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Sunday Old School: Black Metal History Month Part 2 - Sigh

Black Metal History Month has returned for a fourth instalment! This year will see our special time analyze some of the roots of the genre, as well as some of the bleakest and obscene bands to fly the flag of darkness.

When it comes to black metal, the first place that immediately springs to mind is Norway, despite the genre being pioneered by groups from England, Switzerland, Italy and Denmark. It would be appear that Mayhem guitarist and black metal figurehead, Øystein Aarseth, better known perhaps as Euronymous, was well aware that the genre wasn’t restricted to his home country, as evidenced by his offers to bands all over the world to join his Deathlike Silence label. One of this groups hailed from the other side of the world, in a country one might not associate with the frostbitten scene, Japan. Their name is, Sigh.

Sigh began life in 1989, forming in the Japanese capital city of Tokyo. They released two demo tapes, "Desolation" and "Tragedies" the following year, featuring the lineup of Mirai Kawashima on vocals and keyboards, drummer Kazuki Ozeki and multi instrumentalist, Satoshi Fujinami on guitar. The demos aren’t considered their best work and suffered from very poor production, but nevertheless attracted enough interest for Wild Rags Records to offer them an outlet for an EP release, which came in 1992 under the title, "Requiem for Fools," around the time that they had hired guitarist, Shinichi Ishikawa, a move which saw Fujinami moving to the drum stool.

The release was received a lot better than their previous demos and shortly afterwards, the band was offered a deal with Deathlike Silence Productions by Euronymous, a proposition they quickly snapped up. One year later, their debut full length album, "Scorn Defeat" was released through the company, with Side A being labelled, "Side Revenge" and Side B, "Side Violence." It was received excellently by black metal fans, excited to see that bands from around the world had something exciting to offer the scene, though for a long time, the album was hard to find, until it was re-released in 2000 with an added bonus track, a cover of the Venom

After the murder of Euronymous, Sigh and other bands signed to Deathlike Silence were forced to look for new labels to release their music, Sigh’s opportunity coming when Cacaphonous Records offered them a deal. Under their new label, they released a split single with Greek outfit, Kawir, as well as an EP of Venom covers, before releasing their second album, "Infidel Art" in 1995. It contained only six songs but five of these were over eight minutes in length.

Partnering with Cacaophonous kept the group very busy, following their sophomore album with a single, "Shadowking" in 1996, before a live album and an EP, "Ghastly Funeral Theatre," followed the next year. The EP was an important moment for the band, as it saw Sigh moving into more experimental territory become a lot more progressive nature and adding more avant-garde elements to their music. This was expanded upon seven months later with the release of their third album, "Hail Horror Hail," which was critically acclaimed, with Terrorizer magazine naming it in their ten best albums of 1997 list, as well as later including it on their list of 100 most important albums of the decade. The band themselves were clearly very proud of the album, with inside sleeve notes stating amongst other things that the record was more of a film without pictures and that anything that sounds strange was the fault of the listeners conscious.

For the first time, the release of their next full length album was not buffered by any other outputs such as EPs or singles, and Sigh’s fourth album, "Scenario IV: Dread Dreams" saw the light of day in 1999. Once again, the music was evolving into something highly daring, fusing funk and country music into black metal was one such example of the risks the band were willing to take, as well as their first use of female vocals on three of the tracks. It was also to be the band’s last effort through Cacaphonous, as they signed with German label, Century Media following its release.

By the time of their fifth album, "Imaginary Sonicscape," influences were being drawn into the music from all sorts of areas. The record showcased tinges of disco, jazz and dub reggae amongst other influences, something that happened naturally according to Kawashima. Lyrically, the album dealt with fear, specifically that felt about life events such as losing a loved one or growing old, an emotional subject which seemingly would need the varied sounds the band brought in. Though it was critically acclaimed, it was not a big seller and the group left Century Media after only one album.

Following two more singles, Sigh signed with Candlelight Records and released their next album, "Gallows Gallery" on Halloween 2005. It was another landmark album for them as it marked the first time Sigh had recorded an album as a quartet, after they brought in drummer, Junichi Harashima, which saw Fujinami switch roles once again, this time to bass. It was also their first album which spawned a music video, in this case for the song, "Midnight Sun," while the album as a whole made more use of clean vocals and major keys, which led to some listeners claiming that it was an overall happier sounding album, though the band claim this was not intentional.

Yet again, Sigh changed labels and this time signed with American record company, The End and got to work on their next album. The new record, "Hangman’s Hymn," was released in 2007 and featured some of the shortest songs in the band’s discography, as well as even more experimenting, this time by utilising vocals in Latin to help create an epic sound. This was part of a large influence on the album, the Requiem Mass, which resulted in several tracks taking their name from the parts, in addition to aspects being borrowed from Mozart’s Requiem in D-minor. It also contained the song, "Inked in Blood," which was particularly well received and was named one of Loudwire’s top picks for metal songs of the century so far.

It was also in 2007 that Sigh became a quintet with the recruitment of saxophonist and vocalist, Dr. Mikannibal, so named because she holds a PhD in physics from the University of Tokyo and she made her recording debut with the band three years later, with the eighth full length album, "Scenes From Hell." The album was seen to have brought back some of their black metal sound which had begun to shed over the course of the last few albums and crafted another music video for the opening track, "Prelude to the Oracle," as well as boasting a guest appearance from British poet, David Tibet on the song, "The Red Funeral."

Another EP, "The Curse of Inzanagi" was also released in 2010, featuring a re-recorded version of the title track as well another Venom cover, in addition to a cover of the John Coltrane piece, "Spiritual." They then made a surprising move by returning to Candlelight Records, releasing their ninth album, "In Somniphobia" through the label in 2012. As had become almost routine, the album garnered very positive reviews, as well as bringing in newer sounds, this time creating a symphonic metal vibe in areas of the record.

A live album, "Scorn Defeat 20th Anniversary Gig," was released the next year, as the title explains, to celebrate two decades since the release of their debut album but the time seems to be coming soon for a tenth album, which Sigh announced last year would be named, "Graveward" and set to begin recording midway through the year. If it’s anything like the rest of their back catalogue, it will no doubt be another excellent work and with the departure of Ishikawa, it already marks a landmark for the group, in which new guitarist You Oshima will make his recording debut. Their contribution to metal is one which will earn them the respect of idols, peers and fans alike and one which confirms their place as one of Japan, and indeed Asia’s, best metal groups.

Sigh - "Ready For The Final War"

Sigh - "Beyond Centuries"

Sigh - "Hail Horror Hall"

Sigh - "Black Curse"

Sigh - "Slaughtergarden Suite"

Sigh - "Midnight Sun"

Sigh - "Inked In Blood"

Sigh - "Far Beneath the In-Between"

Sigh - "The Transfiguration Fear"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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2 Comments on "Sunday Old School: BMHM Part 2 - Sigh"

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1. Carlos Santos writes:

Excellent read about an excellent band. They´re not an easy listen, but what I most like about them is how genuine they seem. Their sound hasn´t really changed, but everything is very unexpected. To them, doing a cover of a Venom song or a John Coltrane tune to them is absolutley natural - of course, it´s all great music, so why not! They´re not trying to be different, they´re are different. Essential music, I would say.
Cheers!

# Feb 13, 2015 @ 5:07 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
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2. Diamond Oz writes:

Thanks Carlos. Great summary. I'm seeing them in June and I can't wait to experience them live.

# Feb 13, 2015 @ 5:34 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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