Sigh Graveward 01Here’s a fun drink idea for your next party: pour a shot of sake into your cup, followed by a trickle of absinthe, a vial of goat urine, and top the drink with cake sprinkles. Add a single ice cube. Feed this mixture to a large bat. Let it sit for a quarter hour until the mixture starts being digested. Light the bat on fire.

There’s only one word that can encompass this specific cocktail of madness: Japan. Sigh are on their tenth trip around the turntable and still spin at 45, since there isn’t a faster option. Graveward is their attempt to penetrate the monolithic shadow cast by In Somniphobia, an album so fantastically strange that it was a sidestep even by the standards of a band that defines the term “avant-garde”. Will Graveward see them pulling an Opeth and venturing even further from their black metal roots, or is this going to be more of a Cryptopsy style return?

Did you like Scenes from Hell? If not, that’s ok, there are plenty of other shitty people in the world for you to hang out with. If you did, then I suggest that you open a new tab now and exchange some of your favorite type of currency for your very own Graveward. The symphonics and aggression of Scenes From Hell make their return here, but appear in concert with the moody strangeness of In Somniphobia, bubbling up in Sigh‘s churning glass, jagged, dangerous and as always, unabashedly bizarre. Unlike its predecessor, Graveward is metal through and through, each song a cancerous vertebra in the twisting spinal column of a black metal album that’s been through hell and come out stranger.

Sigh Graveward 03“Kaedit Nos Pestis” marks Sigh‘s territory right away, gushing out a stream of fetid liquid that steams when it hits the freshly turned soil. Deeply rooted in old-school black metal and power metal, the song snaps Graveward open with incredibly fun lyrics and bizarre singing that’s so cheesy it would stick out on a [Luca Turilli’s] Rhapsody [of Fire] album. “The Forlorn” is the album’s first mid-paced song, but it’s no less intense or weird than the three that precede it – just try not to sob out the line ‘I am not dead…’ with Mirai Kawashima. You can’t.

The first half of Graveward closes with “Molesters of My Soul,” which is best simulated by compressing a brass section into a two-by-four, sticking a bunch of nails into the wood and subsequently being smacked with that board at a steady 92 bpm. As stomping and mad as it is, the song also features one of the most interesting intros on the album, a twinkling music-box-like melody that I’m about half sure was stolen from the studio as In Flames was recording A Sense of Purpose. “The Casketburner” is another standout on the last half of the album, fun enough to go toe-to-toe with some of Revocation‘s latest material. There’s really not a bad song to be had here, which is what we’ve all come to expect from Sigh.

Despite this, Graveward dose have one big problem, and it’s a surprising one. The album often feels a little, well, predictable. The songs aren’t nearly as varied as those on In Somniphobia, but that wouldn’t be such a problem if Graveward didn’t feel like it was still running on its predecessor’s chassis. The same gags and sounds pop up in the same places that they did on In Somniphobia; “Kaedit Nos Pestis” features a hand-clapping track that’s quite similar to one from “The Transfiguration Fear Lucid Nightmare;” they bring out the saxophone in the same places as the album progresses, and there’s a definite U-shaped curve in speed across the length of the LP. On top of this, the choice to put “Dwellers in a Dream” after the seven-minute epic “A Messenger from Tomorrow” – which sounds like the S&M version of “One” if it was rewritten by madmen – is pretty questionable. I don’t think Graveward is too long (49 minutes is a great length and Sigh can get away with much more), “Dwellers in a Dream” isn’t the best way to close the album.

