SIGH

Avant-garde Metal / Black Metal / Progressive Metal / Symphonic Black Metal • Japan
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Sigh is regarded by many as Japan's leading extreme metal export, having released numerous highly esteemed recordings throughout their near twenty year existence.

In May of 1990 three musicians attending the same college formed a band called Sigh. The lineup consisted of Mirai Kawashima on bass, vocals and keyboards, Satoshi Fujinami on guitar, and Kazuki Ozeki on percussion. The name Sigh felt appropriate, as a sigh can express a variety of emotions. Gathering influences from a variety of sources mainly rooted in 1980s thrash and first wave black metal, Sigh quickly shunned their earlier roots as a cover band and began to put together material for a demo to be released a month later. Desolation showed the band at its earliest, comprising of three songs that would be rerecorded later on.

Kazuki left Sigh after the completion of Desolation. His tastes differed slightly than Mirai and Satoshi, favoring bands
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SIGH Discography

SIGH albums / top albums

SIGH Scorn Defeat album cover 3.96 | 12 ratings
Scorn Defeat
Black Metal 1993
SIGH Infidel Art album cover 3.65 | 12 ratings
Infidel Art
Black Metal 1995
SIGH Hail Horror Hail album cover 4.23 | 13 ratings
Hail Horror Hail
Avant-garde Metal 1997
SIGH Scenario IV: Dread Dreams album cover 3.98 | 14 ratings
Scenario IV: Dread Dreams
Avant-garde Metal 1999
SIGH Imaginary Sonicscape album cover 4.42 | 36 ratings
Imaginary Sonicscape
Avant-garde Metal 2001
SIGH Gallows Gallery album cover 3.95 | 17 ratings
Gallows Gallery
Avant-garde Metal 2005
SIGH Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien album cover 3.90 | 16 ratings
Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien
Symphonic Black Metal 2007
SIGH Scenes from Hell album cover 3.81 | 18 ratings
Scenes from Hell
Avant-garde Metal 2010
SIGH In Somniphobia album cover 4.02 | 23 ratings
In Somniphobia
Avant-garde Metal 2012
SIGH Graveward album cover 3.65 | 9 ratings
Graveward
Avant-garde Metal 2015
SIGH Heir to Despair album cover 3.90 | 8 ratings
Heir to Despair
Avant-garde Metal 2018
SIGH Shiki album cover 4.56 | 12 ratings
Shiki
Progressive Metal 2022

SIGH EPs & splits

SIGH Requiem for Fools album cover 4.00 | 1 ratings
Requiem for Fools
Black Metal 1992
SIGH To Hell and Back: Tribute to Venom album cover 4.50 | 1 ratings
To Hell and Back: Tribute to Venom
Black Metal 1995
SIGH Ghastly Funeral Theatre album cover 3.38 | 4 ratings
Ghastly Funeral Theatre
Black Metal 1997
SIGH A Tribute to Venom album cover 4.50 | 1 ratings
A Tribute to Venom
Black Metal 2008
SIGH The Curse of Izanagi album cover 3.58 | 2 ratings
The Curse of Izanagi
Black Metal 2010

SIGH live albums

SIGH demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

SIGH re-issues & compilations

SIGH Eastern Darkness album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Eastern Darkness
Black Metal 2021

SIGH singles (1)

.. Album Cover
3.50 | 1 ratings
Homo Homini Lupus
Progressive Metal 2018

SIGH movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

SIGH Reviews

SIGH Shiki

Album · 2022 · Progressive Metal
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siLLy puPPy
When it comes to strange and twisted experimental metal, few have been as weird and long lasting as Japan’s SIGH that started out over 30 years ago as a symphonic black metal band when it was propelled into the limelight with the help of Mayhem’s Euronymous. Through the decades this band has increasingly added more elements to its sound with each album unexpectedly taking you into a completely different and oft uncharted territory within the overarching metal paradigm. Having existed in a weird twilight zone where black metal, progressive metal, symphonic prog, jazz-fusion and psychedelia meet, the band had always looked abroad for inspiring musical forces but beginning with 2018’s “Heir To Despair” at long last realized there have been some interesting sounds to mine from the homeland all along and thus Japanese folk music was fair game. Something about that album didn’t quite gel for me though so i wrote it off as a fluke.

