Sigh
Graveward

Sigh. It’s been awhile. This is a band that I was once totally in love with; going all the way back to the release of their 1997 album, Hail Horror Hail. Sigh have always been a completely fearless musical entity; even from their formative, moribund Venom necro-worship on Scorn Defeat, they were already taking chances that an orthodox black metaller would be throwing sideways glances at. Infidel Art was a big-block, blackened NWOBHM motor fused to a baroque/classical chassis. Imagine Amadeus in a Sodom t-shirt. Ghastly Funeral Theatre congealed the ingredients of the first two, adding sleazy porno-funk sax and “jazz from hell” swagger.

Hail Horror Hail was a masterful culmination of what Sigh had created up to that point; a kaleidoscopic beast of illogical excess and nightmare that Dario Argento would have had a hard time dreaming up. Hail Horror Hail just took all of the air out of any room it entered. Everyone that I ever played it for had the same reaction; “What the fuck did I just listen to?”. I still consider it Sigh’s masterpiece.

Scenario IV: Dread Dreams played From Wisdom to Hate to Hail Horror Hail‘s Obscura; a slightly more subdued and tuneful sibling to it’s brilliant older brother. In some ways, Scenario IV was even more enjoyable because of it’s restraint and focus on songcraft.

Imaginary Sonicscapes went psychedelic-carnival-funk-pop, with it’s “Chick Corea electric piano plinking, guitars gently weeping, Channel 10’s SportsCenter theme-songing, G-funk Synth whistles” vibe. I loved that album, but it was the beginning of the end of my infatuation with this band. Sigh had walked right up to this invisible line that demarcated my threshold for excess; apparently one I hadn’t even realized was there.

At some point, I just wasn’t into it. By the time Gallows Gallery came out, I was emotionally unplugged, and Hangman’s Hymns, I was filing for divorce.

It wasn’t just Sigh. It was me as well. My musical tastes were changing. It was a part of me that was bewildered that I had ever owned an Arcturus or Marillion album.  It was the same allergic reaction I had when I came into contact with bands like Bal Sagoth, overly technical death metal, and 99% of power metal that didn’t come out of the 1980s. Too much everything, too much of the time. A total lack of subtlety. All pomp and bombast, with no sense of the necessity for tonal shades that create dynamics and emotional resonance.

So here is my coming around full circle; again ready to try to wrap my head-space around Sigh, all these years later. To be honest, I seriously had to shut this off in frustration about three songs in, the first time I put it on. But with grimfaced determination, I pushed through to see if there was anything about this band I could find to be redeemable at all anymore.

This album is every shade of ridiculous. Dig that Glockenspiel. Those Guitar Hero power metal guitars. If the first decade of Sigh was Jodorowsky and Argento, then Graveward is a Michael Bay film. It’s like if Lucasfilm took a shot at simultaneously making a movie and theme park based on whatever the Insane Clown Posse are going on about. Carnivals and magnets and shit.

Ok, I won’t be that harsh. It is all of those things, but Graveward is also immaculately composed, executed, and recorded. It flows well thematically, and where it works, it’s fucking brilliant. Whenever I wasn’t cringing, I was enthralled. Things I absolutely hated at first, became essential as a component of the whole several listens in.

The album opens with “Kaedit Nos Pestis”; which sets the tone for the first half of the album. It’s all sweep picks and J-Pop vocals. I never heard Babymetal, but I would imagine something like this. Very cartoonish. Still not crazy about that song, but again, parts of a whole.  “Graveward” is pretty much a continuation of the first song. They are still using that J-Pop vocal, which still gets on my nerves, but the guitar work is fucking killer. Very Slayer-ish at times. The new guitarist is a beast. Not too crazy about “Tombfiller”, which probably has the most obnoxious vocals of the whole album.

“Forlorn” was the first song I started to really dig. It’s probably the most aligned with old-school Sigh; with it’s viciously sinister headbanger riff, and harpsichords segueing into Hammond organ tones. Mirai sounds unhinged! Rad.

A thing that I did appreciate, and was sort of the one point of I could cling to throughout Graveward, was the core Sigh METAL elements that go all the way back to Scorn Defeat, were still intact. From the sloppy, frenetic, venom worshiping black thrash by way of the NWOBHM riffs, to Mirai’s maniacal screeching, which is the same as it ever was. In some ways, Graveward has some of the most straight up metal out of their whole catalogue.

The second half of Graveward, starting with “Out of the Grave”, shares a lot of the same sonic headspace with Martin Schirenc’s Hollenthon; especially their 2001 oddity With Vilest of Worms to Dwell, with the big Ian Fleming 007 inspired brass orchestration, layered choral vocals, and huge sounding production.

By the end of the album, I couldn’t even imagine it being recorded in some studio; all I could envision was Sigh just jamming this out from start to finish in this huge theater, with a full orchestra, choir, power metal guitar players flying around on mythological beasts; everyone all dressed up like anime characters, 17th century aristocrats, and vikings.

Maybe that’s just the meth talking.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve been an asshole. This album is tacky as fuck, but a lot of fun. If Darkthrone can take off the clown makeup and rock the fuck out, I can remove my stick and enjoy this for what it is. Not an album I would visit on a regular basis, but there was a lot to like about Graveward. It definitely left me intrigued about the last couple of albums between Gallows Gallery and this one.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Timothy D White
July 31st, 2015

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