Sigh – Infidel Art (1995)
Despite what the (admittedly cool) cover art might lead you to believe, Sigh’s second album is a LOT more Western sounding than you’d expect. The lyrics have the Japanese occult flavor to them, but when the music isn’t black-dooming it up, the symphonic sections sound very much like that of the Western symphonic tradition. Anyways, the overall approach here is very typical of what Cacophonous Records was putting out in the mid ’90s, and this album sort of fits with the roster’s workhorses (Cradle of Filth, Bal-Sagoth) in concept, until you actually listen to it.
The main difference that separates early Sigh (i.e, anything before Hail Horror Hail) from your typical symphonic black metal is that Sigh’s music is much more spacious. This is probably due to the doom elements that slow the average tempo, but regardless of the reason, the band is in a fairly accessible, clean sounding niche here. The production is very digestible; outside some cheap sounding synth patches the guitar tone strikes that difficult balance between aggression and heaviness, and tone. During the faster sections, the drums are occasionally drained out, but on this album, Sigh doesn’t have many ‘freakout’ sections in their music.
In relation to the rest of their discography, Infidel Art is mostly an expansion on Scorn Defeat. Slight improvements in production, musicianship, better English in the lyrics, and most notably, much longer songs. They routinely crack 7 minutes or more; while the band continued to write lengthy songs after this, they tend to limit the amount of epics on any given album. For a graphic example of this, note how the especially slow and depressive “Desolation” evolved from a somewhat short song on Sigh’s early demos to a much lengthier one by the time this album came out. Mirai’s shrieks are slightly higher than usual, but otherwise, this is a logical followup to the band’s full length debut. Mind you, even in their early days, the band had a significant degree of weirdness permeating their writing; early on this took the form of weird asides, like the upbeat mazurka at the beginning of “The Last Elegy”, or the almost relaxing keyboard sections in the middle of “The Zombie Terror”. But the primary remains black-doom with symphonic elements; occasionally, some rock and traditional metal sounding content pops up, but it would take several more albums for such to take over the backing.
The term I’ve often heard to refer to earlier Sigh’s use of outside musical influences is “integrated” – if you listen closely enough, you’ll hear the classical, jazz, rock bits in their sound on this album, but they melt into the whole to create something that, on the whole, sounds significantly different. Later albums by the band wear the outside influences more openly on their shoulders – even by Hail Horror Hail, the band is incorporating psychedelia, hip hop, and other increasingly ‘out-there’ influences and claiming that people are going to hear noises they can’t comprehend. What prompted such a drastic evolution? The Ghastly Funeral Theatre EP might serve as an evolutionary link, but for the fact it’s compositionally much closer to this than its successors. Odds are that the members used some of the income they gained from their previous output (Cacophonous probably paid them more than Deathlike Silence Productions, due to the way the label imploded after the death of Euronymous) to buy a lot of music and explore other genres, but no guarantees.
Highlights: “Izuna”, “The Zombie Terror”, “Beyond Centuries”