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Sigh - Shiki review




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Reviewer:
9.1

138 users:
8.02
Band: Sigh
Album: Shiki
Release date: August 2022


01. Kuroi Inori
02. Kuroi Kage
03. Shoujahitsumetsu
04. Shikabane
05. Satsui - Geshi No Ato
06. Fuyu Ga Kuru
07. Shouku
08. Kuroi Kagami
09. Mayonaka No Kaii
10. Touji No Asa


A surprising number of fans have compared Shiki to Imaginary Sonicscape. That is incorrect. The only valid reference to that album is the one endorsed by Mirai Kawashima himself, whereby we remind him that IS is still his best album and he should keep working. But I wonder what those fans are really after – Shiki is, like all Sigh albums, a masterpiece completely on its own terms.

Shiki is the beginning of a new S-I-G-H cycle of album titles, which on its own is quaintly poetic given the potential readings of its name (including the album’s themes cited by Mirai, “the four seasons” and “time to die”), but this album is also the first in Sigh’s discography to feature a major shakeup in personnel. Filling in for drummer Junichi Harashima is journeyman virtuoso Mike Heller (Fear Factory, Azure Emote, etc.), whose difference in playing style is immediately noticeable and permeates the entire album. Heller was given free reign to play whatever he wanted (in the sense of both instrumental parts and instruments themselves), so there’s a lot of wide-ranging percussion throughout the album. Items used include, in Heller’s own words, “different chairs and blocks and boxes and a t-shirt and a music stand and a 2x4 and all sorts of ridiculous stuff that I miked up and smacked the crap out of to create some unique sounds that Lasse Lammert had to make sound awesome.” And he did. Shiki is easily one of Sigh’s best-produced albums, and with the massive upswing in technicality afforded by the virtuosic session players, this album freely bleeds force, feeling, and fire that make Shiki unique in Sigh’s discography. Sometimes I find the sheer hyperactivity too meticulously technical and noticeable for its own good, such as at the end of “Shikabane,” but in most places, the abundance of fills, hand percussion, and thoughtfully textured rhythms adds a great deal of unprecedented dimension, such as on “Satsui – Geshi No Ato” and “Furu Ga Kuru.”

But while Harashima and bassist Satoshi Fujinami remain Sigh associates, preempted for this release due to pandemic-related difficulties in remote recording, guitarist You Oshima is more seriously absent; after having replaced Shinichi Ishikawa following his estrangement from the group, it seems that Oshima himself lost touch or lost interest as well, which is a shame as his guitar-playing was one of my favorite things about Graveward and Heir To Despair. In place of his explosive soloing and the sour, groaning tone of Ishikawa is the other significant new addition to Sigh’s ensemble: guitarist/bassist Frédéric Leclercq (Kreator, DragonForce, etc.). Leclercq brings his own distinct personality to bear in his guitar work, employing a melodic power-thrash lead style and a heavy riffing approach that complements Heller’s extremely detailed drumming; you’ll hear some classic Sabbath-style licks mixed in with surging dramatic leads, contrasts between menacing builds and ostentatious exercises, and big pace changes from decrepit doom to thrashy black metal.

As if driven by the new personnel, Mirai’s vocals are also clearer and more expressive than on any other Sigh album. I’ve always been a big fan of his vocals, because they exist in a strange interstitial realm between clean and harsh. They’re grating and distorted, delivered with a pained and near-feral fright that communicates with a lot of feeling; they aren’t merely percussive accents, but then they don’t exactly carry a melody either. They fit Sigh’s image of bizarre, pulpy spookiness to a T.

What makes Shiki most unusual is that for perhaps the first time there are strong musical personalities working alongside Mirai and supplementing his vision with their own, rather than operating within his framework. “Mayonaka No Kaii” was a great choice of single because it exemplifies all of the things that are special about Shiki: a continuation of the Japanese lyrical and musical themes of the last album; classic occult rock/psychedelic prog synths; the new, freer drumming style; the increased focus on Mirai’s vocals; a fast break with melodic guitar soloing; the trippy retro-horror atmosphere; it’s all there, and it functions perfectly in the context of the album as an energetic climax that transitions into the toxic folk drone closer, “Touji No Asa.” My favorite Sigh-isms are still intact elsewhere. “Shikabane” has what you’ll also hear in “Voices” or the “Heresy” trilogy, one of those ponderous, electro-horror tension builds with processed vocals and weird key effects. “Fuyu Ga Kuru” has one of those spacey trip-jazz breaks where everybody just kind of chills out in the Lynchian infinite. But the heaviness throughout this album is so much fuller and more rounded than on any previous Sigh album that the contrast is even more noticeable and powerful.

