SIGH

Avant-garde Metal / Black Metal / Symphonic Black Metal / Progressive 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 4.07 | 10 ratings
Scorn Defeat
Black Metal 1993
SIGH Infidel Art album cover 3.69 | 10 ratings
Infidel Art
Black Metal 1995
SIGH Hail Horror Hail album cover 4.37 | 10 ratings
Hail Horror Hail
Avant-garde Metal 1997
SIGH Scenario IV: Dread Dreams album cover 4.10 | 12 ratings
Scenario IV: Dread Dreams
Avant-garde Metal 1999
SIGH Imaginary Sonicscape album cover 4.40 | 32 ratings
Imaginary Sonicscape
Avant-garde Metal 2001
SIGH Gallows Gallery album cover 3.95 | 16 ratings
Gallows Gallery
Avant-garde Metal 2005
SIGH Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien album cover 3.89 | 14 ratings
Hangman's Hymn: Musikalische Exequien
Symphonic Black Metal 2007
SIGH Scenes from Hell album cover 3.78 | 16 ratings
Scenes from Hell
Avant-garde Metal 2010
SIGH In Somniphobia album cover 4.04 | 19 ratings
In Somniphobia
Avant-garde Metal 2012
SIGH Graveward album cover 3.72 | 5 ratings
Graveward
Avant-garde Metal 2015
SIGH Heir to Despair album cover 3.89 | 6 ratings
Heir to Despair
Avant-garde Metal 2018

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 4.75 | 2 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 singles (1)

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

SIGH movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

SIGH Reviews

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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"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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"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.

SIGH Hail Horror Hail

Album · 1997 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
SIGH has become one of Japan’s most interesting musical exports as this band has consistently dished out some of the most wickedly fun avant-garde metal since its debut in 1993 with “Scorn Defeat.” While more famous for the bizarre Bungle-esque antics heard on lauded releases such as “Imaginary Sonicscape,” SIGH actually started or at least tried to start out as a bona fide black metal band but even from the very beginning where all intentions were tarnished with face paint and Scandinavian frigidity, SIGH was like a fish out of water and as time went on instead of retreating and becoming irrelevant, SIGH opted to reinvent itself and become the wild and bizarre Japanese freak show that it is now so good at.

It was clear by the second album “Infidel Art” that SIGH’s ambitions were too large to be contained within a single aisle at the metal music supermarket as that album displayed not only black metal ambitions but ventured into excessive symphonic, progressive and doom metal enterprises. Realizing they had to make their own way in the world, SIGH went for broke on its third album HAIL HORROR HAIL and dived headfirst into its own brand of avant-garde metal that was designed to be more of a soundtrack for an insane asylum than a good old fashioned metal music experience from the known universe. In fact the inner sleeve of the album issued a warning that the album was essentially a movie without pictures and the film jumps from scene to scene unexpectedly with the intent of narrating some bizarre story that remains nebulous.

While black metal remains at the heart of SIGH’s art metal sound, the band that consisted of three members: Mirai (vocals, bass guitar, synthesizer, piano, Hammond organ, vocoder, sampling, programming, radio, effects), Shinichi (acoustic and electric guitar, bass guitar) and Satoshi (drums, triangle, tambourine, guiro, vibraslap, handclap) doesn’t sound like a black metal band at all. True there are distorted metal guitar riffs and Mirai’s frantic attempt at rasping it up on the vocals but the album engages in healthy doses of symphonic orchestrations and has song structures that are more akin to progressive rock than anything coming out of Norway at the time. While the opening title track may seem like a normal extreme metal track only decked out in a black’n’roll type of boogie swagger, the album quickly deviates into mondo bizarro territory and in effect provided the blueprint for which SIGH would build its entire future around.

While metal is the name of the game bonding the whole crazy scene together, tracks like “Invitation To Die” drop the metal altogether and instead create a symphonic orchestral sound that breaks out the woodwinds and piano as the main instruments leaving the raspy vocals as the only indication that SIGH is a metal band at all. “Pathetic” starts out sounding like a symphonic rock version of the James Bond theme song that follows suit and makes you wonder if SIGH had now abandoned metal altogether in favor of multi-layered orchestrations that aspire to a career of action movie soundtracks but then “Curse Of Izanagi” resumes the black metal du jour however it retains the symphonic effects and even cranks out a stealthy guitar solo. Clearly SIGH was becoming an unhinged loose canon taking metal to places never conceived of and the world would never be the same.

The album culminates with the 9 minute plus grand finale “Seed Of Eternity” which finds the band’s newfound liberties stretching out into untethered progressive excesses. The track pretty much brings together the black metal bombast, the blues rock, symphonic orchestrations and stealthy meandering compositional approach that would continue on up to “Imaginary Sonicscape” and launch SIGH’s bizarre interpretation of metal music into the larger international scene. Overall HAIL HORROR HAIL is a more focused affair than some of the album’s that follow but pinpoint the exact moment when the band had an apparent realization that they weren’t like the rest of the kids on the playground and decided to embrace it as a strength rather than a weakness and for that we can only be grateful that these musical freaks had enough self-confidence to sally forth into the brave new world of avant-garde metal with no restrictions.

