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Japan's best-known black metal band Sigh has, over the years, also progressed into one of the genre's most experimental and simply unusual bands regardless of their whereabouts. Their 1993 debut Scorn Defeat incorporated keyboards into lo-fi black metal and would end up being the most straightforward release of the band's catalog, as their music grew more theatrical and complex with subsequent albums like 1997's Hail Horror Hail. By the time they released the acclaimed breakthrough Imaginary Sonicscape in 2001, their sound had become surreally eclectic, featuring dub breakdowns, piano sonatas, jazz fusion keyboards, ELO-esque arrangements, and much more. The band further embraced symphonic elements, choral vocals, and even saxophones on progressive metal albums like 2012's In Somniphobia. 2018's Heir to Despair, and 2022's Shiki incorporated a variety of Central Asian and Middle Eastern influences, as well as several traditional Japanese instruments. Led by bassist/vocalist/keyboardist Mirai Kawashima, the band formed in 1989, at which point the lineup was rounded out by Satoshi Fujinami on guitar and Kazuki Ozeki on drums. They took their original inspirations from the raw '80s thrash metal of bands such as Venom, Celtic Frost, and Kreator, meanwhile mixing in horror movie soundtrack atmospheres and keyboards/synthesizer arrangements (they were one of the first so-called black metal bands to heavily use keyboards). After a couple of demos, they recorded their first EP, Requiem for the Fools, in 1992 for the Wild Rags label, with Satoshi doubling on guitar and bass (Kazuki had left by this point). This effort drew the attention of infamous Mayhem guitarist/Norwegian black metal scene figurehead Euronymous, who signed them to his Deathlike Silence Productions imprint for their debut full-length. Titled Scorn Defeat, the album came out in 1993 after Euronymous' death and was the first Sigh recording to include guitarist Shinichi Ishikawa, with Satoshi moving to drums and percussion. The trio signed to England's Cacophonous Records, where they released their next three full-lengths: Infidel Art (1995), Hail Horror Hail (1997), and Scenario IV: Dread Dreams (1999); an EP, Ghastly Funeral Theatre, and live album The Eastern Force of Evil also came out in 1997. Over the course of these albums, Sigh steadily incorporated more diverse elements into their sound, including pianos, female choirs, classically inspired orchestrations (though not the bombastic, Wagner-ian sort favored by many European bands), non-horror movie soundtrack touches, and unexpected mood/style changes that reveal their acknowledged interest in composers John Zorn and Frank Zappa. (Hail Horror Hail even included a defiant warning, apparently meant for more traditionally minded metal listeners, stating that "every sound on [the] album is deliberate, and if you find that some parts of the album are strange, it isn't because the music in itself is strange, but because your conscious self is ill-equipped to comprehend the sounds produced on this recording.") After Scenario IV, Sigh left the Cacophonous label for Century Media, which released the band's fifth full-length, Imaginary Sonicscape, in 2001. Incorporating a wide range of sounds not normally associated with metal, from disco beats and vocoders to slick, synth-heavy production and fusion-inspired playing, the album was enthusiastically received by open-minded listeners, and remains their most well-known release. Drummer Junichi Harashima joined the band prior to the release of 2005's Gallows Gallery, which featured much cleaner-sounding vocals, and was a complete departure from the band's black metal roots -- listeners even referred to it as the band's happiest-sounding release, even though the subject matter remained as dark as ever. 2007's Hangman's Hymn marked a return to a symphonic black metal sound. The EP A Tribute to Venom appeared in 2008. Following the addition of saxophonist and vocalist Dr. Mikannibal, Sigh released Scenes from Hell in 2010. The track "The Red Funeral" included a spoken appearance by Current 93's David Tibet. In Somniphobia, another full-length which had more in common with progressive metal than black metal, appeared in 2012. The limited Scorn Defeat 20th Anniversary Gig was issued at the end of 2013. Graveward, featuring appearances by members of Trivium and Bethlehem, arrived in 2015. With 2018's Heir to Despair, Sigh embraced more elements of Japanese, Central Asian, and Middle Eastern folk traditions; Kawashima learned to play flute for the recording of the album. Compilation Eastern Darkness appeared in 2021. 2022 studio album Shiki blended folk instruments with doom metal and psychedelia.
© William York & Paul Simpson /TiVo
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