SIGH is not just a band. Since inception, they have prided themselves on being explorers of the final frontier of music and have continued to create something unique from record to record. Never repeating the same thing. Never re-treading the same ground. Just constant forward motion towards new musical realms.

The band have now unleashed their twelfth full-length album Shiki unto the world and have shown even greater depth and texture to not only the composition of the music, but also the subject matter of which they discuss. We managed to catch up with lead vocalist and the band’s main creative force Mirai Kawashima to get more insight into exactly what Shiki represents. “The word Shiki has lots of different meanings in Japanese such as the time to die and the four seasons to name a couple,” he explains. “I am now 52, which is considered to be the autumn of your life, after that winter comes and of course there will be no spring after that.”
Despite the album carrying an overall darker subject matter than the last few SIGH records, the fact that the music is heavier wasn’t a conscious effort. In fact, it was something that developed naturally. “I never intended to write heavier songs for this album, it’s just the way things unfolded once I started to write,” elaborates Kawashima. “The fact that I wrote a majority of the songs on guitar this time round may have contributed to the overall tone of the album being slightly different as I have been mostly composing on piano/keyboard since Infidel Art”.
The recording of the album itself contained a few setbacks. The pandemic put a strain on some relationships within the SIGH camp and forced the hand of the remaining members to make some cut-throat decisions for the sake of the band moving forward. Along with having master drummer Mike Heller [FEAR FACTORY, RAVEN] on the album writing and recording the drum parts, the band also called in long-time member Satoshi Fujinami to play bass. However, the most intriguing decision was to bring in Frédéric Leclercq of DRAGONFORCE and KREATOR fame to help with the six string duties after their hands were forced.

“After Mike finished his parts, our own guitarist was supposed to start working, however he started acting strange. It took three-four weeks for him just to answer my email, and the guitar parts he sent to me were really bad, so I had to fire him during the recording,” concedes Kawashima. “I have known Fred for a long time. He loves Japan and we always hang out whenever he visits the country. He’s a great guitarist and knows metal inside out so it was an obvious choice to have him onboard.”
Despite the turbulent process with regards to recording the album it feels like Shiki is an album from a group that is returning to its roots, forging something new and exciting with the remnants of previous styles. Reshaping them and creating something that is as fresh as it is familiar, a balance that not many bands manage to achieve.
The artwork and lyrical theme for Shiki is taken from an old Japanese poem, which describes the scene of an old man watching the cherry blossoms being blown off of a tree by a strong spring storm. “In Japanese culture the cherry blossom is regarded as a sign of fragility as they are known to only last four-five days. The old man identifies with the cherry blossom as he has become senile and is due to die soon.” And in that brief explanation we see one of the great balancing acts of life. The idea that life is very short, but very precious and needs to be treated as such. It is to be enjoyed whilst the chance is there, or it will be wasted. On the subject of embracing the culture of the group’s homeland, it has to be noted that one of the key additions to the SIGH sound this time out has been the inclusion of more diverse instruments. Primarily those from the group’s homeland and there was a specific reason for this as explained by Kawashima. “With the artistic theme of the album being taken from a traditional poem I wanted to lean into the Japanese feeling. This is why I used a lot of the traditional Japanese instruments such as the Shakuhachi, Shinobue, Ryuteki, Sho, Taisho-goto to name a few.”
It seems that even thirty plus years in SIGH continues to grow and develop sonically. The band have managed to accrue a diehard fanbase that spreads the world over and have yet still managed to maintain their underground status. The creative vision and ability to create such a high level of expansive and far-reaching music for this amount of time is no small feat. However, with a new home with Peaceville Records it seems that there will be no slowing of momentum any time soon and with the band looking to book in as much touring as financially viable for the remainder of 2023 and beyond (airfares from Japan have risen to historic highs since the pandemic) it looks like SIGH are going to continue to broaden the minds of metal lovers the world over.
Shiki is out now via Peaceville Records.
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