Album Review: Graveward by Sigh

a4227779154_10Italy is known for many things: Food, culture, food, friendly people, food, women, food, wine, food, fashion, food, beautiful seas and landscapes, and food.  If you happen to be a fan of cinema, Italy also has got you covered there, especially if you happen to be a fan of the horror genre.  From Dario Argento and Joe D’Amato to Lucio Fulci and Mario Bava you could almost say that gore and suspense were practically invented on the Big Boot.  Italy is also home of two of the most controversial horror/suspense flicks ever made (Cannibal Holocaust and Salò: 120 Days of Sodom, neither are safe for life).  If you have ever seen the Fulci classic Zombi (or known as Zombi 2 and Zombie Flesh Eaters in some places, same movie, it’s confusing, roll with it) you no doubt remember one of the finest scenes in horror movie history, Zombie vs. Shark in a battle to the death.  What makes that scene so special goes beyond its ridiculousness and it’s shot straight-faced.  It creates this unique dynamic of art house, horror, and comedy that modern Zomedy directors could only wish to achieve.  With this particular approach to horror/suspense it’s always amazed me that metal bands rarely channel this particular sect of horror, especially given its massive influence on the genre that maybe too many metal bands take their inspiration from.  Enter Japan’s Sigh, a band that has not even once followed anything close to ‘normal’ or ‘conventional’, and their new record Graveward.

Conceptually based on horror/exploitation flicks of the 60s and 70s with a heavy focus on the ones of the Italian and Hammer variety Sigh have created something that is both absolute cheesy fun and incredibly disturbing.  For those not familiar with Sigh’s style of metal it’s a hodgepodge of black, thrash, death, symphonic, folk, NWoBHM, and jazz metal with nearly every other genre making an appearance at some point.  It’s as charmingly chaotic as a traffic jam in Naples.  Trust me when I say there is absolutely nothing else like these mad scientists of metal.  Having them hone in on the cinema that obviously inspired them is a match made in heaven.

Opening up with a shredding thrash barrage on ‘Kaedit non Pestis’ (featuring Matt Heafy of Trivium) touches of haunting synths and organs underscore horrific lyrics belched out in black metal fashion and creepy clean singing and bright, upbeat thrash riffs that have a guitar tone that really brought Anthrax’s Among the Living to mind (I wonder if that was intentional).  This track is so jam-packed with experimentation it’s hard to believe that Sigh didn’t blow their creative load on a single track.  But that would be beneath them.  Tracks like ‘The Tombfiller’ takes an Iron Maiden approach with some heavy folk metal influence in the orchestration and ‘The Casketburner’ is a schizophrenic blend of big band jazz, Steven Hawking, 70s occult rock, and even more thrash (in fact, there is a lot of thrash to compliment the horror throughout the record).

sighAnd then in true Sigh fashion there’s the mindfuck songs like ‘The Molesters of My Soul’ where thick doom riffs peppered with these unholy demon baby noises and Cabaret melodies.  ‘A Messenger from Tomorrow’ (featuring the rightfully infamous Niklas Kvarforth) has the orchestration and grandeur of a Blind Guardian ballad and a disturbing feel that really brings out horror theme of the album.  Basically every single track on the record is unique and unlike anything else you will hear outside of Sigh.  And unlike many bands that have a singular sound it never sounds like the Sigh has resorted to aping Sigh.  The songwriting is as fresh as a bowl of freshly cut brains at every turn.

With each song overflowing with cacophony (according to a post I saw on Sigh’s Facebook page some time ago, there are over 100gb of layers on this record) the mixing and mastering are things that are incredibly important to making an album of this magnitude work.  Here is where I think the record falters a bit.  I can’t say the mix is terribly bad and it isn’t one of those cases where the mixer just jacked up the volume to make a flat sounding record.  However, there is a bit of muddiness that really rears its face during the more chaotic moments of the record and it does drown out some of the subtlety.  Sigh has always been a band that excelled at being subtle while conversely being in-your-face.  Losing that a bit does detract a tad.

On the flip-side, I can almost see how the muddiness of the mix was a conscious decision.  Given the classic horror theme of the record, this goes hand-in-hand with the style of the films.  In a way, it does in fact add to the charm of Graveward.  This does not make the record fatiguing, jarring, nor unlistenable, but maybe I’m just used to my Sigh being a bit cleaner.

With a focus of a theme, more touches of thrash, and guest spots from more ‘mainstream’ metal artists from bands like Trivium and Dragonforce, I would have to say Graveward is the most accessible Sigh record.  A great starting point to delve into the madness with if you haven’t yet.  Best thing, with this accessibility, none of the experimentation that makes Sigh great has been sacrificed.  I know this will be in heavy rotation throughout the year and like the rest of the bands catalog it won’t have to worry about getting dusty because I will often return to it after the luster of newness wears off.  Being both straight-face and absolutely ridiculous make this a total pleasure to listen to time and time again.  So, pour yourself a tall glass of Chianti, make a plate of cheese, pop in an Italian classic like Profondo Rosso or Buio Omega, and rock out to this record in classy style.  Peace Love and Metal!!! 5/5

Graveward is out now in Europe and will be available in the US on May 5th, 2015, both through Candlelight Records.  You can listen to and purchase the record from the Bandcamp player below 🙂

About RiffRaff

Just takin' it easy for all you sinners.

Posted on April 14, 2015, in Album Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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