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Sigh - Imaginary Sonicscape CD (album) cover

IMAGINARY SONICSCAPE

Sigh

Experimental/Post Metal


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5 stars This album single handedly led me into listening to more progressive sounding bands, even though 'Imaginary Soundscape' will be debated by progressive purists as not prog at all.By seamlessly meshing surf rock to classical to a black metal base, Sigh has created one of the most unique sounding pieces of music in the past decade. By comparison, thier newer album doesn't come close to the majesty Sigh ws able to physically harness in 'Imaginary..' I recommend this record to anyone looking for something thoroughly unique and thought provoking. A true masterpiece in modern music. P.S I recommend the tracks 'Corpsecry-Angelfall' & ' A Sunset Song'.
Report this review (#64346)
Posted Thursday, January 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
Trickster F.
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Instantly enjoyable Avant-Metal? Look no further.

I like Avant-Garde music but I like having fun too! How many times have we heard that sentence? Indeed, it is often considered that if music is avant, it is no fun and hard to get into by digesting and enjoying. Well, with the Japanese avant- metallers Sigh this isn't the case!

First of all, let me start this reviewing by saying that in the world of music nobody sounds like this group. Originally a Black Metal group, they have grown up over the time and on this release such a diverse variety of influences and sounds is being used, that you can't help but wonder: will the result be as a good as the ambitions? The answer is positive. Whilst the transition between two completely different musical styles of one song isn't performed flawlessly, which actually is the point, as proven by most avant collectives, it does not cross the line and come across as pretentious. Sometimes while you listen carefully you notice such styles of music performed on the record that are untypical for a general Progressive Metal group.

Sigh are classified Progressive Metal on this website. Although I don't deny the obvious Metal influence and the heavy sound present in their music, I have to warn you it goes deeper than that. It isn't really an extreme album, by any means. The only thing it takes after the more extreme types of Metal are Mirai Kawashima's raspy vocals, which, while not remarkable in any way, make the tracks either catchier or more dramatic, depending on the mood. The Metal influences are present mostly in the shape of the tradition 70's Heavy Metal sound, and sometimes there are even parts that remind of groups like Deep Purple, proving the diversity of the group. The guitar work is beyond all of my expectation is absolutely outstanding! The riffs are catchy, melodic and over the place, something you'd expect from Iron Maiden and the most advanced of the Swedish 90's Melodic Death Metal scene. The soloing is inspiring and just long enough not to make one feel bored. What really makes this album so unusual and unique is the amazing keyboard work - both in accompenimt to other instruments and in the solo parts.

Corpsecry - Angelfall is the first track on the album and also the the most straightforward song here. It has a catchy, perhaps a bit repetitive, chorus, something that can be said about many of the tracks here. It is a lot of fun to listen to. I suspect that the track is actually seperated on Corpsecry and Angelfall, latter being the classical outro of the track. Only after the first song, however, does the album begin to show its identity. The folower, Scarlet Dream, is a slower paced song and also much more psychedelic. It does, once again, have a catchy chorus on its own. Nietzchean Conspiracy is the most extrardinary piece here, devoid of any heavy elements and rather influenced by a large amount of different types of modern moods. It is even more psychedelic and includes a long instrumental part that reminds the average progger of the 70's Canterbury Scene. This Caravan-esque moment is present on the next track as well. The next song, A Sunset Song, is hands down the catchiest of the album, with a bizarre contradiction - happy music meets violent singing with dreadful lyrics. It doesn't flow very well, but I like it for what it is. Impromptu (Allegro Maestoso) is a short classical instrumental that leads into the next song - Dreamsphere (Return To Chaos) - which is rather similar in mood to the previous ones. The intro to Ecstatic Transformation reminds me heavily of Deep Purple and everytime I hear it, I am freaked out that a cartoonish black metal scream kicks in instead of Ian Gillan's voice. The hard rock influence is present in many times throughout the track, together with the chorus mixed with electronic music. The highlight of the album is arguably the almost 11-minute long Slaughtergarden Suite. At first I found it to be the least catchiest tune here, but later I realized that it is much more serious in musicians' approach to composition than the other tracks and found what could be one of the most geniusly written Avant-Metal tracks ever. Requiem - Nostalgia closes the album in an unexpected way - clean choir sung vocals appear here in the chorus and they suit the music extremely well.