SIGH Infidel Art

Album · 1995 · Black Metal
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SIGH’s connection to the world of second wave black metal is in many ways more circumstantial than musically related but throughout its multi-decade career and indeed displaying some of the characteristics that the Norwegian scene delivered in abundance, the band has continued to evolve its unique hybridization effect that really took off on this second album. The discovery of this band can be attributed to Euronymous of Mayhem, one of Norway’s premiere forces of black metal terror that the world wasn’t ready for. After hearing this bizarre hybrid of musical styles that mixed European black metal with symphonic and classical elements enshrouded in the avant-garde, Euronymous quickly signed the fledgling act to his infamous Deathlike Silence Records where the trio of Mirai Kawashima (vocals, bass, keyboards), Shinichi Ishikawa (guitars) and Satoshi Fujinami (drums, percussion) released the debut album “Scorn Defeat” but to the band’s dismay Euryonymous would soon die and the label would go down in flames with him.

Back the drawing board but having gained some momentum with a single release due to the band’s early idiosyncrasies that easily stood out amongst the burgeoning packs filling up the wolf’s den and found a new home on the British based Cacophonous Records where they would soon release the second album INFIDEL ART. The fact is that SIGH has never truly fit into the black metal scene even from the very beginning but on “Infidel Art” it was obviously that they had no interest in trying to adapt to that cookie-cutter description and instead opted to explore a wide new arena of possibilities and in the process of going down this path has become one of Japan’s most interesting bands to exist within the greater metal paradigm with one album after another showing yet another distinct persona that never seems to find an end to the variations and experimental touches that this band has nurtured every step of the way.

While still generally dropped into the black metal category for convenience’s sake, INFIDEL ART doesn’t exude the typical rage and boisterous angst that the early 90s delivered in the second wave scene. Instead it mixes the elements of black metal that include the filthy raw guitar distortion and raspy vocal style with Western classical infusions that offer long drawn out symphonic piano motifs with many moments more reminiscent of Frederic Chopin than anything Darkthrone or Emperor ever created. There is a clear sense of nonchalant meandering on SIGH’s second offering especially with the tamped down tempos that offer more glimpses of doom metal than the blackened blastbeats or tremolo picking styles almost ubiquitously implemented in the style of the era. Add to that a clear sense of progressive sensibilities that allowed the compositions to spiral into sophisticated layers of tones, timbres and labyrinthine constructs that eschewed the predictable tritone fury and instead created journeys into a more surreal sonicscape.

With two distinct album slices called “SIde Terror” and “Side Funeral,” INFIDEL ART opens with “Izuna” which displays some connections to the black metal world, it doesn’t take long for the copious piano rolls and symphonic touches to usurp the existential angst and instead create a lush form of progressive rock. Tracks like “Desolation” get even weirder as it lollygags slowly down a lamenting trajectory at a funeral doom metal’s pace only accompanied by lush atmospheric orchestration, classical piano riffs and even eerie theremin sounds creating a haunting vibe. The vocal performances eschew singing for the most part with some sort of declarative poetic prose only half-sung which after listening to this so closely after reviewing Dødheimgard’s magnum opus “A Umbra Omega,” it becomes perfectly clear exactly where the inspiration behind that album originated from which makes SIGH a significant early band of influential prowess for the avant-garde splintering off bands of the black metal world who also quickly tired of the one-dimensional nature of the most simplistic paradigms and went for the avant-garde jugular.

The longest track “The Last Elegy” at 10 and a half minutes begins like a symphony from the 1700s in all its authenticity before morphing into a doom metal monster that sounds a bit like My Dying Bride only with classical keyboards replacing the lugubrious string sounds of the violin. The track ratchets up both the metal and symphonic touches as well as becoming more progressive with a continuing parade of musical motifs building intensity with interesting call and response vocal sections as well as a more upbeat Black Sabbath guitar riffing section. The album continues with not one but TWO more tracks that just miss the ten minute mark with a continuation of the classical music motifs fortified by both doom and black metal styles all decked out symphonic touches and progressive build ups that explode into thundering climactic resolutions. I’ve never considered INFIDEL ART to be one of SIGH’s best works but after a few more listens lately this album has gotten under my skin and for those who aren’t black metal purists and appreciate the dexterity of genre juggling so perfectly performed then you can’t go wrong with this album. Not quite as adventurous as some of the future albums but what this album lacks in sheer diversity of musical styles, it more than makes up for in top notch compositions that find the perfect balance between beautiful melodies and metal bombast although tamped down to the doom metal variety for the majority of the album’s run.

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