Music: Sigh

Sigh is an Avant-Garde Black Metal band from Japan, maybe the first Black Metal band ever from that country, which formed in Tokyo in 1990 and has the distinction of being one of the outright weirdest bands from an already weird genre. They were somewhat well-known among the black metal scene in the early 1990s for being signed to Deathlike Silence Productions, the record label of Mayhem guitarist Euronymous. Beginning as a fairly straightforward Black Metal band, they increasingly began to experiment with their sound a bit, invoking Mind Screw in the liner notes to Hail Horror Hail. This culminated in 2001's Imaginary Sonicscape, which goes to levels of Genre Roulette that quite possibly have to be heard to be believed and is commonly regarded as the band's Magnum Opus. After committing Genre Adultery with the Power Metal and NWOBHM-influenced Gallows Gallery (their biggest departure from Black Metal and their only release not to feature any Harsh Vocals), they settled on a hybrid of Black Metal, Thrash Metal, and Symphonic Metal for Hangman's Hymn and Scenes from Hell. In Somniphobia and Graveward go back to the Genre Roulette of previous works. As of 2014, they describe their style as "Cinematic Horror Metal".

The band appeared in the music documentary Global Metal, where they were particularly known for the line "metal is something cool", their particularly vague reaction (and for some, a Take That) to the Visual Kei scene that currently dominates Japanese metal. While they are not a Visual Kei band or associated with it, they occasionally use visuals akin to most avowed VK artists, possibly as part of their Genre-Busting appeal.

Current line-up :

  • Mirai Kawashima - vocals, keyboard, samples, formerly bass
  • Shinichi Ishikawa - guitar
  • Satoshi Fujinami - bass, formerly drums & guitar
  • Junichi Harashima - drums
  • Mika "Dr. Mikannibal" Kawashima - alto sax, vocals

Discography

Their major releases follow Theme Naming, with the first letter of each one being a letter of the word "Sigh".
  • Scorn Defeat (1993)
  • Infidel Art (1995)
  • Ghastly Funeral Theatre (1997; actually an EP rather than full-length but still follows the naming convention)
  • Hail Horror Hail (1997)
  • Scenario IV: Dread Dreams (1999; their fifth major release but fourth full-length, hence the "IV")
  • Imaginary Sonicscape (2001)
  • Gallows Gallery (2005; the least Black Metal-sounding of all their albums, a fact which got them dropped from their then-label)
  • Hangman's Hymn (2007)
  • Scenes from Hell (2010)
  • In Somniphobia (2012)
  • Graveward (2015)


Associated tropes:

