Like a depraved symphony performed by demons from another dimension, Sigh’s Scenes from Hell may feature one of the most apt album titles of the year. Its collection of noisy, chaotic pieces overwhelms the senses, forcing themselves into existence thanks to the diabolical minds of Mirai Kawashima, Satoshi Fujinami, Shinichi Ishikawa, Junichi Harashima, and Dr. Mikannibal.
Sigh, formed in Tokyo in 1990, is credited as being one Japan’s first black metal bands. They have since evolved to a wilder style, keeping the architecture and rich riffing of Scandinavian black metal while adding a mesh of brass instruments and creepy effects to the mix. The results are staggering.
I first came into contact with these guys when I was passed a copy of the recently reissued Imaginary Sonicscape. Thrilled with the psychedelic elements, I quickly became a fan of their unadulterated pursuit of all things crazy.
Sigh ably continues their pursuit with Scenes from Hell, a sweeping epic of madness that melds moments of staggering beauty with screeching, powerful segments of crushing metal and screaming noise. It contracts and breathes like a film soundtrack, swiftly flickering from moments of desperation and fear to chasms of soft beauty and sweetness.
Scenes opens with “Prelude to the Oracle,” a massive thud of metal backed by Kawasima’s orchestrations and a dazzling crunch of drums and bass from Harashima and Fujinami. The track bursts through the gate at a breakneck pace, boosted by thundering horns, strings and a brilliant little patch of a guitar solo that fits right where it should.
More chaos bolts through the bizarre “L’art de Mourir.” Creepy as hell, the cut pulls to mind visions of the films of F.W. Murnau and Roman Polanski.
The cinematic gauze is wrapped around most of the record, with little stabs of slasher movie fun infusing the framework of “The Red Funeral” and a broader disaster flick vibe imposing its will on the seven-minute epic “The Summer Funeral.”
As badass as it would be to watch the world end set to this soundtrack of terror, Scenes from Hell pulls out moments of broad beauty as well. The scope of interplanetary travel comes to mind with the expansiveness of “The Soul Grave,” for instance. The song’s exploration of space and rhythm is an album highlight on a record with no shortage of them.
For some, the sheer magnitude of the madness proposed on Scenes from Hell will be enough to have them running for more comfortable ground. But for the rest of us, those with a little bit of musical guts left kicking around, Sigh’s latest is an expansive, complex, chaotic piece of work that will be remembered and replayed for a long fucking time.