Sigh Graveward 02

While it’s not quite the masterpiece that was In Somniphobia, Graveward is far from a blemish on Sigh‘s discography. It’s a great album despite its flaws, but it is a little bit worrying. There’s the lingering suggestion that Sigh are running out of ideas, and while one could hardly blame them, seeing as they’ve never hesitated to shove everything possible into their art, it makes me weary for the future of Japan’s most revered extreme metal export. Only time will tell whether they can make the turnaround, but even if we have to wait another three years, there’s always the back catalog to keep us company.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 319 kbps mp3
Label: Candlelight Records
Release Dates: EU: 2015.04.27 | NA: 05.05.2015

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  • Wilhelm

    I heard a few songs, not big on the production (the drums sound weak) but at the end of the day, it’s Sigh and in all their schizo glory.

  • Ace review, I have the same “been there, done that” feeling. Still, good tunes, even if I’m also not really sure about that intentionally lo-fi production.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    319 kbps, eh?

    • Kronos

      320 isn’t kvlt.

      • It’s 320. Someone should fix this.

        • Kronos

          What’s a kbps between friends?

  • Martin Knap

    Of course I hoped it would be good as In Somniphobia or Scenes, but it’s a buy anyway. I don’t know if this is widely known already, but the initial letters of their spell S-I-G-H and this is the third “Sigh” they are doing, i.e. the title of the next album ail start with the letter H.

    • André Snyde Lopes

      About as well known as every Morbid Angel album following the alphabet.

      • Martin Knap

        See, I din’t know that either.

  • Lasse Momme

    Wonderful record, it’s a stone cold 4 out of 5 for me. I don’t really hear the predictability that you write about, but that coulis be because i haven’t spent a lot of time with either scenes or insomniphobia though. Brilliantly written review as always, none the less!

    • I can see this actually, I may have an ungodly amount of replays of those two and it could certainly play a part in my attitude towards Graveward. Also maybe too high expectations.

      They have consistency in their favor though. Especially considering that the Dr. and Mirai have been through specially rough patches in their personal lives.

      • Lasse Momme

        It’s an interesting discussion. should a piece of art be ideally be judged as a single entity or in context to it’s immediate surroundings and background? The first one is super difficult, especially if you are coming in with a pre-existing knowledge and, for lack of a better word, bias towards the artist behind the record in question, and there is definitely something to be said about looking for some sort common demoninator between different records and comparing them to each other. after all, this is how most musical analysis starts when it comes to reviewing an album.
        I would contend though, that the other side of the coin is equally worthy of striving towards. Just like relentlessly studying and researching for a review can produce incredible results, can being able to utterly remove one self and ones own experiences and feelings towards the music reveal an incredibly “pure” snap shot of the music almost void of any subjective opinion, or at least as void as an opinion piece can be.

        • I think its all made specially difficult by having to create an adequate and accessible frame of reference for both the reviewer and the reader. If we are to communicate our delight or scorn to others in a sensible and respectful manner for everyone, including of course the artist, there is some common ground to be laid to support our opinions, and that is next to impossible to do if you don’t take into account the context of every release. So I guess a balancing act is needed, since as you said both approaches have their merits.

          • Kronos

            This is why art review is best left up to unpaid hobbyists.

          • strychnin

            I guess you could always, because it is music, rely just on what the band produced before and the snippets you know about them. Personally, I like this song, despite its obvious lows, because of the sound, the blood and the women with phd in physics involved :)

        • Celaeno

          i like your brain.

      • Thing is, I am really warming up to the new record. Gimme enough time and it’s a four. Possibly.

        • Grymm

          It’s definitely warming up to. 4 for me as well, and I’m on my fourth listen.

          • FutureBeyondSatan

            ….company man……

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    Great review Kronos. I’m on the same page.

    • Grymm

      Me too, though Hail Horror Hail is my go-to (and virgin experience with Sigh).

  • So far it’s delightful. I feel like I’ve come full circle with Japanese metal bands, as it could be argued my gateway into metal were visual kei bands when I was a wee teenager. I mean. Sorry, universe.

  • “Did you like Scenes from Hell? If not, that’s ok, there are plenty of other shitty people in the world for you to hang out with.”

    If I’ve got an anointed replacement in the line of Angry Metal Guys, it’s you.

