Friday, 27 December 2013

Sigh – Imaginary Sonicscape | 100%

Three Imaginary Boys: The cure for metal's archaism

Note that this review is about the 2009 reissue, the true version of the album.

Tony's classics part II: I wanted to choose something special and important for me for my 100th review for the Archives and Sigh really touched my spirit with this album. It was important for my musical development and I consider it to be a landmark of intellectualism in metal, how pretentious.

This album is the peak of creativity in metal. It's the perfect release for this so called Open Minded brigade, it has everything necessary to enrage the traditional black metal fans and proves that Japan is the weirdest and most satisfactory musical kingdom to emerge. It's an unique album in Sigh's excellent discography. Located right at the middle of their career, it still has the mystic grace of their past endeavours without the slight bastardization of their black metal sound with overt symphonic elements and added gritty and busty female vocals.

The band always had an original vision ever since their seminal debut and they still lead the charge today with an undying liking of their weird world. 1993's Scorn Defeat was an exploration of the dark mantra of Japan while Imaginary Sonicscape is a trip on mushrooms full of colours, full of depth. Sigh's attempt at recreating this sound while keeping the elements they explored on the following releases (Hangman's Hymns and Scenes from Hell) was a success with their latest album In Somniphobia. I can understand why this album was so important for the composers, it helped to fully bridge into the experimental/avant garde territories and established yet another side to their persona.

Nevertheless, it's assuredly a divisive album that still shakes the foundations of the metal monument. How far will the genre go while still being able to maintain its tenacious identity? My opinion on such debate is answered by my unfathomable fondness for this record. It's one of the most glorious tour de force the genre has seen.

The main element that make Imaginary Sonicscape is the diversity of its sound. The maturity that the trio achieved through the recording is simply astounding. From jazz overtones to classical, baroque and fusion, Mirai and company are monsters of experimentation and their vision would never be as grand as it was here. From the noisy psychedelia of “Voices” to the hellish beach club of “A Sunset Song”, Sigh brushes everything with ease and they're a gifted painter who knows how to mix their colours.

It's a known fact that the Japanese are masterful musicians and Sigh doesn't neglect to pay homage to that side of their culture. Shinichi Ishikawa is one of the best guitarist in music and he shines everywhere here. He's sadly underused nowadays and a bit buried. Even though Mirai's moog and keys are often at the forefront of the sound, his associate will often unleash these juicy solos. It has everything, from Maidenesque melodic leads found in the epic “Slaughtergarden” to riffy, groovy riffs while never truly leaving the black metal elements far from the picture. Nonetheless, it's not an album for Tsjuder or Behexen fans, they truly leave these tortured goatblooded lands to reach one where instead of invoking Satan to kill your enemies, you smoke bongs and play Super Smash Bros Melee with him, he even let you take the same character all the time, I'll take Luigi, thanks Lucifer!

Borrowing the progressiveness that made Dream Theater's early releases so good, Kawashina explores a keyboard heavy form of metal. His moog sound is very original and, leaves a lusty impression on the listener. As vivid and inventive as Jon Lord was in Deep Purple, he knew that bass wasn't enough this time around, additional tools were to be used to create a lush paradise that is so distinctive. The fast and present keys are a good companion to the catchy riffs such as in “Bring Back the Dead” (unbelievable that this song was cut from the original release, it's so good). Contrary to plenty of self proclaimed avant garde bands, Sigh still delivers plenty of metallic riffs upon the listeners, their experimentation is not an excuse to stop writing these blistering guitar leads to rely solely on the atmosphere created by the synths.

Their lyrics are silly but who cares when it's so awesome, it's kind of pseudo evil and I don't think they were truly serious about them or maybe their grasp of the English language wasn't up to the task. It might has been nice to use Japanese lyrics though to confuse the westerners even more perhaps? It's weird that such an overtly grandiose and psychedelic record relies on such evilesque lyrics as its thematic base

The identity is also quite international considering it's Japanese. If you followed my reviews, you know I'm a big fan of Ningen-Isu, this progressive band with the perfect and extensive career, Sigh compared to them doesn't necessarily want their roots to go hand in hand with their hand. Even though both bands looked in the early days of rock to develop their respective personalities. They dive into the 1960s and 1970s for their influences and that's admirable, it proves that they're able to leave their confinements and search and explore something else.

Sigh always had to deal with a weakness and it's still the case here. While it's certainly not the worst around, Mirai's vocals were always the black sheep of their sound. His harsh black metal delivery here creates some sort of dichotomy with the less than static sound here. Nothing is perfect but what is admirable is the ability to know your strengths and weaknesses, the band knows how to set the table in a way nothing looks less appetizing even if a side plate is more mediocre than the main course. They do that with the vocals, there's some additional ones, even some female bits here and there and it's all cohesive. It's sort of a secondary aspect of the band here even though they're quite present. Sometimes it's buried under vocoders (not as lame as when Cynic unleashes his robots against our ears, don't be afraid). Point is, Mirai is a gentleman who knows how to travel while protecting his confidence.

Immersing, it's so vast and grasping that I have some problems talking about it. All its aspects are punching my belly like little bullets of perfection wanting to leave an indelible mark on my skin. Branching into porno music with their dirty synthesizers, there's orgasms everywhere and you never expect them to explode all over your face. Sigh creates phallic sonicscapes with their musical morphing skills, changing their genres with all their releases, exploring vast, extraneous lands .

I think it's a perfect record thanks to its intricate songwriting delivered throughout long and diverse songs. The musicianship, always trying hard to impress, is truly masterful. Mirai's instruments credits in the booklet is longer than your curriculum vitae. He's pictured around eight keyboards that would put Neil Peart's drum setup to shame. It's a masterpiece of vision, it has this vivid atmosphere that you can't find nowhere else, that's the proof that a band managed to move in an unknown direction while all his pursuivants were too puritan to follow them into abstraction.

-The James Bond orchestra feel of the keys in “Voices”.
-The Smith/Murray leads midway through “Slaughtergarden”.
-The disco boogey and the Abbath on the beach sound of “A Sunset Song”.
-The groovy hand claps of “Ecstatic Transformation”
-Who the hell needs these fucking highlights, listen to the damn thing you twat! 

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