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Wow. I came across this little gem while looking at a close friend’s metal collection. I tilted my head in curiosity upon finding it (the Asian cover stood out) and asked him, “Who is Sigh? Are they any good?” to which he replied with bright, cheery eyes, “Yes! They’re some awesome black metal from Japan!”
I was definitely interested. I brought the CD home and was instantly in love with the Intro. I had been in a stage where I was really into horror metal and the Intro: Soushiki instantly filled my ears with delight. A freaky carnival keyboard tune mixed with atmospheric wind-blowing sounds in the background was all that was needed to satisfy my need for the mysterious and unknown.
It’s a perfect transition into the next song, Shingontachikawa, which slowly seduces the ears and then transitions into a rhythmic beat flourished with lots of guitar trills and a thrashy-black metal vocal tone. The keyed instrument accompaniment is also complementary to this track. It is very enjoyable, even jazzy towards the end of the song.
The next song, Doman Seman has a very folk-metal, repetitive, droning sound, reminding me at times of Agalloch. What I love is that there is also a very distinct traditional Asian sound to this track, something I hadn’t previously heard before fused with the metal vocal sound. I like it at the mid-point of the song where it turns into ghastly haunting sounds that put me on edge because I don’t have any clue as to when they’ll end or why they’re there. Once that part is over, a more usual metal sound is resumed, with an upbeat guitar and drums progression. This song combines many elements of many indie styles of music.
Like a lot of other black metal bands, there is somewhat of a recurring melody throughout the entire CD. I like it, because unlike other bands, Sigh distinctly puts a variation on it each time. For instance, there is unity among the tracks, but they are not so similar that you can have one without the other. Imiuta is a glorified piano piece that expertly and openly displays this melody.
Shikigami is very jazzy and jive at the intro but once again never fails to gather into sheer metal brutality and pain. This song is best listened to loudly, for there are several parts that are not wanted to be missed, including a Jimi Hendrix-esque interlude and a death choir to enhance the would-be monotony of the track.
The Outro: Higeki is the perfect ending to the album, gracefully bringing me back into reality. It is a great conclusion, summarizing and representing the entire album without having too much repetition.
I’m not sure if this band tried very hard or not to create such an interesting and different album, but either way, Sigh is comprised of very talented musicians to which their potential is probably infinite. I have high hopes for the rest of their music and can’t wait to get my hands on some!
Ghastly Funeral Theatre is a 23.5 minute mini-album dedicated entirely to Japanese occultism. Some would even consider it Sigh's heaviest work to date. The album is split between three lyrical and instrumental songs.
Beginning this short, but amazing trip with the creepy atmospheric intro, Shoushiki, Ghastly Funeral Theatre lets you know from the start that this isn't any ordinary metal recording. The instrumental intro begins with the sounds of funeral winds blowing, which is then joined by the sound of a piano, playing a very creepy tune that bounces all over the place. The intro ends after about a minute and twenty-four seconds and the first hard riffing of Shingontachikawa begins shortly afterwards.
Shingontachikawa features that avant-garde sound that only Sigh can deliver, and in a heavier way than ever before. In the song Mirai's vocals are supported with great guitar. There are also some clear vocals chanting in the background, which can be heard throughout the album in various parts. The highlight of the song is Shinichi's guitar solo, which is a very solid solo. After some more singing and a synth solo the song ends.
Doman Seman then fades in. Doman Seman is one of the best Sigh songs ever written. It begins with an acoustic guitar and a flute playing in harmony, in a tune that has reminded many of being on a boat at sea. In the background, Mirai is deeply chanting about the sigils of Doman and Seman, while the volume of the track progressively gets louder. Just as you get comfortable with the song, Sigh throws in their signature curve ball. About two minutes into the song, things go insane, everything fades out and high pitched synth strings begin screeching, just like what you hear in horror films. This goes on for a while, until the electric guitars begin playing. The heavy part of the song begins and Mirai continues to sing, only this time much faster and louder. The melody from the first part of the song then returns in a synth orchestra and the song ends.
Ghastly Funeral Theatre is evenly spaced. In one listen from Intro to Outro everything seems symmetrical (If you are paying attention). A melodic instrumental tune is followed by a heavy tune, which is followed by a softer tune which explodes midway. This works out well, because you are always ready for whatever is next.
The instrumental Imiuta comes next after Doman Seman and is one of Mirai's greatest piano achievements. To some, Imiuta may sound awkward on this recording, but they must not be aware of how well Sigh can manipulate music, changing the rules with every turn. Imiuta has a very solid melody, one that will remain in your head for a long time. An orchestra of synth strings also later accompany the music, which then takes over the melody the piano was playing in the beginning.
After the song ends, the synth continues in the next song, Shikigami, which begins with synth fused with guitar. Some saxophone keyboard effects are also heard (Which I've heard annoy some people). The synth immediately fades out as the guitar takes over playing another solid rhythm. Mirai gives his loudest vocal performance on the CD here on this track. The lyrics are about beings in Japanese occultism called 'Shikigami' which possess the ability to change into things like birds. Many relate a 'Shikigami' to a Wizard's puppet. Following the hard riffing is a new faster rhythm which is then followed by another incredible Shinichi solo. Satoshi does a great job with the percussion on this song as well. Following the solo are some chimes, which then brings about a new slow rhythm where Mirai sings more excellent vocals. Following this calm, eye of the storm, the guitars begin playing heavier and the song fades out.
The short but beautiful Outro follows shortly after. Mirai does another excellent job on piano with Higeki. The Outro also expresses an oriental melody, which begins very soft and maintains this until it fades out, ending the journey. Ghastly Funeral Theatre is like a trip if you listen to it in order. The Intro presents a sort of melancholy mood, and by the time you reach the Outro, it sounds as if it has been removed as the album progresses. This gives you a heavy sense of accomplishment, and it never fades away no matter how much you listen to the album.
All in all I recommend Ghastly Funeral Theatre to any Sigh fan, as well as those who are interested in their lyrics. The album is perfectly balanced, and while short, it makes perfect use of the time it has, making sure every second is not wasted. There are no other Sigh albums to compare it to, but if you are looking for something similar to Hail Horror Hail, you may be left with nothing. If you've yet to purchase any Sigh albums yet, I would not recommend this as your first purchase. It seems that many find that Imaginary Sonicscape is the best album to start with, and then move your way back.
Note: This review is an edited version of a description which I wrote for my Sigh fansite, the Slaughtergarden (Which is currently offline).