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Class 6(66)

Sigh: Ghastly funeral theatre

19/07/12  ||  Sokaris

Introduction

An EP in extreme metal can be many different things. It can be a collection of rarities and miscellaneous recordings. It can be a preview to an upcoming release. It can be a misguided cash grab between more important releases. In the best of cases this shortened release format can provide the listener with a full album experience in a short amount of time and an EP can stand alone and come just as recommended as a band’s full length output. “Ghastly funeral theatre” fortunately falls into this category and if the term “mini-album” is ever to be used, this is the case. Comprised of three songs and three instrumentals (though with Sigh it should be emphasized that their sonic detours are just as important as their “regular” material) focused squarely on evoking a bizarre atmosphere of Japanese ritualistic occultism. Bolstering an experimental sense of fearlessness, the music featured here still retains the basic recipe of slightly blackened metal but is unafraid to incorporate whatever else Mirai felt compelled to include. Despite it’s short run time, “Ghastly funeral theatre” is a mighty contribution to the Sigh legacy.

Songwriting

9. While “Infidel art” was a sort of biggering and bettering of the band’s debut, this time around I think we’re looking at more of a step to the side than an obvious forward progression. The EP’s most defining trait lies in the band’s willingness to throw caution to the wind and seamlessly incorporate non-metal influences and unconventional approaches, a method underlined by a slightly less layered approach than the album previous. Basically there aren’t as many melodies going on simultaneously but the well that they’re drawn from is of a much deeper variety.

Production

8. Dark and raw, not that different than the overall approach with “Scorn defeat” but with more clarity. There’s a lot of separation in the instruments which allows the keyboard flourishes and melodic guitar parts room in the mix. The snare is maybe a little loud and the guitars could use some thickening but overall the knob-twiddling involved in the album’s recording landed Sigh with an appropriate sound.

Guitars

8. Slightly sharper, clearer tone this time around. With a smaller keyboard presence Shinichi is allowed to shine a little bit more. There seems to be a large amount of acoustic guitar, featured to great effect in the beginning of “Doman seman” and in “Shingontachikawa”‘s melodic bridge. The latter part leads into a hell of a sultry solo where the essence of Tony Iommi is channeled. The soloing is gorgeous and a lot of the riffs are vintage first wave goodness. Hard to object to either of these things.

Vocals

8. The vocals continue to improve little by little- and they were never weak to begin with. The semi-narrative rasp is still the center of Mirai’s approach, along with better (though still somewhat amateurish) clean melodic touches and even a short section of low growling in the album’s first proper song “Shingontachikawa”.

Bass

6. The less bombastic approach with the keyboards this time around allows the bass to have more presence and stands out underneath Shinichi’s crisp guitar lines, especially with headphones. It doesn’t necessarily draw attention to itself but the bass acts as the album’s sonic glue.

Drums

5. Satoshi is able to, much like his bandmate Shinichi, channel his instrument’s respective Black Sabbath member. When he gets going he’s got a Bill Ward vibe that I really dig. I wish he got going more though. It doesn’t help that on the occasions he ventures across the toms we don’t get to hear them that well.

Keyboards

9. There’s more variety in the approach and less of a focus on scale. MIDI flute and sax solos and experimental noise/samples sit alongside the more expected piano and string patch usage. It all works well and marks an improvement in quality. Still ambitious, but this time the band’s drive seemed to be to build a more specific atmosphere, one that was wholly theirs. This mini album is sort of encased in piano instrumentals, all worth hearing and enriching the overall experience. Most notably “Imiuta”, which pulls off an intriguing transition into its synth-phonic conclusion.

Lyrics

8. Weird ceremonies, skulls, morbid intentions and proper nouns I can barely pronounce. Exotic and dark, it fits like a glove.

Cover art

9. Similar tone to “Infidel art” but the darkness to the image is much more readily apparent and an occult edge is added. The cover is absolutely perfect for the music, dark, mysterious and with a readily apparent Eastern flavor. I also like the minimalism in the color palette, it gives a distinctly black metal feel to the image. The Crypt’s vinyl version features a new scan of the original art with less cropping and much more detail. The logo is removed and some text on the original piece is kept in place instead of being blacked out.

Logo

8. Solid red, it’s complimented well by the identically hued kanji running down the left side.

Booklet

8. Basic but no real flaws. White on black lyrics on the inside and a decent live performance band photo on the outside. Bonus point for managing to get the drummer in the shot. It is a little annoying that the enclosed Cacophonous Records catalogue is literally three times larger than the booklet of this CD. The vinyl features the album’s art in ludicrously huge poster size, an OBI strip and an insert with tons of liner notes from band mastermind Mirai Kawashima, as well as an interesting explanation of the ritual caught in progress on the cover. The back of the record sleeves sports, alongside the expected fare, a scan of the “Tragedies” demo’s J-card, a recording that served as the reissue’s bonus tracks.

Overall and ending rant

1997 was a landmark year for Sigh, and “Ghastly funeral theatre” served as a bridge from their blackened roots into the incorporation of varied influences from other genres of metal and beyond. Despite its brevity, this EP serves as a gateway into a unique world of Japanese occult rituals, an eclectic sense of instrumentation and most importantly enjoyable songwriting.

9

  • Information
  • Released: 1997
  • Label: Cacophonous Records
  • Website: Sigh MySpace
  • Band
  • Mirai Kawashima: vocals, bass, keyboards
  • Shinichi Ishikawa: guitars
  • Satoshi Fujinami: drums
  • Tracklist
  • 01. Intro: Soushiki
  • 02. Shingontachikawa
  • 03. Doman Seman
  • 04. Imiuta
  • 05. Shikigami
  • 06. Outro: Higeki