Although I can't quite allow myself to award this album the maximum five star rating, which would make it a masterpiece of progressive music by the site's guidelines, that I follow loyally, I must say that the only thing that hinders me from doing it is the fact that the tracks on the album are too inconsistent and chaotic for its own good. However, it makes it up with the extraordinary sound that you are not very likely to find anywhere else.

The album is highly recommended to all open-minded Progressive Music fans, as, despite being put into the progmetal box, it includes segments of other types of music. I especially happen to believe that those who appreciate the symphonic style of prog done in the 70's will love this album. The same, on the other hand, goes for the progmetalheads and the avantgardists - there is something for virtually any listener here! Not a masterpiece, but an excellent addition to any prog music collection nonetheless - truly a Must-Have album!

Report this review (#72323)
Posted Sunday, March 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is brilliant. You wouldn't believe how many different musical styles are utilized, and how damn well they blend together! Sigh's previous albums had strokes of genius, but this album is their first to create a truly cohesive listen from start to finish. The production is top notch. And it rocks, by god how it rocks. This should appeal to fans of metal, psychedelia, and truly progressive music (as in left-field, out-there, yet completely unified). Completely jaw-dropping.
Report this review (#73551)
Posted Thursday, March 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Sigh, having solidified their place as one of the best Japanese black metal bands with their early releases, went for a more experimental bent in their later albums, exploring other genres and methods of composition in the process of trying to join the techniques of metal with the evocative possibility of music as a whole. Their sound has always been intriguing, and anyone interested in music that is barely traditional would enjoy Imaginary Sonicscape, a disk that features some of the most polish of their albums.

Any album which begins with a Minimoog solo and ends with a distorted version of the Minute Waltz is bound to be intriguing, and the sounds between beginning and end are quite excellent. Shinichi is one of the better non-prog guitarists, having little need to shred to prove his talent; his tone on both riffs and solos are brilliant and nostalgic, many of them inspired by the chunky Iron Maiden riffs of old. And while Mirai's howled vocals are intriguing and his bass lines traditional, it is clear that he is in his element surrounded by synthesizers of all kinds - the album credits lists almost every instrument he plays, among them a vocorder, Fender Rhodes piano, Hammond Organ, the aforementioned Minimoog, and many, many others. The way these are implemented over the classic metal sound is also quite brilliant - they are used less to show off Mirai's playing talent and more to show off his compositional skills, as many of the arrangements use the instruments to their full potential. Nieztchean Conspiracy uses absolutely no guitar or bass, and features some quite real-sounding synth strings and sax that is layered to create a neo-noir soundscape, one that is made only more convincing during the organ solo. The album features many songs that sound quite little like metal in the traditional definition, but are nonetheless excellent. The opening of Sunset Song is an oddly happy riff considering some of the twists that the song takes; Impromptu(Allegro Maestoso), is a brooding cadenza which leads right into Return to the Chaos, a piece that will stand out to fans of darker grooves - the alternating organ and Moog solos propel a catchy, slightly dissonant riff near the end beyond the stratosphere. And Requiem - Nostalgia is both surprising and satisfying, featuring a dynamic, fully-realized orchestral introduction the male operatic vocal chorus, and synth and orchestral textures playing an equal role with the crunchy tone of the guitars. And the album's epic, 10-minute Slaughterguarden Suite is unpredictable throughout, from the earliest synthesizer-only parts to the guitar and keyboard solos later in the piece. The piece is a proving ground between studio experimentation (including some psychedelic juxtaposition) and long form composition, and sustains a mood throughout that is at once dark and happy about it - abstractly conveying the mindset of a cold-hearted killer.