SIGH has been the brainchild of Mirai Kawashima (vocals, keyboards) and his wife Dr. Mikannibal (vocals, saxophone) and has featured a rotating cast of supporting musicians over the decades. With 2022’s SHIKI Kawashima has not only adopted more homegrown folk sounds but for the first time in the SIGH playbook has employed the Japanese language to narrate a concept album based on an ancient Japanese poem that along with the album cover art represents Kawashima’s inward perspectives on his native Japanese culture. Along for the ride in this episode of the SIGH show is guitarist / bassist Frédéric Leclercq who has played with DragonForce, Kreator, Denied and many other bands. Also on board is percussionist Mike Heller who has also been a tour de force in the metal world having played with Fear Factory, Raven, Malignancy and a host of others. The band is topped off a bassist simply presented a 藤並聡.

In many ways SHIKI is the aggregate achievement of SIGH’s long and varied musical palette. Starting off with a psychedelic ambience the track “Kuroi Kage” ushers in a doom metal stomp before the track typifies SIGH’s black n roll musical heft with Kawashima finally joining as Japan’s answer to Captain Beefheart with his schizoid raspy vocal style undecipherable to all but those fortunate enough to speak Japan’s native tongue. The album progresses by quickening the pace with “Shoujahitsumetsu” revisiting past black metal frenzy territory allowing Kawashima to find himself uttering lyrics like a Japanese mad rapper. In the album’s 46 minute run the tracks are beautifully forged to reflect SIGH’s long established commitment to Western song structures but this time augmented with Japanese folk musical textures ranging from backing vocal chants to beautiful sounds effects from instruments such as the hichiriki, taishogoto and shamisen.

While one could very well compare SHIKI to album’s like “Imaginary Sonicscape” for their bold incorporation of a multitude of musical influences, the focus has completely shifted with SHIKI making it a more streamlined and showcases a musical procession with a purpose beyond the shock value of being weird for weird’s sake (don’t get me wrong, i do love that too!) The album almost comes off as a dramatic musical with Kawashima’s vocals conveying the anguish and grief of some tragedy that due to linguistic alienation is conveyed through his vocal tirades that sound like the Japanese equivalent of Captain Beefheart having a temper tantrum at times. Add to that a stellar production, engineering and mixing job that allows the metal heft to perfectly coincide with the nuances of electronic, ambience and psychedelia all neatly sewn together. Through this tightrope act, SHIKI manages to maintain a thunderous energetic uproar with various strains of metal ranging from doom, black and thrash along with quieter moments of transcendence that result in satisfying polarized mood swings.

Unlike any of SIGH’s previous albums, SHIKI sounds epic in scope and perfect in execution. This is an album that is paced perfectly to allow heavy metal bombast to coincide perfectly with trippy psych-fueled electronic intros, outros and midterm breathing spaces. The influence of Japanese folk musical motifs is also incorporated into the very chord progressions that comprise the compositional flow and the use of the Japanese language gives the album a completely different rhythmic drive than any previous album. I’m very happy that bands from around the world are choosing to use their native tongue in lieu of the ubiquitous English for that very reason. Just when it seemed like SIGH was ready to go stale on us, this unique act has found a new lease on life and with the newly incorporated sounds and themes of the vast world of Japanese culture could very well be around for another 30-some years. This one was a true surprise and is one of my top album picks for the calendar year of 2022. What an amazing comeback from this legendary band. SHIKI is without a doubt this band’s best album yet.

SIGH Scenes from Hell

Album · 2010 · Avant-garde Metal
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UMUR
"Scenes from Hell" is the 8th full-length studio album by Japanese progressive/experimental metal act Sigh. The album was released through The End Records in January 2010. It´s the successor to "Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien" from 2007 and features one lineup change since the predecessor as Sigh welcomes a fifth member to their ranks in female vocalist/saxophonist Dr. Mikannibal...

...and just as you thought Sigh couldn´t get any weirder or more boundary seeking, they turn the symphonic black metal style of "Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien" (2007) on its head (or at least twist it), and returns to a more raw basic speed/thrash/black metal style on the guitars, bass, and drums, but everything else is kept weird to the maximum. Somehow maintaining the occasional symphonic edge to their music, but using a lot of brass instrumentation/orchestration. As always it´s almost impossible to describe Sigh´s music in a way which ensures that the reader gets a good picture of what´s going on. I apologize in advance...

