Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sigh ~ Scenes From Hell

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: black metal, experimental
Label: The End
Year: 2010
Home: Japan

Members: Dr. Mikannibal ~ vocals/saxophone
Satoshi Fujinami ~ bass/percussion/tambourine/vibraslap
Shinichi Ishikawa ~ guitar
Junichi Harashima ~ drums
Mirai Kawasima ~ Vocals/orchestration/keyboards/theremin/whistle/sitar/tabla/tampura/glockenspiel/clavinet/recorder

Additional: Greg Cossar, Hideto Nagai, Zoltan Pal ~ trombone
Jonathan Fisher ~ trumpet
Erin McGowan-Slee ~ oboe
Ashley Pahmiyer ~ french horn
Catherine Williams ~ flute
Kazuki Ookubo ~ euphonium/tuba
Koichi Koike ~ cello
Kyosuke Matsumoto ~ viola
Takatoshi Yanase ~ violin
Adam Matlock ~ accordion/clarinet
Quatro Gradini ~ strings
Frederic Viennot ~ keyboards
Kam Lee ~ b. vocals

Guest: David Tibet ~ narrator

Putting on a black metal CD the last thing you probably expect to hear mixed with the typical growling vocals & thrashing guitar lines is a gypsy-esque horn & string lines ... unless you're listening to the original demos of Earth, aka Black Sabbath, that originally included a couple horn players ... but that's the rarely heard exception to the norm. Actually, Sigh is the rarely heard exception. Sigh is a moody dark black metal stomp given some exciting extreme counterpoint with horns & strings. Of course, black metal bands use synthesizers all the time for a classical touch, but Sigh carries things in a new direction with a more gypsy or drunken Klezmer feel. It's startling exciting not for the inclusion of the instrumentation itself, but also because the classical motif has worn out its welcome with abandon. Sign is one of the more textured black metal bands I've heard in a while. I'm often writinging about metal bands that throw in a strange instrument here or there, as their gimmick, but its only a disappointing gimmick & could be removed & nobody would notice. Sigh, for the most part, take things a lot further. Opener "Prelude To the Oracle" features colliding horn lines while the guitar sticks to being a rhythm instrument. Dueling male growling vocal lines also add another chaotic element. It's a highlight, though it dips back & forth between average & interesting. The growling, outside of the dueling element, the guitars & the double bass pounding rhythm section aren't doing anything particularly interesting ... or unaverage. Its the normal black metal so many people find tedious. But, then, they accentuate different lines with upbeat horns/strings. This is where everything gets exciting, but the sad part is that this is only accentuating things. You could remove those extras & still have a complete song. They don't drive the music, just add an element to it. Though, much of the melody line is by the horns as the guitars stick mostly to rhythm. But, the melody lines feel more like what is referred to a orchestral stabs than anything flowing forward. The first three songs feature variations on this theme (i.e. "Prelude To The Oracle", "L'art De Mourir", "The Soul Grave") with the only variation seemingly to be on how chaotic it gets. But then, things take a big leap & the horns move from accentuating to being intrigal. Skip the second & third song & go right to the fourth, where Sigh does what I'm looking for & waiting for. Though, they start slowly. They train the ears. The fourth track, "The Red Funeral", opens with a moody piano & narrator that's out of a movie, before going into a strange horn line for a bar leading to sirens & other sound effects & then the riffing guitars. It takes a bit, but when the horns do return they actually are the primary instrument with the guitars pulled back into the arrangement, even absent for a brief violin moment. The horns/strings are even given some solo moments & slowly take a step towards becoming an intrigal part of the song, where the song would feel empty without them. It's an exciting epic track. Then, things take an bigger step in the dirge "The Summer Funeral". Here horns/strings are truly intwined & the guitar is often reduced to the most minimal of rhythm marking out chord changes. Take out the horns/strings & there's no song left. Though, there is too much repetition. At seven minutes, the longest track on the album, its a classical epic in the true spirit of the world, but it repeats where it should have variety. Though, I can overlook the repetition as this is a true fusion of black metal & non-rock forms & is exactly what I'm looking for from supposedly inventive black metal bands for years. Though, having gone as far as they can with the experiment, the next track, "Musica In Tempora Belli", takes to keyboards with cosmic lines like a 60's sci-fi movie soundtrack, before having narration & a strings bridge. It moves from sci-fi to something a Middle Ages poetic feel. Very different than the previous tracks but still exciting & completely unexpected. Sadly, closing pieces "Vanitas" & "Scenes From Hell" go back to the uninspired chaotic thrashing that opened the album, with some horns coming in late to have any interesting effect. On the whole the highlights are invigorating, delightful & highly recommended. The rest is just chaotic black metal well played, or well growled, but not incredibly unusual outside of the dueling vocals ... though it should be mentioned that its a girl growler, a rarity, so that inherently makes it more interesting. But, if you didn't know about the band you wouldn't know its a girl, so those scrolling through itunes aren't going to be struck by this fact. It should be mentioned that Sigh is one of the first Japanese black metal bands & its later in their career they've shifted to more experimental work. I haven't heard to anything else they've done. I can only hope it's like this. The band was originally signed Euronymous of the legendary black metal band Mayhem, releasing their first album after his death.

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