Sigh - _Gallows Gallery_
(Baphomet Records, 2005)
by: James Montague (
If you've been doing your research on the myriad metal forums in cyberspace, you'll know that when the subject of Sigh's new album comes up, the one word on everyone's lips is: production. Unfortunately, the word is not being used in a positive light, as _Gallows Gallery_ sounds more like a rough mix of an album than the work of a veteran band that in 2001 had captured the attention of the wider metal world with the rich, finely crafted textures of _Imaginary Sonicscape_.It's a paradox that _Gallows Gallery_ should be recorded in such a seemingly careless manner, when clearly no expense or effort has been spared in putting the arrangements together. Chief architect Mirai Kawashima has handed his bass guitar over to former drummer Satoshi Fujinama and now concentrates solely on his vocals and organs. Oh, and also his Prophet-5, Fender Rhodes, clavinet, sitar, tabla, gong, Yamaha DX-7, Taisho-Koto (electric banjo), Tibetan bells, Minimoog, theremin (a hands-free instrument operated by waving the hands over two antennae), glockenspiel and sampling. Add to this an exhaustive list of guest vocalists and guitar soloists, as well as the saxophonist from Yakuza, and you get an idea of the depth of these compositions -- best illustrated during the staggering chorus of "The Enlightenment Day", where the sitar and tabla mesh perfectly with a massive organ refrain, the occidental and oriental dancing sublimely over a dirty heavy metal riff.Much has changed in the Sigh camp over these four years, but some trademarks remain. Mirai's black metal rasp has finally been superceded by a clean singing style, frequently layered and run through vocoders, but he still has a little of that old snarl in his voice, and the lyrics still deal in death and blasphemy. The metal component is still very much inspired by the '80s in general and Venom in particular, but is far more energetic -- almost frantic -- than on _Imaginary Sonicscape_, and the new drummer far busier. Consequently, these songs are much shorter, mostly clocking in around the three-and-a-half minute mark, leaving the listener gasping for more. This is an improvement in my eyes, as the previous album did occasionally labour the point, while _Gallows Gallery_, though rough in terms of production, is very much streamlined compositionally.I have a feeling that this album will go into the "misunderstood Sigh gems" category along with _Scenario IV_, simply because of its inadequate sound quality. My advice to hesitant buyers would be to sit back until the Candlelight Records release hits the shelves later in October, just in case the Baphomet version turns out to be an unfinished product designed to piss someone off. If this really is as good as it gets... well then, get it now. The music is fantastically energetic, psychedelic and exotic, and certainly grows on you once the ear adapts.
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