Origins of eastern darkness

SIGH: Eastern Darkness

Release year: 2022
Label: Peaceville

Sigh from Japan are one of the original weirdos of black metal, who pretty much from the onset went left-field in their expression. Personally, I’ve mostly listened to their second album Infidel Art (1995), which is a beautiful and unique piece of second wave black metal. Convention was a word the Japanese trio shied from already then, and considering the avangarde direction their career has taken since, I guess they’ve never embraced it.

Eastern Darkness compiles together on two discs various early releases: demos, splits, compilation tracks and the live minialbum To Hell And Back: Sigh’s Tribute To Venom (1995), thus providing an interesting insight into the formative years and influences of Sigh. Though sometimes the sound is crude, and the musicianship too, it’s an interesting ride.

Kicking off where it began, the compilation starts with Desolation, Sigh’s very first demo from 1990. The sound is a mush, and though stylistically this is more akin to brutal and fast thrash metal with perhaps some hints of death metal, the introduction of weird keyboard sections firmly places Sigh aside from most of their contemporaries. The inklings of things to come can be found here.

Most of the first disc is occupied by the two demos and first 7″ EP: Desolation followed by Tragedies (1990) and Requiem For Fools (1992). They showcase a constant, although perhaps not always entirely focused path forward into an ever more individual, unique form of expression. Whilst Tragedies is clearer in sound than Desolation, it’s on Requiem For Fools that Sigh truly start to find their own identity. Elements of first wave black metal, Japanese weirdness and influences by second wave contemporaries mesh into an embryonic but still recognizable shape.

Speaking of first wave black metal, Sigh have never kept their love for Venom a secret, and large parts of the second disc are dedicated to Venom covers. The aforementioned To Hell And Back consists, of course, entirely of Venom covers in raw live recordings with decent sound; Sigh don’t stray too far from Venom’s style with the exception of Sigh’s shrieking shout. However, I must admit I much prefer the studio versions from the “Rare recordings” section. The same section features a highly impressive rendition of Mayhem’s Carnage. Much like Carpathian Forest did to Ghoul, I wonder if Sigh don’t give the ultimate studio version of this track here. At any rate, it’s a great cover.

One of the highlights of the compilation is a compilation version of The Zombie Terror (album version on the already mentioned Infidel Art) – a rawer, less excentric version, which still sounds quite impressive. Then there’s The Shadowking among the rare recordings, which is one of the more “out there” tracks on the album. The discordant piano intro as well as the organ and keyboard arrangements give the whole a decidedly psychedelic feel.

Safe to say, Eastern Darkness isn’t for everyone; I mean, it’s a demo compilation. You really do need to be a Sigh aficionado to get full value for money from this compilation. For the rest of us, embryonic recordings of various sound quality and a whole lof of Venom covers – many appearing in both live and studio versions – might be a bit much.

Eastern Darkness is a nice compilation with its share of peaks. But also a fair share of material mostly of interest to die-hards. Approach it with that mindset.

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