Sigh - Scenes From Hell
The End Records
Symphonic Black Metal
8 songs (43:16)
Release year: 2010
Sigh, The End Records
Reviewed by James

When I heard Sigh were continuing in the same direction as Hangman's Hymn for album number nine (counting mini-album Ghastly Funeral Theatre) Scenes From Hell, I was more than a little worried. Sigh have never been a band to repeat themselves, and although the furious symphonic blackened thrash of Hangman's Hymn wasn't bad, it was a fairly unadventurous release which completely fell apart in it's third act. But here we are in 2010, Sigh returning with new vocalist Mikannibal (Mirai's shrieks being less prominent this time out), more real orchestrated instruments after the MIDI-based prior efforts, and a none-more-gothic cover. And more of the same, more or less.

What does strike you as immediately different from Hangman's Hymn, however, is the rawer, uglier production. Shinichi's guitar is a low-end heavy, rattling beast of a thing, recalling the deep, nasty tone he used on the first two albums. The drums sound tinny as anything, yet somehow it fits here, a cold-water shock for listeners of a band who'd been getting increasingly refined and slick. What's more, Scenes From Hell comes out of the gate immediately being faster and more vicious than Hangman's Hymn. Both Prelude To The Oracle and L'art De Mourir are full-on blasting assaults, the band returning to the queasy, nigh-on non-existent song structure of their early works. Don't expect any of the abrupt style changes of say, Hail Horror Hail, however, just lots and lots of orchestral flourishes.

But outside of the three short, sharp shocks that open the record, what about the longer pieces? These proved to be the downfall of Hangman's Hymn, the band's attempt at a more streamlined sound resulting in overly repetitive tracks. The Red Funeral, however, gets it dead-on, opening with a piano and narration intro (from none other than Current 93's David Tibet) before alternating between sludgy doom and full-on thrash, without ever running the motifs into the ground as was seen on Hangman's Hymn. And as a bonus, Shinichi's air-raid siren solo is perhaps the best on the album. The Summer Funeral is the band at their mostly statley and orchestral, the song propelled by the strings rather than the the riffs. It's here Mirai shows his skill as an arranger, although the main melody has shades of Imaginary Sonicscape's closer Ecstatic Transformation. The track ends abruptly on a distorted scream, the kind of cheap shock tactic that the band have deployed much better in the past. Would it have been so difficult for them to write a proper ending?

I suppose Scenes From Hell is both a step forward and back for Sigh. It's a stronger release for the band, tweaking the sound of Hangman's Hymn to make it more potent. It's also bringing back a little of the old-school (and in my opinion best) era of Sigh, the riffs and song structures being a bit uglier and looser. But the avant-garde elements of the band seem more toned down than ever, either coming out through the same orchestral flourishes we've seen a million times before, or worse, cheap shocks that luckily don't quite fall into the trap of being comical. Sigh, it seems, aren't quite as deranged as they used to be, and although Scenes From Hell is a great metal record, the band don't even really warrant the avant-garde tag anymore.

Killing Songs :
Prelude To The Oracle, The Red Funeral, The Summer Funeral
James quoted 82 / 100
Other albums by Sigh that we have reviewed:
Sigh - Heir to Despair reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Sigh - Graveward reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
Sigh - In Somniphobia reviewed by Goat and quoted 93 / 100
Sigh - Ghastly Funeral Theatre reviewed by Crash and quoted no quote
Sigh - Infidel Art reviewed by James and quoted 90 / 100
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