Few other artists are able to combine as different stylistic elements as Sigh do and make it work. It´s pretty bizarre listening to classical orchestration mixed with aggressive blackened speed/heavy metal and harsh snarling blackened vocals. Acts like Dimmu Borgir and their ilk have released symphonic black metal before Sigh started doing it, but it´s the unpolished rawness of the metal part of the music and the almost organic sounding classical orchestration which create a major contrast to the more polished and clean sounding symphonic black metal acts, and make Sigh stand out as unique.

"Scenes from Hell" features a raw and organic sounding production job, which suits the rawness of the music well, and the musicianship is on a high level on all posts, so upon conclusion it´s another intriguing, original, and distinct sounding release by Sigh, who continutes to be one of the most unique acts on the scene. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

SIGH Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien

Album · 2007 · Symphonic Black Metal
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UMUR
"Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien" is the 7th full-length studio album by Japanese progressive/experimental metal act Sigh. The album was released through The End Records in June 2007. It´s the successor to "Gallows Gallery" from 2005 and not surprisingly the two albums sound very little alike (which would actually have been unusual as most Sigh are pretty different in style and sound).

"Gallows Gallery (2005)" saw Sigh play a twisted form of power/heavy metal with very few nods towards their black metal past, but "Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien" brings back the raw black metal vocal style and a slightly harder edged basic sound. Of course Sigh haven´t stagnated or gone back to the roots, as they are an ever changing and developing act, and this time around they are opted to challenge themselves by making a symphonic tinged black metal album. They´ve used symphonic elements before, and it´s been obvious on preceding releases too that lead vocalist/keyboard player Mirai Kawashima is a classically trained musician/composer, but on "Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien", Sigh go all in on the symphonic concept.

You would think with a band covering as much musical ground as Sigh manage to do, that they would fail once in a while, but listening to "Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien" it´s abundantly clear that it´s not this time around. Sigh pull off playing symphonic black metal with the same ease as they have managed to play raw and savage old school black metal, avant garde/progressive black metal, psychadelic progressive black metal, and power/heavy metal on their preceding releases.

The basis of Sigh´s sound is still guitars, bass, drums, and snarling blackened vocals, but "Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien" is loaded with symphonic orchestral keyboard arrangements and choirs, which work well with the raw backing. "Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien" is a concept release divided into three parts, and the overall theme is religious (God, Satan, good vs evil type story), with use of bits and pieces from "Requiem" (liturgical service of the Roman Catholic Church).

Upon conclusion "Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien" is yet another bold, creative, and adventurous release by Sigh. Clever songwriting, powerful delivery of the music, and a professional and detailed sound production, which suits the material perfectly. It´s through and through a high quality release and a 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.

SIGH Gallows Gallery

Album · 2005 · Avant-garde Metal
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UMUR
"Gallows Gallery" is the 6th full-length studio album by Japanese progressive/experimental metal act Sigh. The album was released through Candlelight Records/Baphomet Records in October 2005. It´s the successor to "Imaginary Sonicscape" from 2001 and there´s been one lineup change since the predecessor as drummer Satoshi Fujinami plays bass and guitars on this album, and new drummer Junichi Harashima has been added to the lineup. The remaining part of the lineup are Mirai Kawashima (vocals, keyboards, organs, sampling...etc.) and Shinichi Ishikawa (guitars).

But it´s not so much the lineup changes which make the headlines here, as "Gallows Gallery" is yet another left-turn stylistic change from Sigh. If you´re familiar with the preceding releases in the band´s discography you´ll know that Sigh have pretty much changed musical style between each of their releases. To begin with little changes between releases and gradually much bigger changes between albums...culminating in the release of the avant garde, psychadelic, atmospheric heavy metal album "Imaginary Sonicscape (2001)", which is as weird as it is exciting. If you thought Sigh would continue down that road on "Gallows Gallery", I can tell you, that you have another thing coming...

