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Scorn Defeat (1993)

Sigh was formed in 1990, being significant as one of the very first black metal bands in Japan, consisting of Mirai Kawashima, Shinichi Ishikawa and Satoshi Fujinami. Further proving his interest in exotic things, Mayhem's Euronymous signed them to his label, Deathlike Silence Productions. Their debut full-length, Scorn Defeat, would only be released after his death, in late 1993. What one will find here is an album that gives a different perspective on the old school black metal that had influenced countless others, creating something unique.

Side Revenge begins with "A Victory of Dakini". This begins with a dark, mid-paced riff and vocals that are similar to some others that I've heard, yet possessing a feeling all their own. One can tell this is the strained rasp of a naturally thin and distant voice. As the song progresses, the tempo slows even more, joined by an acoustic guitar, before returning to the main riff. There is some traces of desperation in the vocals, though the sound is dominated by something darker. Things slow even more, by the middle, with some clean background vocals and a slight touch of piano to accentuate the mood. Then, strangely, it goes into a wild lead solo befitting a Motorhead song, before abruptly going silent for a few moments. Another dark and heavy doom riff then erupts from the quiet to annihilate you. This is joined by a depressive organ melody and some miserable clean vocals in the background. It possesses an epic feeling, as a black and occult feeling is created, producing a wealth of human suffering.

This is followed by "The Knell", which opens with some morbid harpsichord that continues the feeling from the previous song, for a few moments. Suddenly, some violent death metal riffs blast from the calm. The vocals are much more intense, almost reminding one of Mille of Kreator. The death riff alternates with some more typical thrash riffing, with a nice lead solo thrown in. Never a band to be labeled one way or the other, the song then descends into darker territory, as a melancholic doom riff slowly rolls through, like a tank over the bones of small children, dragging your spirit to abysmal depths. The keyboards are used to great effect, not being overdone at all, and Mirai adds some morbid vocal touches as well. In no time, the intensity returns and bears a sound reminiscent of something from Fearless Undead Machines, by Deceased (which came a few years later). The song ends with some fit of insanity, casting you toward utter oblivion.

The next song is, quite possibly, my favourite one on here. The main riff of "At My Funeral" is very similar to something on Bethlehem's Dark Metal, released the following year. For this song, they utilize some slower form of alternate picking for the miserable and bleak main riff. Some keyboards and random piano sounds are added, really building this dark and epic feeling.

"The funeral is for me, it is meant to be"

There is something absolutely haunting and otherworldly about this song, as it creeps into your brain and makes a home there, amongst the tragic memories, forgotten dreams and the coming madness. There is a brief lead solo that gives way to a slower section, all designed to build the tension. Some clean vocals then join the harsh ones, having a sound hard to describe, but almost similar to some Norwegian bands like Isengard or Enslaved (though before either had really done much of anything). There is a conviction found in the vocals that one can truly feel, deep in your bones.

"My funeral will end, and my soul will descend
Into Hades to burn, to scorn defeat"

This morbid and deathlike feeling is maintained on the next song, "Gundali". The lyrics are occult in nature, and the funeral organ carries the feeling of a black ritual. The drums are pounding out a primal beat, taking the listener back to times forgotten. Dark is the night and the torches surround the fallen body, as the blood is drained and the grave is prepared. This cursed journey is over. Serpents slither from your eye sockets and blood appears so black as it runs free. The final breaths escape your body and all life fades, as does the sound of the organ. It is replaced by a somber piano that has some strange beauty as your spirit is now released from its prison of flesh. It goes beyond the coffin lid and rises through the layers of dirt, ascending into the night sky and then dissipating in the moonlight. From nothingness you were born and into nothingness you shall return...

Side Violence starts with "Ready For the Final War". A death riff slowly fades in from the silence, before shifting to a slow and majestic doom riff. This creates some epic atmosphere, and also shows that the lasting influence of Black Sabbath will always be present in whatever form metal takes. The song speeds up for a moment, before slowing down and being joined by some keyboards and hateful vocals. The song then shifts, once more, to an old school Hellhammer / Celtic Frost riff. Of course, Mirai sounds infinitely more evil than Tom Warrior could ever have hoped to sound, even in his worst nightmares. This, somewhat, 'catchy' part alternates with the previous doom riff for a while, before the earlier death riff comes back to build the intensity of the song. There's some memorable harmonies to be found later on, joined by a bit of piano. Sigh truly seems to defy categorization. The final moments then take on a darker tone, with only keyboards, yet the feeling then becomes somewhat optimistic. Visions fill your head, of a final war to end all of humanity, leaving so-called civilization in ruins. This human race must die, forever.

"Disorder and chaos, let all the light disappear"

"Weakness Within" has some strange feeling of moving fast through the air, hunting some form of prey, then the ephemeral sections accompanied by the piano are much more peaceful, and one can almost envision descending a bit to pass through the depths of the forest. Strange mental images are created by this song, indeed. Another, more mid-paced riff, then carries the song to its conclusion, as the vocals take on a more misanthropic sound.

The album comes to a conclusion with "Taste Defeat", a song that opens with a heavy doom riff, reminiscent of Trouble or Candlemass. In this case, there is no depressive feeling being created, only that of impending doom. All gets quiet for a moment, with a brief section of clean vocals and a touch of acoustic guitar, before another doom riff crushes your skull. This alternates with shorter parts with faster riffs, before transitioning to something altogether more epic. Later in the song, there are clean vocals that are reminiscent of Trouble or Pentagram. This is an album full of surprises, surely. A menacing piano then sweeps through, sending a chill over your heart, before fading into nothingness.

"Death means nothing, life means less
The key to go beyond it which I possess"

Scorn Defeat is a fascinating take on the old school sounds of black, thrash and doom metal. Here, all of these influences are combined to create something unique and memorable. The sound is very dynamic, and the production has kind of an old sound yet truly suits this in all ways. As the only culture outside of Europe that I have any respect for, it's no shock that the Japanese have managed to make something this remarkable. This comes highly recommended.
(27 Nov. 2009)

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