Sigh – Graveward (2015) – After a long wait, avant-garde black metallers Sigh are back with a brand new album in the horror-influenced Graveward. Inspired by Hammer Horror and Italian zombie films, this record also marks a new chapter in the band due to appearance of You Oshima (Kadenzza) who replaces the band’s founding guitarist Shinichi Ishikawa for a bevy of reasons. The record still manages to come off exactly as we’d expect from Sigh, with all sorts of weird and unexpected things utilized within the recording that make for an intriguing listen throughout. Though You’s guitars seem a little low in the mix at times and the drums also seem to be pushed a bit behind, it’s this garage band meets stage performance feel that makes Graveward unique. Mirai Kawashima’s vocals are fierce and frantic, along with guests like Sakis Tolis, Niklas Kvarforth, Matt Heafy and The Metatron who each provide the extra (and rather unexpected) bite, sometimes even with the help of a robotic vocal filter. During all of this, You brings out some dazzling solo moments, which all seem to shine rather well on the disc. Additionally, you’ve got Mirai’s keyboard work which has always been and always will be a major part of all Sigh releases. Graveward sees Mirai at play, doing what he does best, as several odd effects and ghastly soundscapes help to provide a cryptic atmosphere to the music which pushes the band far beyond virtually anything that they’ve done in the past. Dr. Mikannibal actually puts a few clean vocal lines on the album in addition to her saxophone which always delivers. Even choirs and orchestration appears on the record, as well as operatic female vocals… and they all intertwine with what sounds like a film score and a space battle. You just can’t make this kind of stuff up folks, and that’s why Sigh is so fucking amazing. In Somniphobia delivered and Graveward manages to deliver even more. It’s an album that gets better as it goes on and truly sets itself as notable evolution for the band. Shinichi might be gone, but You and the rest of Sigh are still going strong, with Graveward being immediate proof of that. I’ve always felt that Sigh’s releases are a bit of a surprise, so I don’t want to end up spoiling anything here in this review that you’ll really need to hear for yourself in order to get the full experience. It can truly be said that there’s nothing out there quite like Sigh, and it’s assured that fans will be more than appreciative for this album, which they’ll be playing for several years to come. Graveward is a tremendously powerful homage to the horror film soundtracks that inspired it and feels almost like the dark and occult nature of classic Sigh. One of Japan’s finest exports have done it again, as Graveward pushes a rather bloody stake into the hearts of it’s competition, making for one of the best metal records of the year. The Grim Tower heavily recommends the gruesome originality of Graveward. It’s an absolute must and you’ll never hear anything else quite like it.
(10 Tracks, 49:00)