My experience with Japan’s Avantgarde Black Metallers SIGH has been an interesting one and by “interesting,” I mean “pretty much non-existent.” I’m a big fan of bands such as ARCTURUS and SOLEFALD, so it would seem that SIGH should be right up my alley. For some reason, though, they’ve always been one of those bands that I’ve never really remembered to get into. Sure, I’ve heard and liked bits and pieces of “Imaginary Sonicscape,” but I’ve never really given them the same proper listen as I have their Norwegian contemporaries.
All of that has changed with “Gallows Gallery.” The other day I walked 25 minutes to the best record store in town, planning on buying SOLEFALD’s “Red For Fire.” When I get there, I found out that it wasn’t in yet, so instead of walking home empty handed, I grabbed “Gallows Gallery” as an impulse, popped it into the CD player and started my walk home. You know, I’m glad I did, because this stuff is great.
Now, everything I say here is coming from a SIGH first-timer, so I can’t really draw comparisons with the band’s earlier works. I’ve done a bit of research, however and discovered three things that supposedly set this album apart from their other releases. First, main man Mirai has dropped his old Black Metal shrieks, opting instead for a very strange processed vocal sound that, on first listen, will drive you away, but on later listens will suck you in deeper and deeper. Second, the production on this supposedly sucks – maybe it does, but I couldn’t tell. Sure, it sounds a bit muddy, but it doesn’t hurt the music at all. Third, this is supposedly the heaviest and most straight-forward SIGH album in some time. If this is straight-forward, I can’t wait to hear their earlier works.
“Gallows Gallery” sounds like a crazed circus, full of crazy little folk running around with knives. There are thrashing riffs and lots of double bass, but there is also a huge amount of organ, psychedelia and atmospherics. Some songs have saxophone, some have bells. Some have spoken-word and some have sitar or glockenspiel or techno beats. There are guests from DARK TRANQUILITY, THE RED CHORD, NECROPHAGIA and MEADS OF ASPHODEL. In short, there is a lot of stuff in here and it sounds good.
For those of you who enjoy the Post-Black movement and like a bit of imagination mixed in with your Metal, this album and this band are for you. For me, I thank SIGH for “Gallows Gallery,” and look forward to exploring the rest of their back catalogue! (Online January 16, 2006)