Shiki certainly represents a change of seasons for Sigh, even in the context of the band’s usual eclectic proclivities; naturally my mind is already fixating on what kind of lineup we’ll find on the next album and how the improvements in sound manifested here will survive. But even if the concepts described by the term shiki invoke a certain transience, for right now I’m content to contemplate this album by itself, in my own time. Though it might be a bit early to call time, I do believe I’ve found my album of the year.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 10
Songwriting: 9
Originality: 8
Production: 9





Written on 16.10.2022 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.


Comments

Comments: 9   Visited by: 221 users
16.10.2022 - 10:40
Callisto

A little less crazy but great as well
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16.10.2022 - 12:09
Rating: 7
Draugen

This is a solid album with some really catchy songs but I definitively prefer Heir to Despair of their more recent albums. I think Sigh are at their absolute best though when they are more unhinged and experimental like on Imaginary Sonicscape and In Somniphobia.
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16.10.2022 - 18:59
Rating: 10
prnzokoshiroltra

^^agreed - that's probably a big part of why Imaginary Sonicscape n In Somniphobia are my 2 fav Sigh albums (the 3rd fav being Hail Horror Hail)...

...but a rawer, restrained well-crafted album is a well-crafted work nonetheless - which is why Scorn Defeat is my 4th fav (and it probably WAS restrained - for worry that trve-fvck Euronymous [but soft RIP] would've likely not have released it on his label)... and while this is not my 5th fav (Ghastly Funeral Theater if you count EPs/Scenario IV: Dread Dreams if you don't) it is 6th (7th if you count EPs, as I said within the last parenthetical overload)...

and maybe it's not as restrained as Scorn Defeat, since there's a couple moments of low-key psychedelic elements - but both are rawer (heavier? definitely in Shiki's case) than usual n better-crafted (small margins, as Sigh's discog has zero stinkers IMO) with songwriting that seems to remain solid in hindsight (Shiki, ofc, doesn't quite have that full perception benefit yet)

nice review, SSUS. n I had no idea Mike Heller was behind the kit for this one - he sure seems to get around lately on session-work
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No one can fend off 100 multi-colored Draculas
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16.10.2022 - 23:03
Rating: 7
M C Vice
ex-polydactyl
Written by Draugen on 16.10.2022 at 12:09

This is a solid album with some really catchy songs but I definitively prefer Heir to Despair of their more recent albums. I think Sigh are at their absolute best though when they are more unhinged and experimental like on Imaginary Sonicscape and In Somniphobia.

Wait til the next album, then. I've found the 'I' album to be the best in each previous group of 4 albums.
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"Another day, another Doug."
"I'll fight you on one condition. That you lower your nipples."
" 'Tis a lie! Thy backside is whole and ungobbled, thou ungrateful whelp!"
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17.10.2022 - 19:11
Rating: 10
prnzokoshiroltra

Infidel Art was cool - got some nifty piano n other instruments, but really? you prefer it over Hail Horror Hail? Scorn Defeat? the badass-little-EP-that-could Ghastly Funeral Theater?

fair nuff - to each their own
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No one can fend off 100 multi-colored Draculas
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19.10.2022 - 04:27
Rating: 9
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
Written by prnzokoshiroltra on 16.10.2022 at 18:59

^^agreed - that's probably a big part of why Imaginary Sonicscape n In Somniphobia are my 2 fav Sigh albums (the 3rd fav being Hail Horror Hail)...

nice review, SSUS. n I had no idea Mike Heller was behind the kit for this one - he sure seems to get around lately on session-work

Thank you. I'm wondering whether the choice of Mike Heller has anything to do with him being in Amahiru, which is based in Japan, along with Leclercq - I know that Leclercq and Mirai knew each other somehow, so I wouldn't be surprised if that's what put Heller into the mix. He was a great choice, whatever the case.

