Ten albums deep into their illustrious career, Japanese avant-black-metal crew Sigh continue to surprise and confound. While their earliest efforts were in a more traditional vein, somewhere around the time they recorded “Imaginary Sonicscapes” (which was, incidentally, my first exposure to the band), things started getting really weird. That album gave up the drab, monochromatic palette of most black metal for a lysergic journey through psychedelic tie-dye colors and mushroom imagery like something from a ’70s black light poster. The music followed suit. Ever since, Sigh have been trying to outdo themselves with bigger, stranger records. Graveward is no exception.
For their new record, the group supposedly used hundreds of audio tracks per song, so if you listen hard, you will probably notice something new on every listen. The album also features new guitarist You Oshima, whose acrobatic solos come out of the gate blazing and never let up. Like you might expect from Sigh, the blistering, low-end heavy guitar and solid but not flashy rhythm section are joined by strings, choirs, brass, a symphony of odd instruments and sound effects, and the group’s absolutely virtuosic keyboard and synth work.
This last bit is especially important on Graveward, an album Sigh claims was largely inspired by the work of Fabio Frizzi and Goblin, the Italian prog geniuses behind many of the greatest horror-film soundtracks in history. Bringing this cinematic style to the forefront comes easily for Sigh, whose work has always sort of played around in that territory somewhat. Hearing them go full-bore with it, as they do on songs like “The Tombfiller” and “The Trial by the Dead” is a real treat.
Guest spots from members of Rotting Christ, Meads of Asphodel, Shining, Trivium, and Dragonforce do nothing to make this sound any less like a typical Sigh record, whatever a typical Sigh record is. They’re constantly reinventing their image, but like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said, “I know it when I see it.”
Graveward is available now from Candlelight Records.