Those looking for music that toes the line between conventional song structures and long-form composition should definitely acquire this disc. The great thing about Sigh is their ability and desire to modify their sound between releases, and while elements are shared between this disk and the others in the band's discography, the chief focus of each album seems to be different. Imaginary Sonicscape is their proggiest album, with the most vintage synth textures and the most classic-rock riffs, but all of their albums take the basic aesthetic elements of metal and run to the borders of genre with them; taking that journey with Sigh is worth the time.

Report this review (#184945)
Posted Tuesday, October 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars 'Imaginary Sonicscape' - Sigh (9/10)

A great thing about heavy metal is that it has reached virtually every corner of the world, and the more recent generation of metal has seen many of its brightest shining stars coming from places one might not first expect. From Japan comes Sigh, a band that is a current frontrunner in black metal of the 'weird' variety. A band that has wandered through a different style with seemingly each new album they release nowadays, Sigh finds a unique and quirky sound on 'Imaginary Sonicscape', staying true to any avant-garde label while being infectiously catchy and fun. These certainly aren't tags one would normally think of when speaking of black metal, but Sigh makes it work. Although the band's experiments here are not all successful, I can't help but love what the band has done here.

Recently, I've been finding quite a few black metal bands that are incorporating ample amounts of psychedelic rock into their sound. Sigh is no exception to this, and they make the combination sound very convincing. Although Sigh's sound is certainly rooted in black metal, many of the songs here use upbeat hooks and melodies to give the music a sense that it is more parts 'fun' than 'funeral', and on some tracks (most notably the ridiculously enjoyable rocker 'Bring Back The Dead'), you shouldn't be surprised if you're rasping along to the chorus. Although pop music is in audible effect here however, there is good reason to call Sigh an avant-garde metal band, although the weirdness is not always in full swing.

Sigh takes what have otherwise been largely (although not fully) a straightforward melodic black metal album and adds strange electronic effects overtop some parts, to give a quirkier feel. While it is only to the benefit and credit of the band that they are taking risks, many of the electronic layers they use sound shrill and even a little distracting from the main attraction, which is the wonderful songwriting and delivery. The band takes some big leaps with composition as well; although 'Imaginary Sonicscape' is no stranger to the concept of the melodic hook, there are moments here which define any category that Sigh may have been placed in before. The highlight of the album 'Requiem - Nostalgia' even plunges into something that sounds like an Ennio Morricone soundtrack to some Spaghetti Western film. As a rule, it is the compositional experiments that the band takes that are always more successful than the weaker layering experiments. That is the only flaw that seeks to demerit this masterpiece luckily however, and while 'Imaginary Sonicscape's more adventurous segments may take a little while to get used to despite the instantly endearing nature of the rest of it, Sigh has made a masterpiece here that defies tradition.

Report this review (#445888)
Posted Wednesday, May 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'm not a huge black metal fan. At this point in my life, I've listened to around 10 black metal albums, and that's including stuff like Alcest. But oh my goodness, this album... I've already listened to it 10 times itself. Each song is both "catchy" (in black metal terms) and yet also ridiculously dense and eclectic. From electronic to 70's prog to various types of world music, all this manages to proceed forth in the music. But what really makes the variety so effective is how natural it feels. There are no obvious transitions between types of music; they simply spring forth (sometimes almost imperceptible beneath a wall of dissonance) and fade away just as casually. And through all this, this album is a blast to listen to. Despite dark, beautiful, moving lyrics, this black metal has moments of pure ecstasy that shine through. It all feels so natural: the anger, the peacefulness, the seriousness, the light-heartedness. This album is a masterpiece.

Rating: 10/10

Report this review (#607737)
Posted Wednesday, January 11, 2012 | Review Permalink
CCVP
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Psychedelic black metal

The extreme progressive metal bands are indeed quite a strange lot. Right from the start, with very few exceptions, you can never determine where they will come from or what they will sound in the future. In spite of that, with over 20 years after the first members of such lot appeared, some patterns start to appear, like the progressive "symphonic" (used here as a broad term) black metal of Vintersorg, Borknagar, Arcturus, Solefald and Moonsorrow, the progressive "space" black metal such as Enslave and Helheim, the progressive melodic death metal from bands like Edge of Sanity, Disillusion and Kalysia, the progressive death metal of bands like Augury, Death, Gojira and Blotted Science, the jazz metal fusion, famed by bands such as Pestilence, Cynic, Atheist, Aghora, Animals as Leaders and Exivious and the progressive thrash of Watchtower, Voivod, Spastic Ink and Vektor.

