Japanese black metal horror maestros are back with their twelfth effort Shiki. And since we like our music unpredictable and creepy once in a while, we dug in.
Ever since its inception back in 1989, Sigh has defied the rules of black metal. Starting out with Scorn Defeat in 1993, every subsequent album has been more experimental and, for want of a better word, avant-garde, incorporating world music elements, traditional Japanese sounds and jazz. Some albums are of course better than others, with Scenes of Hell being a firm favourite here due to its pompous grandiosity, but other than 2015’s Graveward, I’ve been able to enjoy most of the stuff this band has put out. The brand-new Shiki is no exception.
In the grand scheme of things, Shiki is one of the more straight-forward Sigh albums in a while, with the focus put more on the metal side of things. There are a number of heavy stompers amongst the eight songs (not counting intro Kuroi Inori or the interlude Kuroi Kagami), with opening track Kuroi Kage setting the stage for what’s to come. Heavy riffing, Mirai Kawashima growling creepily over impressive drum rolls, distorted keys and Dr. Mikannibal’s saxophone. It’s unmistakenly Sigh, but heavier than they’ve been for a while. Faster as well, with Shoujahitsumetsu approaching the speed of light, delivering a frantic and impressive black metal boost in just under four minutes.
One of the highlights on Shiki is the fantastically bombastic Satsui – Geshi no Ato, which starts out with an awesome, old-school twin guitar solo before it gets big and epic with some fantastic drumming, only to end with two minutes of nightmarish, distorted harpsichord noodling. Things remain positively odd on Fuyu Ga Kuru, with guitar, (digital) flutes and keyboard vie for equal attention and Mirai growling madly over that. It’s Sigh at its best, offering a slice of sonically distilled madness that’s equal part creepy and impressive.
So much happens on Shiki that it’s hard to comprehend everything is happening in the space of only forty-six minutes. Time flies by because there’s always a new surprise lurking around the corner. It’s been since at least 2012’s In Somniphobia that I’ve found myself this invested in a Sigh record. Of course, Heir to Despair wasn’t bad either but Shiki really is a step up from those albums and already easily my favourite of theirs this side of Scenes from Hell. Of course, like all their albums, this will definitely not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you enjoy your black metal out of the box and infused with a healthy dose of pure, mad horror, Sigh has got your back on Shiki.
Label: Peaceville Records, 2022
Buy it here: https://peaceville.bandcamp.com/album/shiki
- Kuroi Inori (00:16)
- Kuroi Kage (07:55)
- Shoujahitsumetsu (03:52)
- Shikabane (05:28)
- Satsui – Geshi no Ato (07:07)
- Fuyu Ga Kuru (06:28)
- Shouku (05:30)
- Kuroi Kagami (01:10)
- Mayonaka no Kaii (05:24)
- Touji no Asa (02:53)
- Mirai Kawashima – vocals, keyboards, flute, piccolo, clarinet, shakuhachi, hichiriki, shinobue, shamisen, taishōgoto, shruti box, vocoder, guitars, iwabue
- Satoshi Fujinami – bass
- Mikannibal – vocals, saxophone
Review by Ralph Plug