Sound: Scenes from Hell is renowned Japanese band, Sigh's 8th full length album in a career spanning 20 years. As with all previous releases by Sigh, this album continues their style of experimenting with fusing various musical influences into their brand of thrashy black metal and surprising the listener.
2007's Hangman's Hymn showcased Sigh's ability to come out with high quality music, in terms of songwriting, instrumentation and production quality. Scenes from Hell feature a much more low-fi production. Also, unlike Hangman's Hymn and Gallows Gallery, this album does not feature a long host of guest musicians. This however does not mean that the quality of the songs on the album is compromised or any less fun to listen to. Instead, this sounds like a maturing of Sigh's sound in their foray into experimental/avant garde black metal.
The presence of saxophone and the additional vocals, courtesy of Dr. Mikannibal certainly adds a nice touch to Sigh's music. While Sigh mastermind Mirai provides his signature shrieks to the music, Dr. Mikannibal contrasts his style through her deep death growls, especially so in Musica in Tempora Belli (which, by the way, features a nice saxophone solo and shows that Dr. Mikannibal is real talent and not a mere white elephant!) and Vanitas, where one can hear their clearly contrasting vocal styles in action, with each vocalist belting out a line each throughout most of the songs (think a guitar battle but instead of guitars, it's 2 different vocalists).
The album also features the inclusion of a lot of symphonic influences, especially on The Summer Funeral, where the symphonic orchestration added a nice and thick atmosphere to the song. The keys at the background creates a tension and gives the listener an ominous feeling. Coupled with the somewhat emotional and soulful guitar solo by Shinichi, it made this song one of the standouts. Unlike the typical symphonic black metal bands that tend to overuse the "symphonic" elements, Sigh mixes in just the right amount, enhancing the whole listening experience instead of drowning out every other instruments in the songs. Sigh is also probably one of the few bands that can use keyboards to successfully convey the darkness of the music. One gripe about the album mix though: the guitars sound a tad too thin, while it fits into the overall sound of the album, at times it does not do justice to the solos. // 9
Lyrics: Lyrics-wise, as the album title suggests, is about the scenes from hell, depicting the horrors that go on while in hell. Whether any references to real life, it is entirely up to the listener to judge and decide. Unlike some bands that stumble with English lyrics, Sigh displays their proficiency with flowing lyrics, telling a tale that brings nightmares to the listener. // 9
Overall Impression: Overall the album features a nice mixture of fast and slow-paced songs. Mind you, the slow songs aren't boring at all. In fact, these "slow songs" conjure up eerie images in the listener's head with the surreal and creepy atmosphere provided by the backing "orchestra" and Mirai's trademark agonising shrieks.
Sigh is definitely one of the best extreme metal acts to come out of Asia. If anyone were to doubt Asia's standard of metal, this record is sure to shut you up. Scenes of Hell is definitely one of the best albums of 2010 so far.
Originally written for Heavy Metal Tribune. // 9