Review Summary: Like what Mr. Bungle did on "California", Gallows Gallery does the whole genre-blending and unique song-writing thing while making it look easy and normal.
4 of 5 thought this review was well written
In the next 2 minutes, name all the East Asian metal bands that you can think off.
There's not really alot, is there? East Asians aren't really the most prolific practitioners of heavy metal in the world. Except for Japan (where the scene is mainly in Visual Kei anyway), and India, there really isn't a metal scene at all. Most of you probably would have heard of X Japan, probably the biggest metal band that Japan has ever produced. Another popular Japanese metal band is Dir en grey, and followers of Ozzfest would have heard of Taiwanese symphonic black/death metal outfit Chthonic.
However, most of you probably wouldn't have heard of the experimental thrash/black metal band Sigh. Which is a shame really, because they are probably the best band that will have ever come out of the region.
Sigh are often credited as the first Japanese band to dabble in black metal (though they have changed into a more thrashier sound), which is a rather unfair label. They are so much more than just a thrash/black metal band. They blend prog, psychedelia, choirs, heavy, VERY heavy use of keys (pianos, synths, organs, etc.), hook-filled guitar riffs, and they manage to do it all while making the songs sound so NORMAL. They don't sound contrived and pretentious as most avant garde and prog bands are mostly associated to be. Take the song "Midnight Sun" on this album as an example. Dominated by what I think is an organ that is rocking out all the time, it's filled with hooky and galloping guitar riffs, alot of keys, Mirai's strangely normal computer effected singing/chanting, some atmospheric synths, vocal call and response, with a keyboard and a guitar solo thrown in the middle. It sounds like a song any regular band would make, yet it also sounds like a song like no other. Sigh certainly could make strange look very normal, and the avant garde sound very catchy indeed.
Gallows Gallery, the group's 6th album, abandons the black metal sound altogether. There's no shrieks and screeches trademarked by black metal bands, and there's no tremelo picking to be found at all. This is also the most keys-dominated metal album I've ever heard, sometimes even burying the guitars. However, it is used in a tasteful way, where instead of of creating a dark, symphonic atmosphere as most extreme metal bands are often doing, Sigh use it to create a rather rocking and psychedelic sound that wouldn't sound sound out of place on a blues/rock'n'roll album. The guitars sound alot like Venom/Mercyful Fate, and the guitarist don't go out of the way to be as technical as they can. The guitar solos sounded just like every other heavy metal band, and they always fit in with the song, like a key in a lock. In fact, this one of the reasons why Sigh seems so normal on this album. The song-writing might be strange and unorthodox, but the instruments sounds like any other band could have created them. Mirai does well at the vocal department too, ditching the screech and the growls in favour of using his computer effected singing/chanting.
With that being said though, the song-writing on this album is absolutely top-notch. Nothing sounds contrived and out of place. They could have put anything in their songs and it would still fit into the song perfectly. The guitars, bass, drums and keys all flows so well, it's hard to imagine them without the other. Even the saxophone in "In a Drowse" sounded like it's suppose to be there, like a piece in a puzzle, making it a whole. The fact that most of the songs are under 4 minutes is pretty amazing too, since it shows that they are able combine such a unique blend into a coherant and digestable length. They also have some pretty strange parts though, but they know how to make it flow with the song, either if it's building up a climax, or giving the song a certain mood. Like in "Confession to be buried", with the intro having the clanging of church bells and spoken vocals, giving the intro a sinister feel. At around the 4 and a half minute mark, it breaks down into what can only be described as a victory theme, which is pretty funny since it came after what is basically classic heavy metal (think Motorhead and Mercyful Fate). It then goes to with something that soundslike it came from the Ten O'clock News, and ending with an alarm ringing. The next song after this "The tranquilizer song", is even stranger. It starts of with something that sounds like it comes from a funeral service ad (very uplifting), and the rest of the song is rather atmospheric, using a variety of instruments (including, or at least credited to have, an organ, Fender Rhodes, Minimoog, Theremin, sitar, tabla, glockenspiel, sampling, and a brush snare), Mirai singing/chanting sadly, and it goes back to the funeral ad music again, which creates a rather sad and foreboding atmosphere. There's also a song simply titled "-", which, after a minute and a half of silence, goes into what sounds like a hybrid of telephone rings and tubular bells. Those are the only truly weird interlude parts though, with the rest being their trademark experimental metal sound.
So, in the end, Sigh created a rather unique musical paradox; they made one of the most unique albums to have ever came out, yet it sounds as if any band could have done it, while it is apparant that no other band could have done it. I know I've been banging on about the "makes unique look ordinary" line for awhile now, but I just can't emphasize enough on what an amazing sound it gives. Like what Mr. Bungle did on "California", Gallows Gallery does the whole genre-blending and unique song-writing thing while making it look easy and normal. It makes strange music seem normal and coherant and, in the end, much more digestable for people not familiar with the whole avant garde thing. So, for people looking for avant garde music that is fairly rocking and not a burden to listen to, I recommend this album to you.
In a Drowse
I liked the review alot, it had a solid introduction which led into a punchline, and the instrumental part was well described. I would have like to know a bit more about the band though, and your writing style could do with some more techniques in general etc.
Love the album/review. It was a huge suprise that they dropped their BM sound completely on this record. I honestly can't decide whether Sigh or X Japan are my favorite band from East Asia. They're both just so freakin' awesome.
hey manage to take prog, psychedalia, jazz, a heavy, VERY heavy use of kepboards, samples, even a choir, and blend them all with hook filled metal riffs, and they manage to do it all while making the songs sound so NORMAL.
no jazz, and you forgot organs
You gotta stop saying "keyboard dominated". It's a mellotron and an organ.
It starts of with something that sounds like it comes from a funeral service ad, and the rest of the song is rather atmospheric, using only a keyboard, with Mirai singing/chanting sadly, and it goes back to the funeral ad music again.
Tranquilizer song actually uses, and I quote: Subharmonic Singing, Organ, Fender Rhodes, Minimoog, Theremin, Sitar, Tabla, Glockenspiel, Sampling, Brush Snare.
I can't vote, too much false information and some awkward sentences. This Message Edited On 06.01.07
arrgh, i knew it. i just can't be sure if it's a synthenizer or a MIDI.
really? they might be avant garde, but the guitars are sound thrash(or at least NWOBHM) and they've always been tagged as black metal in their earlier sound.
their guitars are straight out of the Venom/Mercyful Fate era so I dont know where you get NWOBHM from. And their first release is their only black metal one, so no, their earlier albumS are not tagged as black metal and if they are it's false.
Also, avant-garde isnt a genre. That very notion goes against the idea.
nwobhm because they sound like a thrashier iron maiden. i was trying to cover all bases btw. after all, as you said, they're early sound was black metal. i don't have their early discog, so i couldn't be too sure about it.
plus avant-garde is just a pigeonhole genre for bands whose sound can't be pigeonholed. much more easier to describe the sound. kind of ironic in a way.This Message Edited On 06.01.07
Better but there are still some awkward sentences.
They manage to take prog, psychedalia, a heavy, VERY heavy use of keys (organs, synthenizers, piano, etc.), samples, even a choir, and blend them all with hook filled metal riffs, and they manage to do it all while making the songs sound so NORMAL.
You could just say:
They manage to blend progressive and psychedelic rock with hook filled metal using everything from organs, synthesizers, piano all the way to choirs and sampling.
I dont know, something like that.This Message Edited On 06.01.07