has already proven himself to be a master of his instrument and of the Sigh mentality. Outfitted with unmatched musicianship and an unshakeable tendency to roam into the unexplored regions of musical fusion, Sigh has blazed trails that none have yet followed them down, and with each subsequent release, they continue to re-assert their authority over the realms of the grotesque and the strange.




 



Written on 23.03.2016 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.


Comments

Comments: 19   Visited by: 180 users
23.03.2016 - 13:48
Apothecary
PsyCHEdelic
Great one, dude! Imaginary Soniscapes and Scenes From Hell will probably remain my favorites, but Sigh are just one of "those bands" (like the Meads, Death Grips, a few others) where each album is such a unique creation unto itself that it's almost too damn hard to pick a favorite. They're the type where every time I find myself saying "yup, that one over there's the best," my conscience will inevitably tell me a few days later "well, wait Che, don't forget about that one over there, it's pretty badass too,"
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Written by RaduP on 14.01.2016 at 02:08

So you're not actually a bearded shaman opening his third eye through music?
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23.03.2016 - 16:02
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
Written by Apothecary on 23.03.2016 at 13:48

Great one, dude! Imaginary Soniscapes and Scenes From Hell will probably remain my favorites, but Sigh are just one of "those bands" (like the Meads, Death Grips, a few others) where each album is such a unique creation unto itself that it's almost too damn hard to pick a favorite. They're the type where every time I find myself saying "yup, that one over there's the best," my conscience will inevitably tell me a few days later "well, wait Che, don't forget about that one over there, it's pretty badass too,"

Thanks! I noticed pretty early on that this basically turned into an explanation of how every Sigh album is better than the last one. I even wrote a haiku to summarize it:

I love Sigh too much
Every album is perfect
Kawashima's great
----
Row, row, fight the power
Djently down the stream

I'm the Agent of Steel.
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23.03.2016 - 17:38
Mr. Doctor
Skandino
Graveward is good but soooo not better than In Somniphobia which is their best album since the great Hangman's Hymn. Delightfully more psychedelic and "smoke-like" than the rest. I can't really see where the inconsistency comes from. Oh well, different strokes.

Besides that, a good article. Congrats.
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Written by BloodTears on 19.08.2011 at 18:29
Like you could kiss my ass
Written by Milena on 20.06.2012 at 10:49
Rod, let me love you.
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23.03.2016 - 18:10
!J.O.O.E.!
Account deleted
Written by Mr. Doctor on 23.03.2016 at 17:38

Graveward is good but soooo not better than In Somniphobia which is their best album since the great Hangman's Hymn. Delightfully more psychedelic and "smoke-like" than the rest. I can't really see where the inconsistency comes from. Oh well, different strokes.

Yeah, In Somniphobia trounces Graveward, which I ended up not really liking in the end. Not bad like Scenes From Hell was but still a step down.
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23.03.2016 - 22:49
Overrwatcher
I'm glad to see a Getting Into series for a band I always wanted to check out but never knew where to start. The only song I ever heard from them, The Transfiguration Fear, was trippy as hell and a bit all over the place but when it worked, it really worked. I'll definitely check out the stuff listed here. Thanks!
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Overr's List Of Worthwhile Deathcore Albums

Written by Dr. Strawberry on 12.06.2016 at 19:43

Overwatcher, MS Xena, crumbled him in no time. MS needs you to kill the boredom in here.
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23.03.2016 - 22:55
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
Written by Overrwatcher on 23.03.2016 at 22:49

I'm glad to see a Getting Into series for a band I always wanted to check out but never knew where to start. The only song I ever heard from them, The Transfiguration Fear, was trippy as hell and a bit all over the place but when it worked, it really worked. I'll definitely check out the stuff listed here. Thanks!

I'm glad to see that this article is already doing its job (also, don't believe those plebs ^^, Graveward is the best).
----
Row, row, fight the power
Djently down the stream

I'm the Agent of Steel.
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23.03.2016 - 23:42
Mr. Doctor
Skandino
Just seeing it in the same place as Imaginary Sonicscape...


Yeah, we are dicks.
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Written by BloodTears on 19.08.2011 at 18:29
Like you could kiss my ass
Written by Milena on 20.06.2012 at 10:49
Rod, let me love you.
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24.03.2016 - 22:13
MetalDoomMaster
I probably wouldn't mind it if The Tombfiller was the only song on Graveward. That song is so fucking good and way better than the rest of it. This many differing opinions really speaks to the quality of their discography though. Great fucking band.
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25.03.2016 - 14:47
Bad English
Masterchief
From all other article, this is best where title GETTING INTO, really matters most to me, Other bands I know and like, I try this so hard, and cant get into it, somehow mussicaly all album don't works to me, so it was so interesting to read this one mate
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Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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25.03.2016 - 15:05
M C Vice
Ex-polydactyl
Written by Overrwatcher on 23.03.2016 at 22:49

I'm glad to see a Getting Into series for a band I always wanted to check out but never knew where to start.

