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Friends, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Hallucinogens... - 96%

michinoku, May 10th, 2003

Sigh, having solidified their place as one of the best Japanese black metal bands with their early releases, went for a more experimental bent in their later albums, and while those didn’t always work consistently, the experimentation was interesting enough. Their sound has always been intriguing, and anyone interested in metal that is barely traditional would enjoy Imaginary Sonicscape, a disk that features the most polish of their albums to date.

Any album which begins with a Minimoog solo and ends with a distorted version of the Minute Waltz is bound to be intriguing, and the sounds between beginning and end are quite excellent. Shinichi is one of the better non-prog guitarists, and while he may not shred scales as easily as a Michael Romeo or John Petrucci, his riffs and solos are brilliant and nostalgic, many of them inspired by the chunky Iron Maiden riffs of old. And while Mirai’s howled vocals are decent and his bass lines traditional, it is clear that he is in his element surrounded by synthesizers of all kinds - the album credits lists almost every instrument he plays, among them a vocorder, Fender Rhodes piano, Hammond Organ, the aforementioned Minimoog, and many, many others. The way these are implemented over the classic metal sound is also quite brilliant - they are used less to show off Mirai’s playing talent and more to show off his compositional skills, as many of the arrangements use the instruments to their full potential. Nieztchean Conspiracy uses absolutely no guitar or bass, and features some quite real-sounding synth strings and horns that is layered to create an almost jazzy sound, one that is only reinforced during the organ solo. The album features many songs that sound quite little like metal in the traditional definition, but are nonetheless excellent. The opening of Sunset Song is an oddly happy riff considering some of the twists that the song takes; Impromptu, which is a solo piano arrangement that leads right into Return to the Chaos, will be stylistically familiar to those fond of neo-classical arrangements, and the male operatic vocal chorus in the Requiem - Nostalgia is both surprising and satisfying. And the album’s epic, 10-minute Slaughterguarden Suite is unpredictable throughout, from the earliest synthesizer-only parts to the guitar and keyboard solos later in the piece. Sigh’s unpredictability is clearly its greatest asset.

While not all will enjoy the Avant-garde style of metal that Sigh employs, anyone who desires a disk that is experimental without being utter crap, as is the result of many ill-fated experimental side projects in Europe that trade off band members like sex partners, will enjoy Imaginary Sonicscape. At the very least, it’ll keep you guessing.