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Scorn Defeat

Sigh - Scorn Defeat ©1994 Psychic Scream
1. A Victory Of Dakini
2. The Knell
3. At My Funeral
4. Gundali
5. Ready For The Final War
6. Weakness Within
7. Taste Defeat
8. The Seven Gates Of Hell (bonus Track)

Every band has to start somewhere and Japan's Sigh is no exception to that. The trio began as a Venom-inspired, crusty thrash coated black metal band that only showed minor hints of their eccentric and eclectic influences that would surface in later releases. Scorn Defeat, their first full length album, was originally released on Euronymous' Deathlike Silence label and was reissued in 2000 on a label called Psychic Scream. Although Japan is quite removed from Norway in terms of both geography and culture, Sigh must have done something of note to capture the noted Mayhem leader's interest.

As it stands, Scorn Defeat is a mildly interesting album that offers a handful of fairly basic blistering tunes that aren't quite black metal (at least in the Scandanavian sense) nor as endearingly incompetent as a Venom influence might suggest. The music is generally ominous and drenched in horror movie effects and minimalized piano and keyboards (speaking of which, the piano playing is quite accomplished in the moments where it is featured). Mirai's vocals are Cronos-tinged. The mood of the album generally has more in common with doom metal records as a sense of foreboding danger always lies around the corner. In other words, their style of black metal has more to do with early Celtic Frost than early Bathory.

While Sigh quickly went about throwing everything but the kitchen sink into their later works, Scorn Defeat is a competent and reasonably enjoyable effort for a band still accustomed to presenting a more known style of dark metal. The vibe is constantly more akin to 80s thrash than much of its 90s collegues, with a slightly updated and horrified feel layered on. The reissue version of Scorn Defeat should help current Sigh fans better understand where this band came from.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 09/2001

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Infidel Art

Sigh - Infidel Art ©1995 Cacophonous
1. Izuna
2. The Zombie Terror
3. Desolation
4. The Last Elegy
5. Suicidogenic
6. Beyond Centuries

Listening to Sigh's 1995 effort, Indidel Art, I've come to realize that listening to them "Merlin-style" (ie: essentially moving backwards through their discography, for you unwashed illiterate types out there) may dilute the album's impact compared to how it might have been received in 1995. For my ears, Infidel Art sounds underdeveloped and formative compared to Sigh's later releases, but that's only given the luxury of hearing later releases long before finally coming across this one.

The six song album picks up some of the basic ideas put in place on Scorn Defeat, but takes a step towards the more orchestrated and complex style that later releases would demonstrate. The tracks are all quite lengthy, with only "Suicidogenic" falling below the eight minute mark. The music tends to fall into a doom metal type of tempo and dirge aspect. Keyboard arrangements are added into the basic sound, with a tendency to attempt to create a spooky atmosphere. In the case of "The Zombie Terror", the approach works very well. However, for much of the album, the music often plods along without really feeling like it's quite going anywhere in particular. In fact, that is the downfall to Infidel Art. The length of the songs can be daunting for even those whose attention spans haven't been decimated by the factoid generation. For my tastes, the experimentation and addition of atypical elements to the doom/black metal foundation doesn't quite gel the way it potentially should. Obviously Sigh progressed in their abilities further down the road, but their earliest material is somewhat lacking.

That said, I can imagine the ears in 1995 would have been more impressed as few bands were willing to tinker as much with established metal paradigms. For Sigh fans, it's worth getting ahold of this album to better understand their development, but for newcomers, you're much better off latching onto a later release where the trio was finally hitting on all cylinders.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/2007

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Hail Horror Hail

Sigh - Hail Horror Hail ©1997 Cacophonous
1. Hail Horror Hail
2. 42 49
3. 12 Souls
4. Burial
5. The Dead Sing
6. Invitation To Die
7. Pathetic
8. Curse Of Izanagi
9. Seed Of Eternity

If you've ever sat around your darkened bedroom (which of course is regaled with misanthropic decoration, such as cattle skulls, spiked peraphenalia and other evil things) contemplating "what-ifs", perhaps you gave some thought to what Genesis might be like had they been writing black metal music. Luckily, Sigh has given us the answer. First off, they provide a Surgeon General's Warning on the back of the CD warning the Darkthrone-Only crowd that:

"Every sound on this album is deliberate and if you find that some parts of the album are strange, it isn't because the music in itself strange, but because your conscious self is ill-equipped to comprehend the sounds produced on this recording."

