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Hellfire Tragedy - 96%

HeavenDuff, February 10th, 2013

Formed in 1989, we could say that Sigh were born with the second wave of the musical genre that is known as black metal. While bands like Mayhem and Darkthrone were hitting the musical world hard in Scandinavia with the darkest and rawest form of metal music to this date, the legendary avant-garde black metal band Sigh was giving Japan a little taste of the cold realms of black metal. In 1993, Sigh released their first full-length album, Scorn Defeat. At the same time, Mayhem were releasing their cult album Live In Leipzig and Darkthrone their second black metal album, Under a Funeral Moon.

Looking at this record in 2013, you can't look at it the way black metal fans did in the 90's, for Sigh evolved toward a far more theatrical, high in color and avant-gardist form of black metal than what we known them for back in 1993. I can't pretend to give it this look either, for I was only born in 1989, and black metal wasn't so popular in kindergarten back then.

One could do the mistake of analyzing this album with a teleological approach and end up thinking that Scorn Defeat was maybe just a glimpse of what was to come. Yes, Sigh changed a lot through the years, and Scorn Defeat is obviously, the most black metal oriented release of their discography, but seeing this album as just a step toward the greatness of their latest albums such as Scenes From Hell, Hangman's Hymn or Imaginary Soniscape would be wrong. This album is a piece of art that stands on its own. It is whole, and not just a part of a bigger whole.

Scorn Defeat is the most black metal oriented album of all Sigh's albums for sure, but Sigh were never just another one of those black metal acts. Avant-garde was in their blood even back then. Throughout the years, Sigh would add a lot of orchestration, tons of very different instruments, psychedelic twists, influences of various musical genres and a lot more to their music. But back in 1993, the core of their music was black metal. A well felt second wave black metal, with a very dark production, raw sound and rasping grim black metal vocals. This album is, one of the greatest pieces of art given to the metal scene for that matter, because Sigh managed to grasp the cold feeling and the raw emotions of black metal and deliver them with a beautiful avant-garde twist. It also doesn't feel weird and out of place. Tracks like Victory Of Dakini, which stands as one of my all-time favorite black metal tracks, has a very typical yet so unique second wave black metal set of riffs, but still manages to break down in a crazy avant-garde metal section in the middle of the track.

Sigh is a band that manages to be so theatrical with every single of their release; their music feels to me like it should be played in a theatre in the middle of a baroque play about Hell, demons and lost souls! This band manages to mix the very dark elements of lyrical themes so typical to black metal with a more theatrical feel, thus tuning down the seriousness of this album and making it a self-aware piece of art that doesn't try to be anything else than a piece of art.

Music wise, this album shines for various reasons, but the most important in my opinion is the magistral work of the guitarist Shinichi Ishikawa (who appears in a corpse paint with a katana and a hand on fire, on the cover of one of the versions of the album). Shinichi is a very able musician who would after Scorn Defeat prove how well he could master so many genres, and most important of all... how to mix them together. If Sigh is such a great band it is mostly because of Shinichi. And I will keep saying his name Shinichi, for he seems to get forgotten very often when this band is discussed. Nowadays, everybody seems to be in love with Mirai and Mikannibal. Mirai is of course, just as important to the band and this is my point after all. Shinichi and Mirai are the pillars of this band. On Scorn Defeat, Shinichi manages to play some of the best black metal riffs to be ever composed. Victory Of Dakini, The Knell, At My Funeral and Ready For The Final War still stand today amongst my favorite black metal tracks. Sometimes slow and heavy, sometimes fast, raw and merciless... Shinichi's riffs are one of the main reasons why this album shines.

Mirai's work is also colossal. His vocals for one thing, are perfect. It may seem easy to do black metal vocals of the genre, for they do not focus that much on technique. But what isn't found in technique as to be found in passion. Mirai is not just singing about going to Hell, he is going to Hell! The lyrics, touching Asian mythology if I'm not mistaken, are also quite good and showing once again the uniqueness and soul of this band. Mirai's keys are there to give this spine chilling organ feeling every now and then through the album, working once again in creating the theatrical feeling that plays such a central role in Sigh's music. Mirai, also playing the bass guitar on this album, delivers a good performance on that level as well. Most memorable bass line for me is in Ready For The Final War when the keys, guitar and bass all play the same melody in an instrumental section. Black metal bass isn't known for stealing the show, but it is totally fine that way. Very good supportive role, well delivered once again.

Quick words about Satoshi's drumming. There isn't a lot to say, ranging from typical black metal blast beats and simple supportive rhythms, what makes the drums good, is the song-writing. Satoshi's is not stealing the show, but doing is job just the way it needs to be done.

Looking at the big picture now, taking the album as a whole and trying to find a few words to describe Scorn Defeat, I would describe it this way: This is glorious music! It feels just like Sigh went to Hell and brought back some of its malice to produce some of the most theatrical, avant-gardist and incredible metal albums ever. I can't praise this album enough. Listen to it!