Cacophonous. What a fun little label that was (is?). Bringing Metal the likes of CRADLE OF FILTH, DIMMU BORGIR, BAL-SAGOTH, and the subject of this review, the oft misunderstand but still legendary SIGH. (Granted, SIGH started on Deathlike Silence Productions, but Cacophonous really got the band’s name out there.)
Hailing from Japan, SIGH is quite the polarizing band. The band has the sort of love/hate relationship with metalheads that only truly original bands can have, and the term "original" fits SIGH to a “T”. Take a look at Alex’s previous review of “Scenario IV: Dread Dreams” to see SIGH’s effect on the uninitiated. I myself am relatively new to the psychedelic Black Metal (I use that term loosely) samurais, but had the benefit of starting with the more recent, easier to digest material of “Gallow’s Gallery” and “Hangman’s Hymn”. Both of those albums are still out-there, but not to the extent of the band’s previous releases.
To fully appreciate SIGH’s eclectic take on Metal, it helps to be open minded and appreciative of many different genres of music. Finding enjoyment in experimentation also doesn’t hurt, nor does a healthy dose of patience. SIGH’s albums cannot be expected to sink after one listen, maybe not even after 10. Those willing to put the time in should be justly rewarded (although some may never truly get it), while those seeking instant gratification will leave disappointed and confused.
While SIGH’s main sound is made up of traditional “Metal” instruments (guitar/bass/drums), the band shows no fear in adopting whatever other sounds they damn-well feel like. “Scenario IV” makes use of synthesizers, samples and even a vocoder (a vocal synth, for those wondering). Within the first half of the first song, “Diabolic Suicide”, we’re already treated to synths made to sound like a brass section and handclaps. SIGH also doesn’t let the restraints of convention hold them back in the songwriting department. While most songs are conventional from afar – in that they do generally follow the verse-chorus standard – it’s how the band gets from point A to point B that’ll throw the average listener for a loop. What all this boils down to is an album where anything is possible at any time. Just when you think you’ve got a good grasp on where the band is going in a particular song, in comes something from left-field. The best example of this is “Black Curse”, a Blackened Doom track overall, that just so happens to feature a Country followed by lounge-Jazz break in the middle. Upon first listen it yanked a “what the hell?” out me, but has put a smile on my face with each ensuing listen.
The pacing of “Scenario IV” sticks mostly to the mid-range, with some songs (such as the aforementioned “Black Curse”), falling into the Doom category. A passage here and there finds things speeding up just a bit, but never does SIGH shift into that next gear and let things blaze on “Scenario IV”, which is likely to leave speed freaks a bit disappointed.
“Scenario IV” runs the gamut vocally. The majority of vocals are of a Black Metal rasp, but the listener is also treated to processed vocals (remember the vocoder), female choirs and some group chants. To continue following the album’s eccentric qualities, the lyrics are dark and twisted, even coming out with the occasional line in Japanese. There are also lyrics written by Damien of RITUAL CARNAGE (“Infernal Cries), King Fowley of DECEASED (“In The Mind Of A Lunatic”), and Killjoy of NECROPHAGIA (“Severed Ways”), which should give you an idea of the lyrical direction of “Scenario IV”.
The only complaint that can be offered on “Scenario V” is the typical Cacophonous production. In case you’re not familiar with the production on Cacophonous releases (at least the ones I’ve heard), it basically means that the album is on the quiet side and not as full as it could be. If only Cacophonous would release or sell the licenses to their albums so that proper reissues could be done. I can dream, can’t I?
For those of you who are still apprehensive to jump in to SIGH’s pool of unearthly delights, be aware that while the band is certainly weird, they never reach the totally wacko realms of bands like MR. BUNGLE or UNEXPECT. In other words, SIGH is hardly ever weird simply for the sake of it, but (for the most part) makes sure that the odd elements are to the benefit of the song and the pacing of the album. And unlike those other bands, SIGH always keeps in mind the importance of a memorable song. But just to ensure that your level of comfort doesn’t become too high, I thought I’d point out that SIGH included a waltz (you know, the kind you dance to) on “Scenario IV”, which is a great way to keep the average headbanger on their toes.
Despite the oddities found on “Scenario IV”, SIGH is still a Metal band through and through. The band is never afraid to shred, so don’t think you’ll get all lace tablecloths and linen napkins, and miss out on the prime rib and baked potato. You’ll get plenty of meat and potatoes with “Scenario IV”; just expect it to come paired with something exotic you’ve likely never tried before.
(Online March 21, 2008)