However, even in a genre with so many different sub genres within itself some bands find a way to defy all of them and create something that can only be described as their sound. Something so unique that they will serve as a point of reference for all others to follow, merging influences, musical styles and blurring the lines of what's possible and what's not possible inside extreme metal. Together with Opeth and Meshuggah, Sigh is one of those bands. Reinventing themselves in every new album, breaking boundaries and new ground, this Japanese band definitely does not fear innovating and renovating themselves. Said transformation properly started in their fourth full-length studio album, entitled Scenario IV: Dread Dreams, when they started transforming to something more than just a black metal band; however, things would only bloom in full with their next album, the 2001 opus entitled Imaginary Sonicscapes.

Throwing many conventions for black metal music right off the window, Sigh here starts their journey to merge unexpected and, at times, completely unrelated genres together, mishmashing everything into one record. Here, sigh incorporates huge deals of psychedelic music from the 1960's and early 1970's into their compositions as well as adds overlays of electronic effects to them. The end result, however good it is, feels somewhat flawed for me mainly because of the keyboard and synthesizer tones they decided to use here. Yes, the choice of using some keyboard and synth sounds that clearly belonged to the 1990's was not good at all because, after all, said decade was not quite fond of good keyboard sounds in general. That can be felt even in very good albums, like Dream Theater's Images and Words and Arcturus's La Masquerade Infernale.

Apart from that, all other instruments sound terrific! I specially like how the guitar sound raw, deep and intense and how the drums also sound raw and aggressive, accentuating the band's musical potency in general.

Another minor downturn is insisting in the idea that harsh vocals should and must be used in every instance of every song. Some songs or parts of songs here would sound better if the vocals were sung of whispered in a creepy or frightening manner, so the vocals would emphasize the song's atmosphere. On the bright side, they have learned this and on future albums they have used such resources to impressive results.

As I said earlier, the music here can be described as psychedelic rock mixed with black metal. But, how can you even begin to describe such sound? After all, there are not any point of reference to how they sound. Nothing. In spite of that, I feel that putting together completely unrelated bands I could try and explain how Sigh sounds here: just imagine if early Venom decided to play some songs by the (late era) Beatles or (early) Soft Machine or the Beach Boys (around Pet Sounds) or Iron Butterfly (around In a Gadda da Vida). Try and picture that and you will have an idea of how Sigh is in Imaginary Sonicscapes.

Rating and Final Thoughts

Even though Imaginary is much loved by many (of the few) who know in depth the music of Sigh, to the point of considering this 2001 album the best in the band's musical career, I beg to differ. In spite of having interesting, inspired and innovative musical ideas, their execution is underwhelming at points, what keeps me from giving this album the perfect rating. I must agree, however, that it is excellent in many instances and, in the big picture, it is an impressive album, whose music twists and turns in exciting and unexpected ways. That is why I believe the 4 stars rating fits this album perfectly.

Report this review (#860598)
Posted Friday, November 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars This is my first taste of the Japanese rockers Sigh, and this trio are on a totally different musical planet to the rest of us. If their other four full-length albums are quite like this, then they have been wreaking some sort of musical terrorism. Example: The first song is called "Corpsecry ? Angelfall". Right I thought, a Death Metal album. Then the guitars started and I thought no, a wicked trad metal album. Then the vocals started, and I thought that is strange, as it was trad rock but with death vocals. When the orchestral section kicked in, I was confused. The Las Vegas lounge core had me going for a while, but by the time we came to the piano instrumental I had given up trying to work out what was going on in their oriental minds.

It is one of the most confusing albums I have ever heard. Just when I think I have a handle on them they shoot off in a weird direction from left field. If they left some of the basic rock songs alone they would be great, but they have to tamper with each. Their audiences must get very confused. Nevertheless, because of all of this, this is very much a fun album to listen to. The eleven-minute "Slaughtergarden Suite" shows that Sigh definitely inhabit another realm, and I want to visit.

