Japan’s pre-eminent purveyors of experimental black metal, Sigh, return with their twelfth full-length release, Shiki. Once again led by the duo of Mirai Kawashima and Dr. Mikannibal, Sigh aim to take us on a trip down brutal avant-garde avenues in their first release since 2018’s excellent Heir To Despair.
Shiki is the beginning of a new four album cycle for Sigh (each album in a cycle starts with S-I-G-H letters) and the band claims the material within is some of their darkest, heaviest, and at times most psychedelic of their long career. Opener “Kuroi Kage” features a plodding yet towering riff juxtaposed by frantic movements, blastbeats, electronic flourishes, and a number of traditional Japanese instruments. All told, it is eight minutes of exactly what one would imagine Sigh performing. Despite that nod, the song is not predictable.
“Shoujahitsumetsu” opens in a rather traditional metal fashion, but it takes less than thirty seconds for blazing blastbeats and Mirai’s villainous vocals to sear our ears. It’s a blistering, furious number that shows Sigh can be as brutal as they need to when called for. In keeping with that theme, later on in the album “Shouku” comes through as a pure blackened progressive metal track, lithely bounding across sonic realms in spectacularly complex fashion.
Despite the most certain experimental, avant-garde nature of Sigh’s style, there are so many straight-up metal moments throughout Shiki that the craziness can easily be overlooked. Killer drumming, some excellent guitar solos, and a number of perfectly set up breakdowns all lean more towards heaviness than cult, but this is still a Sigh album through and through.
“Satsui Geshi No Ato” features an excellent riff and a fairly warped arrangement, along with a rare vocal changeup: occasional choral moments. The back half of the song breaks down into a very cool electronic rhythm, eventually petering out through a number of disjointed sound blips. Meanwhile, “Touji No Asa” ends the album on a traditional Japanese note, a quiet and peaceful finale to the chaos that preceded it.
Through ten songs and forty-six minutes Sigh showcase the breadth of their talents while also giving us some of their heaviest moments of recent times. Mirai’s vocals are unchanging throughout, and can become tiresome, but the songs are so good the lack of vocal variation is forgiven. Fans of Sigh, or the bizarre in general – Mr. Bungle, Arabrot, Imperial Triumphant, and more – will most certainly dig Shiki.
(released August 26, 2022 on Peaceville Records)
Heavy Music HQ Rating:
Watch Sigh – “Mayonaka No Kaii” Video