Any of the albums starting with I.
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"Another day, another Doug."
"I'll fight you on one condition. That you lower your nipples."
"I'll put whatever I want in your mouth!"
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25.03.2016 - 19:40
3rdWorld
The Psilosopher
Written by Mr. Doctor on 23.03.2016 at 17:38

Graveward is good but soooo not better than In Somniphobia which is their best album since the great Hangman's Hymn. Delightfully more psychedelic and "smoke-like" than the rest. I can't really see where the inconsistency comes from. Oh well, different strokes.

With In Somniphobia, I think they tried to return to the more crazy soundscapes and experimental nature which I'd say I didn't enjoy much as it seemed done for the sake of it and also maybe because I've been more of a fan of the metal oriented albums of Sigh such as the symphonic-thrash inspired Hangman's Hymn and the crazy Scenes From Hell. Comparatively I'd say I enjoyed Graveward more which was a bit straighforward in sound but it even that suffered heavily from the flat, muffled and incomplete production. So yeah both of their last 2 efforts have been quite disappointing for me.
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25.03.2016 - 19:43
3rdWorld
The Psilosopher
Nice article, didn't really read it fully though but any write-up on Sigh is good.

Top 3 Sigh records for me:
1. Hangman's Hymn
2. Scenes From Hell
3. Imaginary Soundscape
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26.03.2016 - 02:09
M C Vice
Ex-polydactyl
Written by 3rdWorld on 25.03.2016 at 19:43


Top 3 Sigh records for me:
1. Hangman's Hymn
2. Scenes From Hell
3. Imaginary Soundscape

2 of my 3 picks there. Swap Hangman and Imaginary around and replace Scenes with Somniphobia.
----
"Another day, another Doug."
"I'll fight you on one condition. That you lower your nipples."
"I'll put whatever I want in your mouth!"
Loading...
27.03.2016 - 18:48
Paw!!
Written by 3rdWorld on 25.03.2016 at 19:43

Nice article, didn't really read it fully though but any write-up on Sigh is good.

Top 3 Sigh records for me:
1. Hangman's Hymn
2. Scenes From Hell
3. Imaginary Soundscape

I pick 'Scenes from Hell' and 'Imaginary Soundscape', their best albums I think.

Wait? No In Somniphobia?
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28.03.2016 - 05:32
3rdWorld
The Psilosopher
Written by Paw!! on 27.03.2016 at 18:48

No In Somniphobia?

No It feels highly incoherent and hardly complete.
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31.03.2016 - 22:25
strade
"Sigh have produced a lot of albums badly, but they have never produced a bad album." Probably the most fitting summation of this band I've seen. Spectacular stuff. My favorite stretch is from Imaginary Sonicscape to Hangman's Hymn, personally.
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My lo-fi synth project: http://luciddreamer.bandcamp.com
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01.04.2016 - 05:10
Demonic Tutor
The Enemy Within
Written by strade on 31.03.2016 at 22:25

"Sigh have produced a lot of albums badly, but they have never produced a bad album." Probably the most fitting summation of this band I've seen. Spectacular stuff. My favorite stretch is from Imaginary Sonicscape to Hangman's Hymn, personally.


I agree 100%.

SSUS, this was a great read about a band I love. Thanks for this article.
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01.04.2016 - 07:16
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
Written by Demonic Tutor on 01.04.2016 at 05:10

Written by strade on 31.03.2016 at 22:25

"Sigh have produced a lot of albums badly, but they have never produced a bad album." Probably the most fitting summation of this band I've seen. Spectacular stuff. My favorite stretch is from Imaginary Sonicscape to Hangman's Hymn, personally.


I agree 100%.

SSUS, this was a great read about a band I love. Thanks for this article.

Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
----
Row, row, fight the power
Djently down the stream

I'm the Agent of Steel.
Loading...
02.04.2016 - 20:30
Diverge
Written by Mr. Doctor on 23.03.2016 at 17:38

Graveward is good but soooo not better than In Somniphobia which is their best album since the great Hangman's Hymn. Delightfully more psychedelic and "smoke-like" than the rest. I can't really see where the inconsistency comes from. Oh well, different strokes.

Besides that, a good article. Congrats.

I echo those sentiments as well. Great post.
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