Originally appeared in Feedback #63, July 01

Report this review (#970425)
Posted Monday, June 3, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars Having shed most of their black metal roots with the exception of the vocals, this is in fact a smorgasbord of musical genres and ideas happily playing together and taking turns in their parade from one sonicscape to another. The first song 'Corpsecry - Angelfall' is a perfect example. Yes, the vocals are of a black metal style, but the guitar riff sounds more Iron Maiden inspired to me with lots of electronic embellishments.

Unpredictable yet accessible is the name of the game here. You never know what the next track will bring you. Will it be a loungy jazz track completely synthesized with psychedelic sound effects and a nice keyboard solo? Or will it be a depressing doomy metal country song with a disco break? Very Mr Bungle inspired but sounding nothing like them.

The epitomy of the avant-garde can be heard on the closing title 'Requiem ' Nostalgia.' It is a mishmash of electronic vocals, black metal growling and clean operatic vocals! Very cool stuff that belies any labeling. A big fat album of extreme eclecticism that ends with a classical Chopin piano piece accompanied by stereophonic giggling babies! Welcome to the wonderful world of SIGH! 4.5 rounded up

Report this review (#1084141)
Posted Sunday, December 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Scream for love, scream for hate, scream for life, scream for SIGH: 10/10

In the 80's, the guitarist of black metal pioneers MAYHEM created Deathlike Sentence Records, a label whose intention was to bring limelight to obscure talents of black metal throughout the world. SIGH was one of the few gifted by this ephemerous sparkle in the dark (no pun intended), releasing their debut SCORN DEFEAT (1993) and audaciously claiming the title of forerunners of the extreme metal scene in Japan. Under Mirai Kawashima wicked but highly genial's leadership that had no affection to sameness, it took very little time before they shifted their sonority from "classic" black metal to more... eccentric branches. More knowledgeable listeners of SIGH claims this transition is first noticeable in HAIL HORROR HAIL (1997).

Fast-forward four years and they release their boldest and most experimental album: IMAGINARY SONICSCAPE. It's, if anything, subversive for the concept of black metal. The genre implies hopelessness, anger, terror, darkness, whereas SIGH brings us highly upbeat, energetic songs. It's pretty clear that Kawashima doesn't care even the slightest about conventions because this is one of the most un-labellable albums I've ever heard. To simplify things, we can say that IMAGINARY SONICSCAPE is a surprisingly excellent mixture between what seemed to be water and oil: cheerful rock riffs and electronic effects with the torn and suffocating black metal vocals.

Each song has its own core - from 80's glam black metal to (black?) jazz noir- which is entirely unique to itself. SIGH is definitely eclectic when it comes to influences, and prodigal when the subject is the usage of synthesizers & electronic devices. They also demonstrated that pretty much any genre can sound great with that sweet, sweet absolutely disgraceful and suffered guttural vocals. And the best part: they don't sacrifice enjoyability for the sake of innovativeness, so you don't have to worry about mixtures being so bold they sound bad because every song has only characteristics that make them appealing and pleasant to listen to, no matter what is the Frankenstein built. I like to think that SIGH performed countless experiments, but nitpicked few of them that sounded masterful and compiled them under that psychedelic cover.

The supreme, undoubtful, unmatchable highlight is the legendary Slaughtergarden Suite. The first scene is an abrasive, dark and twisted industrial metal atmosphere, featuring a dark guitar solo by Shinichi. As you least expect, though, the song quickly switches into a jazz fusion deliciousness. As the guitar gently sweeps some funky riffs, the vocals groan delicate and bouyant lyrics: "Die at my slaughtergarden, say goodbye to your filthy life / Die at my slaughtergarden, vengeance to the world full of lives". Mirai then grabs his Fender Rhodes and Minimoog and plays a solo which in my opinion is one of the best keyboard solos in the avant-garde genre. You can't topple that psychedelic grooviness.