Written by M C Vice on 16.10.2022 at 23:03

Wait til the next album, then. I've found the 'I' album to be the best in each previous group of 4 albums.

Interesting, as I don't think I have any consistent lettering. For the first S-I-G-H cycle, I'd have to take Hail Horror Hail - I think that that sequence gets better as it goes along. For the next group, it's Imaginary Sonicscape, which I would have to admit is my favorite Sigh album (along with everyone else's). But for the next one, it's Graveward, which is my very unpopular choice for second best Sigh album (an opinion disregarded even by Mirai himself).

In Somniphobia has always been one of my least favorite Sigh albums, which puzzles me as I've rarely heard anything but glowing praise for it. And I do like it a lot, of course - every Sigh album is at least "very good," as far as I'm concerned. I'm not even sure I could rank them all; I have the few that are my favorites and the few that I know are not my favorites, but beyond that it's tricky. Their positions tend to change a lot.
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"Earth is small and I hate it" - Lum Invader

I'm the Agent of Steel.
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19.10.2022 - 17:59
Rating: 10
prnzokoshiroltra

Order for me probably shifts a bit at any given time or reevaluation, but here's mine atm -

1.) Imaginary Sonicscape (controversial choice! yea right... magnum opus-shoe fits though)
2.) In Somniphobia
3.) Hail Horror Hail
4.) Scorn Defeat
5.) Ghastly Funeral Theater
6.) Scenario IV: Dread Dreams
7.) Shiki
8.) Heir to Despair
9.) Hangman's Hymn
10.) Graveward
11.) Scenes from Hell
12.) Infidel Art
13.) Gallows Gallery

like you said, even Gallows Gallery with the vocoder vox and original botched production job is in the 'very good' area of things... 'The Tranquilizer Song' is a mighty fine Dies Irae rendition

Edit: or wait... is the Dies Irae on Scenes from Hell? confuuz'd! will have to go back n listen

Quote:
"Earth is small and I hate it" - Lum Invader


Urusei Yatsura? 'Those Obnoxious Aliens'? my fav anime or otherwise animated series of all-time (mostly because of the utterly insane/hilarious 1st 50 eps... also cuz - Moroboshi seems to represent the whole [usually mostly true] broadly perceived outlook pertaining to how we guys are hopelessly erring, selfish idiots being chased by a serene beauty [if we're lucky cuz we're typically not so deserving] who... forced-shock-therapies' the living crap out of us in the [half-hearted - they won't admit they love the chase as we do in the wrong direction] hopes that we come to our senses... nvm the fact it's just reverse psychology games on lvls that barely fool dogs...) ? Darrrrrliiiiiinnnggg!!! I remember Lum saying that quote when she was gettin bored one of the eps or early movies, also

Edit: was it the disco ep where Lum said that ("Earth is small and I hate it") ? 'they don't make em like that no more'

"He's making my tea yucky!" - Mr. 'Otou' Invader
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No one can fend off 100 multi-colored Draculas
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25.10.2022 - 21:49
Rating: 9
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
Written by prnzokoshiroltra on 19.10.2022 at 17:59

Sigh and UY

I have a soft spot for Gallows Gallery, as it was one of the first Sigh albums I listened to, and it remains one of my most-played.
Off the top of my head, I don't recall where the musical phrase occurs, unless it's actually in "Dies Irae/The Master Malice" on Hangman's Hymn.

It is the very same Lum of Urusei Yatsura. I put that line in my signature a year or two ago; I don't remember the exact episode, but I recently finished watching the original series (just in time for the new one to start airing). Beautiful Dreamer was easily the apex for me, as people often say, but overall I did enjoy the series.
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"Earth is small and I hate it" - Lum Invader

I'm the Agent of Steel.
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17.11.2022 - 04:38
Rating: 7
tintinb

I love the sigh songs that have a more rapid structure. Like katsui kage and Satsui. Apparently Satsui talks about Mirai's take on death penalty.
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Leeches everywhere.
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