Warning may contain nuts! Yes and it’s rather nutty stories that have helped pave the way towards Japanese loons Sigh’s tenth album. Founding member and guitarist Shinichi Ishikawa was removed from the line up due to the fact that apparently he was unable to even manage to tune his guitar up. This is somewhat odd as the playing skills of the band have always been a little on the complex side and highly skilled so it’s a somewhat baffling turn of events. Taking his place is You Oshima from Kadenzza who had almost given up playing due to having not only survived cancer but also a massive earthquake which killed 450 people. It sounds like the plot from a crazy horror film and in a way it is from the soundtrack of such movies that the band have drawn upon to help create this new album and the influence of composers such as Fabio Frizzi, Goblin and Claudio Simonetti has a notable presence throughout. Of course this is not the first time that Mirai Kawashima has gone down such a route as his 2004 Eibon collaboration with Killjoy proved. Frankly though I found Graveyard Disturbances the result quite a stale and boring listen but you can forget all that here as Graveward does not stand still for a second and is anything but boring. Whilst listening to the album you can have a bit of fun too playing spot the special guest as there are no shortage of friends popping in from the slightly unlikely Matt Heafy (Trivium) and Fred Leclerq (Dragonforce) to the more extreme likes of Niklas Kvarforth (Shining) Sakis (Rotting Christ) and Metatron (The Meads Of Asphodel)
You can hear the lunacy coursing through this from the very opening notes of Kaedit Nos Pestis which flies in with a massive neo-classical flourish spiralling straight out of another century and galloping off on a cartoony symphonic charge full of all sorts of musical orchestration. It’s funky and it swaggers with the Sigh black thrashing mind-set coursing through it and making anything the likes of the similarly preposterous Devin Townsend has done seem positively normal. There’s plenty of retro keyboard work employed throughout giving it that horror feel albeit in a sometimes camp B-Movie way and the vocals are highly charged with Mirai’s rasping snarls, some high croons and a chorus from hell demonically overseeing it all. Listen closely to the first track for instance and you will hear some short stabbing notes that obviously pay homage to Hermann’s main Psycho theme. Calling this black metal is pretty much impossible as even is calling it even metal as the far reaching scope takes in all sorts of other musical genres as it flows away. Classical, jazz, pop, disco, you name it you will find it at some point here. It’s all deliriously catchy at times as well and a couple of listens will have the chorus of the title track embedded in your skull despite the complexity of the ever changing instrumental canvas. It should also have you begging very quickly for the band to come to your shores for a much needed headlining slot. Speaking of the stage wait till the chorus and the weaving riffs of Tombfiller hit, it’s like some sort of theatrical rock opera and you can’t help but hear it and be left with a shit eating grin on your face. I am sure she is very busy elsewhere within this but Dr. Mikannibal’s saxophone presence seems a lot more restrained this time around although when the instrument does crop up it makes its presence much more noticeable. That said perhaps it is masked a little as brass instrumentation is very much present and what sounds like trumpets and trombones have a large parping presence.
There are a lot of parts here that take back to the band’s glorious past and albums such as ‘Hail Horror Hail’ (1997) and Imaginary Sonicsphere (2001) and this is an album that should definitely bring any older fans who may not have kept up with the band back into their fold. I’m sure also there are many interesting tales behind the actual tracks and the lyrics themselves and although they don’t seem to be present on the net yet hopefully they will be in the disc lyric book giving you another reason to buy what is already an absolutely essential purchase. For the moment you can just revel in Mirai cadaverously rasping out the words “I am not dead” like a reanimated corpse on ‘The Forlorn before the track unravels and the macabre presence of Danny Elfman rears its decapitated head. A gialloesque nursery rhyme harmony perfectly weaves away into the brilliantly entitled ‘The Molesters Of My Soul’ and halfway through the album if you had tried to keep up listing all the narrative influences within the music you would no doubt have filled several sheets of paper. As for the white noise and ambient effects toward the end of this one it is probably the resulting sound of several listeners heads exploding. Those who still have theirs on their shoulders can gallop headlong into the samba and flamenco riot that is ‘Out Of The Grave’ and hope they can keep it from toppling off to the decapitating crazed riffs.
One thing that I have found near impossible here is choosing a favourite track and if anything they all stand out in their own way. Some are shorter and slightly less insane than others but they all have a compelling reason and practically jump up and down shouting “pick me, pick me.” Best way to listen to this is definitely as a whole though. I can’t even really slot it in as where it stands ranking wise in their ten albums and whilst I ponder it listening to a bit of what sounds like Gallic accordion music that’s a question that is currently beyond fathoming. There’s a real 70’s feel about insane number ‘The Casketburner’ and it comes across like some big band ‘night at the Palladium’ show mixed with roller boogie until ominously it is infected by a spine chilling shopping centre of the dead presence which comes straight out of a Goblin soundtrack and a certain George Romero movie.
As like the album itself this review is threatening to sprawl out of control I am going to leave description of the last couple of tracks to your mystery and imagination. Graveward hit me in every conceivable sense, music and themes of horror perfectly co-ordinated. Looking back and realising I have given two albums already 9/10 scores this year and coming to the conclusion that this actually tops both of them just there is very little I can do but come as close as humanely possible to giving this a perfect score (something I have said I will never actually do). If anything actually betters this during the rest of the year though, I will be very surprised.
(9.5/10 Pete Woods)