In other words, if you don't "get" this album, you are an idiot. I think Sigh just put down a large portion of the metal community in a very roundabout way. Quite clever. Anyone who criticizes their usage of symphony elements, unusual orchestration and so is too stupid to know what Sigh was doing. But here's the thing about Hail Horror Hail: though it is unusual, it is very straight forward to assimilate and understand within a listen or two. The Genesis comparison only exists because in that band's early career (most predominately when Peter Gabriel was wearing his "corpsepaint"), there are common moods and ventures into experimentalism that both bands share. Personally I have no problem with hearing an album step outside the common expectations of what black metal is theoretically supposed to be, especially when done this well. The only surprise the album gave me was the rocking opener "Hail Horror Hail", which even has a groove. There are forays into sound effects, symphonics and so on throughout the album. The highlights are "The Dead Sing" and "Invitation to Die", which bring everything together into a emotionally charged, creative epitome of what Sigh apparently hoped to create. Hail Horror Hail is recommended greatly to anyone who thinks Dimmu Borgir's style is neato and especially to those who "got" Arcturus' last two CDs.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/1999

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Ghastly Funeral Theatre EP

Sigh - Ghastly Funeral Theatre EP ©1997 Cacophonous
1. Intro: Soushiki
2. Shingontachikawa
3. Doman Seman
4. Imiuta
5. Shikigami
6. Outro: Higeki

This far too short mini-CD from Japan's theatric and conceptual black metal horror stars is a great little peek into the twisted musical minds of the band. Sigh has shown that deep within their little dark hearts lies the aspiration to be a progressive rock band. This is very much evidenced with their inclusion of beautifully orchestrated passages, unorthodox structures and obviously far reaching musical ideas. Sigh is not afraid to throw everything but the accordian into the music. The end result is a remarkably versitile effort that belies their initial Venom worship. Musically Sigh creates an unique atmosphere. "Doman Seman" is a good piece that typiflies what Sigh does. Starting out with an acoustic guitar/flute piece, the song builds into a climatic noise barrage and then coalesces into groove-oriented metal. The entire EP flows together quite well, which only shows the impressive ability of this band. Needless to say, this gets a hearty thumbs up.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 09/1999

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Scenario IV: Dead Dreams

Sigh - Scenario IV: Dead Dreams ©1999 Cacophonous
1. Diabolic Suicide
2. Infernal Cries
3. Black Curse
4. Iconoclasm In The 4th Desert
5. In The Mind Of A Lunatic
6. Severed Ways
7. Imprisoned
8. Waltz: Dread Dreams
9. Divine Graveyard

Although Sigh's warning on Hail Horror Hail suggests that those who don't understand the sounds of their music are ill-equipped to understand it, I'm willing to step forth and proclaim to the world that Scenario IV: Dread Dreams isn't exactly the best piece of work in the band's catalogue. More significantly, it's a dreary, trudging and cumbersome experience that keeps the listener from ever actively wishing to enjoy the CD.

All of the Sigh trademarks are in full-force throughout Scenario IV: juxtaposition of completely disparate styles, raspy black metal vocals, heavy guitar riffage, spooky atmosphere, etc. But the problem with the album is that everything sounds thrown together and the band's most important element, that being songflow, is entirely absent. What made a lot of Hail Horror Hail work is the artistry in weaving together the clashing parts in a way that made the songs cohesive. Scenario IV is lacking that. At times it seems as though the band is simply trying to be weird for the sake of it or struggling far too hard to create an eerie atmosphere and mood. The metal foundation often is played at doom metal tempo and creeps along so unenthusiastically that any listener with a reasonably healthy pulse will lose interest and start fiddling with whatever shiny object is nearby. Moreover, transitions between style jumps are clumsier than Sigh should be. These lads are far too capable to be making such clunky segueways.

