Sometime, the universe drops something you didn’t even know you needed right into your lap. Take for example Graveward, the newest album from groundbreaking Japanese extreme metal masters Sigh. In my dark heart of hearts did I know that my soul cried out for an album of screeching avant-garde black metal tinged with touches of Fabio Frizzi? The answer is obviously no (as that’s how these rhetorical question type things work) but if you’re anything like me dear reader your heart yearns silently for this as well.
To put it simply: Graveward is what would happen if Lucio Fulci decided to score The Gates of Hell with black metal. Throughout, via keyboard flourishes and guitar lines that wouldn’t sound out of place in Suspiria or a dozen other giallo, the album recalls the horrifying and surrealistic nature of the legendary Italian directors work. If a lesser band attempted this, I can’t say for certain that they wouldn’t have ended up with embarrassing mess but in the masterful hands of Sigh a true melding of the two worlds is achieved.
Sigh pull no punches right out of the gate, hitting the listener with the predictably weird “Kaedit Nos Pestis”(Latin for “The Plague Falls Upon Us”). Vocals alternating between demonic growls that are to be expected of a band with black metal origins and what I can only describe as soaring clean vocals that almost beg for a punk style sing-along, “Kaedit Nos Pestis” doesn’t let the listener gain a foothold until near the end of the song with one of the aforementioned Frizzi breaks that place you right in the midst of a scene from Zombi 2.
Following in the opening tracks footsteps, title track “Graveward” and “The Tombfiller” both hold the listeners hand as they descend into the horror soundtrack inspired hell that has been constructed by Sigh on his album. “The Forlorn”, based on what I can pull out of the other-worldly screeches and shrieks, is about a spirit that does not yet believe it is dead and is doing everything in it’s power to be heard by the living. The mental image conjured up by the banshee peal, of a spirit who’s tether to this plane of existence is slowly evaporating before their eyes as they fight the be heard, is one of the most striking elements on the album and the one I find calling me back above all others.
On the back half of the album “The Casketburner” makes the biggest impression, mostly due to the prominent saxophone (accompanied by some piano) that stands toe-to-toe with the guitars, trading licks in between wailing vocals about burning caskets and other surrealistic Fulci fodder. For all the praise I’ve heaped on Graveward, the parts of this album that make it stand out from the black legion of metal bands are also what will make it such a trying listen for many. Much like Walk Through Exits Only from Phil Anselmo and the Illegals in 2013 or pretty much everything Deathspell Omega have put out since inception, not every song clicks the first time and I found that I only really started to understand and fully appreciate what was being presented here on the third listen onward. Some people don’t want to invest that kind of time if an album doesn’t grab them right away but for those that do they will discover an album with more depth than most of its contemporaries.
I expect this album to get hated on because it strays so vastly from the template that the “trve” expect to be used by any band that remotely flies the black metal flag, but the grim legions are wrong. This album is a must listen and I fully expect it to show up on plenty of “Best of the year” lists that start circulating in December. Don’t miss out; grab Graveward in one of its myriad formats and get lost in Italian horror tinged black metal.
-find Scotty filling tombs and burning caskets on Twitter