One weird thing is that many tracks abruptly ends into classical music/lullaby-sounding pieces. Mirai is a mad genius and he must have had a reason to do that... which I don't know what is.

I could babble forever why this album is superb, but I'll make myself short. It's a. an excellent introduction to extreme metal for people who hate extreme metal (the mellow riffs sweetens the bitter harsh vocals) b. is an excellent demonstration of experimentality without abandoning musicality and c. it's just so fun to listen to. The only type of person I wouldn't recommend this music to is to pop listeners because that creativity galore would freak them out, but then again, they wouldn't possibly be accessing ProgArchives, so I don't have to worry about it. If you're not a pop listener, though... there's no way you won't like this.

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Posted Wednesday, February 15, 2017 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Imaginary Sonicscape" is the 5th full-length studio album by Japanese progressive/experimental metal act Sigh. The album was released through Century Media Records in July 2001. It's Sigh's first release on the label after they left Cacophonous Records, as a consequence of what the band felt was bad promotion for "Scenario IV: Dread Dreams (1999)". The three-piece lineup who recorded the predecessor is intact on "Imaginary Sonicscape".

Although Sigh originally started out as a black metal act, they soon began to experiment with their sound and the last couple of preceding releases have been increasingly progressive/experimental. "Imaginary Sonicscape" tops them all though as Sigh take their adventurous songwriting approach to new creative heights. The basis in the music is fairly traditional heavy metal riffs/leads/harmonies and rhythms, and Mirai Kawashima's snarling raspy vocals in front. The latter is the only feature on the album, which links the music on "Imaginary Sonicscape" to the band's black metal past, because nothing else on the album is extreme metal related in any way.

While the heavy metal elements in the music are relatively traditional in nature, the band make sure that everything else on the album is challenging to the listener. There is omnipresent use of vintage keyboards/synths/organs and additional features like ghostly choirs, percussion, the odd programmed/electronic section, saxophone, and atmospheres which range from eerie darkness to almost sunshine psychadelic happiness ("A Sunset Song" is an example of the latter mood). The use of classical music themes and orchestral sections are also quite dominant in the soundscape. It's not an easy listen and most listener's will probably need more than one listen to decide what they think of the album. The tracks and the album in general take many left-turns along the way, and the listener is kept on his/her toes throughout the 63:35 minutes long playing time.

The musicianship is strong and while everything is performed with great skill and precision, Sigh generally perform their music with a great organic touch, which is further enhanced by the organic sounding production. The songwriting is on a very high level, and it's obvious Kawashima has some classical music education/training, because the keyboard arrangements and the keyboard performances in general are seldom heard this sophisticated in heavy metal music.

"Imaginary Sonicscape" is for the open-minded heavy metal listener, and there is no guarantee this is something a lot of people will enjoy. It's probably very much an aquired taste, even for fans of the band. Expect the unexpected and you won't be dissapointed. Personally I think the experiments sometime make the album a bit incoherrent, and some tracks feel like they lack direction, like the band just added sections/elements they felt were interesting to add without thinking about the big picture. Knowing the musical genius of Kawashima I'm sure that's not true though, and I'm sure the output is exactly what Sigh had in mind. My personal feelings aside this is still a high quality release and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

Report this review (#2306081)
Posted Sunday, January 12, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars Sigh is a Japanese avant-grade metal band that plays a form of black metal that sounds like no other. Imaginary Sonicscape is a great album because it explores so many different sounds that it keeps you hooked for the entire length of the album. Sigh is rooted in black metal but they are more than just that. They combine avant-grade metal with their heavy black metal. The album has lots of heavy riffs and the vocals are black metal vocals, but there is also a wide variety of keyboard sounds and effects that add to the sound. The album is also really long with it being over and hour and most of the songs being long but it keeps your attention and does not get boring at all. If you're looking for some very good experiment or avant-grade metal then this album is for you. I personally believe that this album should be heard by all experimental/avant-garde metal fans and black metal fans as it is truly a creative, original masterpiece.
Report this review (#2447618)
Posted Sunday, September 13, 2020 | Review Permalink

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