This EP marks a changing point for Sigh, a Japanese band with roots in black and doom metal and aspirations to psychedelia, orchestralia and everything in between. Here begins the play with structure and sound, musical juxtapositions and tricks of production that allowed the band to shock a listener as well as lull them into an eerie calm, despite emphatic raspy vocals and the warm, robust sound of the synths and keyboards. Ghastly Funeral Theatre really feels like a middle-ground between Sigh’s steady, atmospheric approach to songs on earlier albums, and the stylistic experiments of later songs. That means passages of extreme ferocity on guitar, synth textures and MIDI orchestrations of great complexity and atmosphere, and studio techniques that allow some really disparate sections to be joined together to the end of conveying Japanese Occultism to a listener.
Keyboardist Mirai Kawashima is switching to MIDI with this album, and here exploits the technology quite well, getting a number of distinct sounds, both orchestral and pure synth tones. Bookending instrumental tracks Intro(Soushiki) and Outro (Higeki) have listenable piano sounds, and harmonic development to boot, years ahead of their peers in compositional prowess; so does Imiuta, which adds complex orchestral layers to the piano, foreshadowing the ambition at the heart of Hangman’s Hymn. Of the two most straightforward metal tracks on the EP, Shingontachikawa has a catchy, straightforward approach to riffing and arranging, albeit one that gets progressively weirder and more textured. Note the synth-sax sound in this and Shikigami, which becomes prominent in Sigh’s compositions later until they add a session sax on Gallows Gallery, and a full-time sax player for live shows in ’07/’08 and for the future. Shikigami has an epic instrumental intro that flows into one of the heaviest Sigh riffs ever, with a trio of guitar solos that cover all ends of the metal spectrum – one digging into the bluesy Sabbath origins of metal, another utilizing overdubbing to demonstrate the orchestral power of the guitar, almost like something from Queen, and the third exploring the atonal extremes of guitar noisemaking. Doman Seman is merely an acoustic-guitar-and-flute-led growl-along describing the titular sigils, until the proceedings are interrupted by dissonant, droning synth strings with pizzicato flutterings, truly unnerving – this sweeps in an up-beat, slightly demented groove that eventually ties in the opening riff in a grand, orchestral fade-out.
The band takes advantage of the 23 minute length and delivers, pound for pound, the densest sonic experimentation of their career to date.Almost every aspect of their subsequent albums can be traced back to the ground tread on this little EP, and it’s an inspiring listen. Points recall Syd Barrett, solo and with Floyd, at his most productive, with alluring textures, discordant smacks in the face and sheer enthusiasm for a chaotic musical ambition.
1. Intro: Soushiki
3. Doman Seman
6. Outro: Higeki