There are occasional good moments and even sections of brilliance within the album, but the struggle to pay attention through the plodding sections isn't always worth it. Some of us do listen to music for enjoyment, not to become a martyr for artistry. Sigh is a far too creative band to merely throw together a record. There are better moments to be found in the band's discography so it would behoove you to check those out first.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/2002

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Imaginary Sonicscapes

Sigh - Imaginary Sonicscapes ©2001 Century Media
1. Corpsecry - Angelfall
2. Scarlet Dream
3. Nietzchean Conspiracy
4. A Sunset Song
5. Impromptu [Allegro Maestoso]
6. Dreamsphere (Return To The Chaos)
7. Ecstatic Transformation
8. Slaughtergarden Suite
9. Bring Back The Dead
10. Requiem - Nostalgia

With each new album, Japan's most creative entity known as Sigh continues to hone their madcap collage approach to extreme metal with far more impressive results. Previous albums have always been intriguing for the genre hopping and stylistic detours, but much of the criticism is that the parts never quite gelled together to create a flow. While that is quite true to a degree, Imaginary Sonicscapes, the first release by the trio on Century Media, completely lays waste to that notion and has given the public one of the most innovative and pleasing albums of the year.

While Sigh has been most aligned with black metal, the traces of that particular strain have been largely confined to the raspy vocals of Mirai. The music, generally speaking, is a mix between 80s thrash with a rock'n'roll groove tying things together. On top of that base, the band includes such disparate styles such as occasional programmed beats, classical piano interludes, symphonic segments, reggae dub beats and an overwhelming richness found in many 70s progressive rock records. And as stated above, this seemingly overwhelming barrage of clashing styles actually works and flows remarkably well throughout the record. What seems to really help make the record much more accessible is the reliance on rather simple, straightforward rock beats. Sigh actually gives this amalgam of sounds a swagger and groove. The band also went out of their way to find vintage 70s keyboards to create a very lush sound. The production quality is of such high standard that you can find little fault in the sounds used to make the record.

With the band distancing themselves from standard black metal by scores and scores of leagues now, Sigh hopefully will find crossover appeal in that segment of metal listeners who love challenging, innovative and unique music. Imaginary Sonicscapes is a deftly arranged apparatus of modern psychotic warfare given a groove and accessible edge.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/2001

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Hangman's Hymn

Sigh - Hangman's Hymn ©2007 Osmose
1. Introitus / Kyrie
2. Inked In Blood
3. Me-Devil
4. Dies Irae / The Master Malice
5. The Memories As A Sinner
6. Death With Dishonor
7. In Devil's Arms
8. Overture / Rex Tremendae / I Saw The World's End
9. Salvation In Flame / Confutatis
10. Finale: Hangman's Hymn / In Paradisum / Das Ende

Sigh, by and large one of the more unique bands in black metalís history, have hit somewhat of a dry-spell, of late. Gallows Gallery, both a radical departure and a regression for the band, was a bit of a letdown. Now, Hangmanís Hymn, supposedly a return to form to the thrashier, more bizarrely orchestrated sound that Sigh has been so lauded for over the years, is released, and with similarly lackluster results.

The album in question is not so much a return to form to the avante-garde leanings of Hail Horror Hail or Imaginary Sonicscape as much as it is simply a thrash album with densely orchestrated synths meant to evoke the spirit of German symphonic pieces. The resulting sound is not so different from Bal Sagoth or even any run-of-the-mill symphonic black metal band. Miraiís distinctive, heavily accented shrieks (completely absent from the previous album) are the only things that separate this album from any of its contemporaries. While the album, like any good piece of symphonic music, flows together rather well (no individual tracks stand out), the music itself is simply so ho-hum that the listener does naught but wait for its conclusion.

It seems that Imaginary Sonicscapes was a career highpoint for the band, and one can only hope that Sigh will do something that will truly top it at some point, though it looks doubtful. I would recommend Sigh neophytes to head straight for Hail Horror Hail or Imaginary Sonicscapes if they want a true representation of what the band is capable of.

Review by Alec A. Head

Review date: 10/1997

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