  • Alliterative Title: Hail Horror Hail, Gallows Gallery, Hangman's Hymn.
  • Avant-Garde Metal: Definitely, and possibly one of the weirdest examples of the genre. You're not going to confuse a Sigh album for much else.
  • Bilingual Bonus: All the song titles on Ghastly Funeral Theatre are in Japanese. Many of them refer to elements of Japanese mythology and folklore.
  • Black Metal: Japan's most famous export in the genre. Not all their albums fall under the genre, but most of them have elements of it, although they're very much a Genre-Busting band starting with Infidel Art.
  • Brains and Bondage: Dr. Mikannibal, who really is a doctor of physics.
  • Concept Album: Hangman's Hymn for sure, quite possibly Scenes from Hell and In Somniphobia (which includes a seven-part "Lucid Nightmares" suite) also.
  • The Cover Changes The Gender: Their cover of "Teacher's Pet" by Venom is sung by Dr. Mikannibal.
  • Cover Version: Sigh have covered Venom (quite a lot of Venom too, someone in the band must really like them), Necrophagia (not surprising as Mirai was a member of that band for at least one album), John Coltrane, and Death.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Mikannibal, who is bisexual, seems to cultivate this image on purpose. She has revealed in interviews that she has eaten cockroaches, drinks cow's blood before recording vocals, records vocals naked, and enjoys urethra torture (inflicting it, that is).
  • Epic Rocking: Most releases have at least one or two really long songs. Infidel Art has five of them - only one song on that album ("Suicidogenic", at a mere 4:46) is less than eight minutes long. Their longest song, "Slaughtergarden Suite", is nearly eleven minutes long.
  • God Is Evil: "The Summer Funeral" includes the line "God is so evil if it was his will".
  • Harsh Vocals: On every album except Gallows Gallery. Interestingly, Mikannibal's harsh vocals are usually lower-pitched than Mirai's on Scenes from Hell; on In Somniphobia, she employs a larger variety of vocal styles and can be either higher- or lower-pitched than Mirai, depending on which style she is utilising.
  • Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: Several albums have been reissued with bonus material in varying formats. The most extravagant have typically been 3LP or 4LP reissues by Dark Symphonies. Several albums have also gotten 2CD reissues.
  • Loudness War: Most of their recent albums to some extent, but the two worst offenders: Hangman's Hymn, at DR5, and Scenes from Hell, at DR4. Most of their CDs going back to Imaginary Sonicscape are pretty blatant victims, including remasters of their older material (the 2009 remaster of Scorn Defeat, for example, is DR5 compared to the original's DR12, though the 2011 remaster is nicer at DR9 on the first disc and DR8 on the second); the original CD of Gallows Gallery, at DR9, is an exception, as is Blood Music's remaster, which is the first version of the album to get the sound right (The End's 2007 remaster, on the other hand, is a typical brickwalled mess at DR6). Additionally, while the albums going back to Infidel Art aren't as badly affected by this trope as a lot of recent material, there is still some clipping, though Scenario IV: Dread Dreams and Ghastly Funeral Theatre at least were given a lot of room to breathe at DR10 and the clipping probably won't be noticeable to casual listeners. On the positive side, it is worth noting that there is a 2CD reissue of Scenes from Hell with an alternate mastering of the album that is somewhat (although not radically) quieter, and several of the albums were given vinyl releases, which often have different masterings. As for the CDs, Graveward is the first Sigh album since Gallows Gallery not to be badly clipped (although it is still brickwalled, at DR6).
  • Metal Scream: Both Mirai and Mika use this as their primary vocal style to the point where their vocals are usually pretty much indistinguishable. An exception to this is Gallows Gallery, which contains entirely sung rather than screamed vocals. However, Soprano and Gravel is not uncommon on their recent black metal albums either, as clean vocals are used in a number of their songs since Imaginary Sonicscape's "Requiem - Nostalgia", especially on Hangman's Hymn.
  • Mind Screw: Invoked. Hail Horror Hail says the following in the liner notes:
    This album is way beyond the conceived notion of how metal, or music, should be. In Essence it is a movie without pictures; a celluloid phantasmagoria. Accordingly, the film jumps, and another scene, seemingly unconnected with the previous context, is suddenly inserted in between frames. Every sound on this album is deliberate, and if you find that some parts of this album are strange, it isn't because the music is in itself strange, but because your conscious self is ill-equipped to comprehend the sounds produced on this recording.
They have kept to this philosophy ever since.
  • Mood Whiplash: They do this a lot. A prime example is on "Requiem - Nostalgia", which starts as a stately Power Ballad and ends with several hundred samples of what sound like giggling babies over a flippant classical snippet.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Frequent on their albums, but nowhere near so much as on Imaginary Sonicscape, which could also pretty much be described as musical Genre Roulette, what with oddities like disco and dub reggae breaks being thrown into the middle of almost every song. Not to mention the obligatory classical snippet overlaid with what appears to be several hundred samples of giggling babies that closes the album. In Somniphobia probably doesn't carry this trope out quite as much as Imaginary Sonicscape, but it's probably close.
  • New Sound Album: Arguably, most entries in their discography count as this. Gallows Gallery is probably the biggest standout, with the songs being substantially shorter than those on their other albums and featuring substantial Power Metal and NWOBHM influence and no Harsh Vocals, although it could also be considered Genre Adultery since they never did anything else like it.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Hangman's Hymn is full of it, which is to be expected considering that the album is structured as a funeral mass of sorts.
  • Progressive Metal: Many of their albums have elements of it. Infidel Art may be the best example, with an average song length of about eight minutes. Imaginary Sonicscape and In Somniphobia, with their various multi-part suites, are also good examples.
  • Recurring Riff: Hangman's Hymn has many recurring melodic lines, riffs, and lyrics, culminating in the title track, which includes a section that's basically a Call Back to all the preceding songs.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Most of their vocals are the typical Metal Scream of black metal, but they use clean vocals on several albums as well. ("Requiem - Nostalgia" is a good example of this, as is nearly all of Hangman's Hymn. Gallows Gallery is not an example as there aren't any Harsh Vocals on that album, except for bonus tracks).
  • Spoken Word in Music: Shows up occasionally, the most prominent examples being a couple of songs on Scenes from Hell feature narration by David Tibet of Current 93.
  • The Something Song: "The Tranquilizer Song".
  • Stylistic Suck: Scenes from Hell was given an intentionally lo-fi, claustrophobic production.
  • Uncommon Time: They use this pretty frequently. For example, 7/4 segments (or multiples thereof) show up in "Izuna", "Intro: Soushiki", "Outro: Higeki", "Hail Horror Hail", "42 49", "A Sunset Song", and "In Devil's Arms" (this list is undoubtedly not complete). They're still using compound meters in new songs as of Graveward (in "Kaedit Nos Pestis", for example).
  • Vocal Tag Team: On recent releases Mirai and Dr. Mikannibal trade off on vocals. Their vocals are almost indistinguishable from each other most of the time.
  • Watch It Stoned: Recommended by Mirai himself for In Somniphobia: “Be sure to smoke first, then listen to this with headphones. Bad trip guaranteed.”
  • Widget Series: Oh gods yes. They're one of the very weirdest bands from Japan, which, considering it has produced bands like Dir En Grey and Koenji Hyakkei, is saying a lot.