    • Refined-Iron Cranium

      That was the first Sigh album I heard. It scared the shit out of me but it soon became apparent that there couldn’t have been a more fitting album title. Genius stuff.

  • Kralle

    I think it’s way better than scenes of hell and this album reminds me more of hail horror hail. Think it’s a bit unfair to give them flak for sounding predictable, they simply have their own sound and they have way more variability in their songs from album to album compared to those types of band that just put out the same album out over and over again, but still gets praise every time. Also dwellers in dream is the best song of the album :(

  • RuySan

    I haven’t kept with this band since Hangman’s Hymns. While I loved Sigh until that point, the album was just too loud, samey and exhausting.

    Maybe I should update myself, at least with In Somniphobia. Amazing cover art.

  • Here’s Johnny

    Really, no mention of the production?

    • I think Sigh’s production is an acquired taste and I think it’s on purpose.

      • Here’s Johnny

        It was definitely on purpose, it is a shock at first but now i love the album. I don’t really go with some reviews i have seen that it is predictable for Sigh. Its even more batshit insane than some of there other albums and the lo-fi sounds throws you off even more.

  • metalwithay

    I am surprised by the amount of bias in this review. It seems like you completely judged this album against other Sigh albums that you personally seemed to enjoy more. Also docking points off an album because you think a band might be out of ideas in the future is absurd. This album is more interesting, engaging, and well-crafted than anything else I’ve listened to each year, and I don’t know if anything else this year can top something that sounds so cool and different. This album is “predictable”? Amon Amarth has been making albums of the same song 10x since their creation and Deceiver of the Gods was given a 4/5. After this and the NeO review, it seems like this site just wants to take bands that should be receiving praise for what they are doing down a peg for personal reasons.

    • We gave the NeO a 4.5 so I’m not sure how we were taking them down a peg.

      • metalwithay

        They were intentionally not included for Album of the Month despite deserving a spot. Whether this was done as a joke or not is not relevant. It’s disrespectful to the artists who work very hard to give us music we enjoy listening to.

        • We had a disagreement between staff as to the quality and AMG gets the biggest vote, so it didn’t make Record o’ the Month. It was intended more as a joke though, as it got a fanboyish and glowing review.

        • And BTW, Sigh got a 3.5 which is a very good score here. Not a lot to complain about except you would have scored it higher.

          • metalwithay

            I’m not complaining about the score. I was just surprised that a site that has made it a point to judge albums as fairly as possible on its own merits would post a review where the main issue is that the reviewer compared it to something else they liked more.

          • I have actually said quite specifically in the post about grading that a band’s record can’t feasibly stand on its own merits and that all scores should be referential to a band’s other material. In the post “On Ratings, Subjectivity, and Diversity” I state very specifically: “NOTE: It is ENTIRELY REASONABLE to give a record by a great band a 2.0 if you hate their new record even if the fans will say to you ‘But it’s so much better than everything else that’s being put out right now,’ that’s irrelevant: the band’s own material is the standard you are judging it by. These records tend to be tepid, but have a few moments. Still, as a whole you will not return and you might even be thankful that you never have to hear it again.”

        • Hey dude, this is an opinion blog by its very nature (because ALL review sites are opinion sites by their very nature). And I would never have given NeO a 4.5. I wouldn’t have given them higher than a 2.5. I think they stink, and I included them out of respect to my writers, not to the band.

    • Kronos

      I kind of have to judge Sigh against Sigh because who, exactly, are Sigh’s peers? I think the band is currently low on ideas; I didn’t make a direct prediction about the future. I think this is a really good album, but not the group’s strongest. If I just gave every sigh album a 4+ score because Sigh is just a great band, it wouldn’t hold much meaning for myself and other Sigh fans. I don’t have any personal vendetta against Sigh, and I stand by the opinion that Sigh putting out a predictable record is a mistake because Sigh’s greatest strength is their experimentation.