...because suddenly it seems like Sigh have decided to release a power/heavy metal album. Gone are the harsh blackened vocals from their past releases, and instead the vocals are clean, and there are harmonies and choirs. The vocals aren´t angelic clean or high pitched though, but more akin to for example the vocals on a Running Wild album. So they are still relatively raw and not necessarily what many would label pretty. The strong Japanese accent also add something different to the vocals, and personally I find the accented vocals quite charming, but I can understand those who wouldn´t be able to appreciate them.

While the primary music style on "Gallows Gallery" is power/heavy metal, this is a Sigh album, and not surprisingly the band twist conventions and explore boundaries of the power/heavy metal genre, so while there are many recognisable power/heavy metal elements featured here, you have probably never heard an album in the genre which even remotely sounds like this. Drums, bass, guitar, and vocals, are complimented by the use of various keyboards, synths, and organs (and some other instruments like Gong, Sitar, and Tibetan Bells), and a generally very adventurous approach to songwriting. The material are well written, catchy, and energetic, but some tracks sound a bit the same (the melody lines are similar as are the riff style and rhythms), but the band do incorporate some surprises to keep the album varied (an example is the slow, atmospheric, and psychadelic tinged "The Tranquilizer Song").

"Gallows Gallery" features high level musicianship and a decent quality sound production (a bit thin sounding, but still decent), and upon conclusion it´s another high quality release by Sigh, who must be praised both for their boldness and for their complete disregard for genre conventions and expectations from their fans. The fans are of course by now used to expecting the unexpected, but you still have to be a very open-minded music listener to be able to appreciate such major musical changes between releases. Those who have stuck by the band through their many transitions, will probably stick by them on this release too and be rewarded for their loyalty, because "Gallows Gallery" is a grower and while it is very different from anything Sigh have released before, this is still unmistakably the sound of Sigh. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

SIGH Imaginary Sonicscape

Album · 2001 · Avant-garde Metal
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UMUR
"Imaginary Sonicscape" is the 5th full-length studio album by Japanese progressive/experimental metal act Sigh. The album was released through Century Media Records in July 2001. It´s Sigh´s first release on the label after they left Cacophonous Records, as a consequence of what the band felt was bad promotion for "Scenario IV: Dread Dreams (1999)". The three-piece lineup who recorded the predecessor is intact on "Imaginary Sonicscape".

Although Sigh originally started out as a black metal act, they soon began to experiment with their sound and the last couple of preceding releases have been increasingly progressive/experimental. "Imaginary Sonicscape" tops them all though as Sigh take their adventurous songwriting approach to new creative heights. The basis in the music is fairly traditional heavy metal riffs/leads/harmonies and rhythms, and Mirai Kawashima´s snarling raspy vocals in front. The latter is the only feature on the album, which links the music on "Imaginary Sonicscape" to the band´s black metal past, because nothing else on the album is extreme metal related in any way.

While the heavy metal elements in the music are relatively traditional in nature, the band make sure that everything else on the album is challenging to the listener. There is omnipresent use of vintage keyboards/synths/organs and additional features like ghostly choirs, percussion, the odd programmed/electronic section, saxophone, and atmospheres which range from eerie darkness to almost sunshine psychadelic happiness ("A Sunset Song" is an example of the latter mood). The use of classical music themes and orchestral sections are also quite dominant in the soundscape. It´s not an easy listen and most listener´s will probably need more than one listen to decide what they think of the album. The tracks and the album in general take many left-turns along the way, and the listener is kept on his/her toes throughout the 63:35 minutes long playing time.

The musicianship is strong and while everything is performed with great skill and precision, Sigh generally perform their music with a great organic touch, which is further enhanced by the organic sounding production. The songwriting is on a very high level, and it´s obvious Kawashima has some classical music education/training, because the keyboard arrangements and the keyboard performances in general are seldom heard this sophisticated in heavy metal music.

"Imaginary Sonicscape" is for the open-minded heavy metal listener, and there is no guarantee this is something a lot of people will enjoy. It´s probably very much an aquired taste, even for fans of the band. Expect the unexpected and you won´t be dissapointed. Personally I think the experiments sometime make the album a bit incoherrent, and some tracks feel like they lack direction, like the band just added sections/elements they felt were interesting to add without thinking about the big picture. Knowing the musical genius of Kawashima I´m sure that´s not true though, and I´m sure the output is exactly what Sigh had in mind. My personal feelings aside this is still a high quality release and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

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