Sigh - Scorn Defeat [Hammerheart Records - 2014]With Sigh’s more recent albums it’s easy to forget that they too had their beginnings in black metal’s primitive second wave. But even among the host of black metal’s progenitors Sigh was unique. Where Mayhem and Darkthrone were naturally evolving out of the likes of Bathory, Venom, and Celtic Frost, Sigh was taking liberal influence from them and then throwing in a whole host of their own experimentation that would come to define their sound. Still, even with all of this experimentation there was enough of a black metal foundation to catch the eye of Euronymous and get the band’s first album released by the coveted Deathlike Silence. Then in 2014 Scorn Defeat was re-released by Hammerheart Records along with a host of bonus material.
Unlike a lot of Sigh’s later material, Scorn Defeat is 100% rooted in black metal and based on Shinichi’s thick guitars. Like most early black metal, the album is a scattered mixture of tremolo picked thrash riffs, genuine and sinister black metal melodies, and crawling, Sabbathian doom riffs. As you would expect from a debut album, the emphasis is placed squarely on attitude and feeling rather than technicality, backed up by a crude and dirty, reverb-laden guitar tone. This is in harsh contrast to the piano used throughout the album. Almost every track features at least one piano section breaking up the harsh and oppressive black metal and is a lot more complicated than the bits other contemporary bands were using. In fact, the album’s technical apex is on “Gundali”, a spacy keyboard interlude that gives way to some of the most beautiful and accomplished piano to have ever graced black metal. On an equally impressive note are the insane solos that are sprinkled throughout the album. The screaming solo that erupts from “A Victory of Dakini” is so unexpected and immense that it obliterates everything that comes before it. Mirai’s vocals are a typical gargoyle-like croaks and rasps that compliment this style of music nicely, but are nothing special.
Along with the original material, this re-issue contains a second disk full of bonus material. Covers like Mayhem’s “Carnage” and Venom’s “Black Metal” show the band’s early take on classics. These covers were recorded early in the band’s career and feature none of the avant-garde musicality of their newer material and keep to their raw spirit. Also included are the band’s first two demos and EP, showing the band’s first faltering steps. Like all black metal demos from this era, the production in extremely rough and obscures a lot of the material. It is interesting to note, however, that Sigh was using pianos from the very beginning.
As far as re-releases go this is one of the best I’ve seen because of the inclusion of all material from Sigh’s Scorn Defeat era. I’ve always hated how bands release reissues with a couple bonus tracks only to re-release the same album with even more “bonus” material. Hammerheart hasn’t succumbed to that temptation, and offers us an affordable and extensive look at Sigh’s beginnings. While I still prefer Sigh’s more experimental and modern side, Scorn Defeat is an essential part of their discography that shows the band’s roots. If you’ve been ignoring their earlier material, look no further and sit down and let yourself be taken by the enveloping blackness of these Japanese masters. Tyler L.