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Class 6(66)

Sigh: Infidel art

02/07/12  ||  Sokaris

Introduction

Progress. Tons of it. Though at the time no one could have known towards what, “Infidel art” is a giant leap forward in the development of Sigh’s remarkable musical journey. Most of the same elements remain, a daring blend of early thrash blackened up nicely, a collision of classical and horror movie influences in the keyboards and a variety of different tempos and riffing styles. This time around there’s way more energy and ambition to spare. All but one song clock in at over 8 minutes and there’s plenty happening within each composition so this isn’t a case of padding or epic posturing. A wide variety of sounds and melodies are layered and orchestrated and the band refers to their more manic paces more frequently.

Songwriting

9. There’s definitely a focus on doing things bigger this time around. There’s a lot more excitement in the songs and even though they go on longer they tend to widely shift around within Sigh’s sonic realm in more interesting ways. Though mid-paced atmospheric riffing passages are definitely still present, there’s an injection of fury that colors this recording with a sense of urgency. It’s a wild ride and to contrast the heavier moments there are extended instrumental passages featuring clever synth orchestration and performance.

Production

7. A good balance, it’s clear enough to hear the multi-layered sections but not annoyingly so. The production style still has a small aspect of rawness which to my ears the recording benefits from. It gives the metal influences just enough grit to hold things down while the extra melodies and sounds invoke an atmosphere of masterful madness and epic bravado.

Guitars

8. Shinichi brings a good range of riffing and throws in some excellent melodic work for good measure. The playing is tight and fierce without being clinical, Ishikawa-san’s style and flair emerging further and marking the music like a fingerprint. There are a handful of solos, including a distortionless fret meandering that hinted at the multi-genre well that he would draw deeper from in the future at the end of “Zombie Terror” and some Slayer/Kreator-esque chromatic shredfests as well.

Vocals

8. Mirai mostly relies on a controlled rasp that serves him well. It’s a good mix of narrative style and raw power that is given extra character by his diverse approach and an accent not heard by much of the metal world in this style of music. Clean vocals are featured as well, somewhat thin and amateurish but the melodies and counterpart they introduce are interesting. Another case of being extremely ambitious and even though they’re not perfect I wouldn’t excise them if I had a say in things. The vocals are identifiable as purely Mirai’s and executed with passion to spare. The throatwork on “Infidel art” earns an 8 here.

Bass

5. Barely there, though when it pops up there’s a decent gravelly tone to it. Since more is going on this time around and the production is a bit denser it just gets lost in the fray. The overall album isn’t worse because of its lack of bass presence, since too much would muddy up the guitars and there’d be a loss of clarity against the keys, but there’s not much to say about its individual performance.

Drums

7. Rather basic for the most part again but seemingly more varied than on “Scorn defeat”. The drums here mostly serve to keep the rest of the music grounded. There’s a good variety of tempos and energy is kept up throughout. “The zombie terror” even features a brief drum solo where Satoshi serves as the link between two parts. He’s an expert at segueing into different speeds fluidly and the very human performance is a welcome aspect of the rhythm department.

Keyboards

9. If we’re talking composition alone this gets a 10 easy. Mirai’s admirable chops as a keyboardist were present even in Sigh’s embryonic existence but his skill in synth arrangement wasn’t readily apparent until the band embarked on its second sonic journey. Bigger, bolder arrangements are brought forth, occasionally layering multiple melodies simultaneously for a synthetic orchestral effect long before conveniences like software suites and digital sequencing. That’s not to say that the solo playing isn’t still present, the piano and organ melodies on album closer “Beyond centuries” are beautifully evocative and beyond epic. Likewise, the piano tinkling that practically solos over the verse of “The zombie terror” is spellbinding and creates an interesting juxtaposition to the thrashy arrangement its applied to. However, the sound effects used are definitely dated, and while I’ve heard way worse, it just holds me back from giving a perfect mark here.

Lyrics

8. Quite an improvement. There’s an upped dose of Japanese occultism and mystical elements executed with a better poetic sensibility. It’s especially impressive considering English is a second language in this case.

Cover art

9. While a bevy of European black metal bands would appropriate medieval word carvings for their album art Sigh chose a more suitably Eastern approach to a similar concept and utilized antiquated art in a much different style. The concept behind the original piece is that of an old samurai being haunted by those he’s slain in his life, manifesting themselves as skulls in his garden. The original release is a digipack with the cover covering two panels and is a cool piece. However the vinyl re-release is just goddamn amazing. I’ve mentioned these several times before in my Sigh reviews and I likely will again, but the attention to detail is amazing. The art is expanded to its original three panel size and the quality is staggering, featuring a new scan of the 1845 original.

Logo

7. Doesn’t look quite as cool with just the outline but I like the more stylized look since there’s a lot going on with the cover.

Booklet

7. The original is bookletless, rather a three panel digipack with a corpsepaint ‘n weapons band shot included for good measure. Its stylish and more or less allows the cover art to be the centerpiece. The aforementioned vinyl release is where it’s really at though. In addition to the wonderful treatment given to the wrap-around cover art it features liner notes, more band photos, a gargantuan poster and an OBI-strip. There’s a CD re-release in a black digibook handled by MegArt productions that’s just abysmal bootleg bullshit, avoid like the plague.

Overall and ending rant

Overambitious? Maybe. Compelling? Absolutely. A curiosity that could be considered an extreme left field entry into symphonic black metal (and even that genre assigning isn’t entirely fitting) during its formative years and a new foothold from which Sigh would further deviate. An exciting journey through the possibilities of the basic black metal sound pushed to the limits. All of these notions can describe “Infidel art” in a nutshell. A definite masterpiece despite its flaws.

9

  • Information
  • Released: 1995
  • Label: Cacophonous Records
  • Website: Sigh MySpace
  • Band
  • Mirai Kawashima: vocals, bass, keyboards
  • Shinichi Ishikawa: guitars
  • Satoshi Fujinami: drums
  • Tracklist
  • 01. Izuna
  • 02. The zombie terror
  • 03. Desolation
  • 04. The last elegy
  • 05. Suicidogenic
  • 06. Beyond centuries