Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sigh of relief














BB King Blues Club will most likely never *not* be an exceedingly weird place to see a metal show. But after a few years--I've seen Necrophagist, Enslaved and Morbid Angel twice--of going there, I'm starting to get used to it. For one, thing, it's hard to beat the combination of extreme metal and extreme punctuality (I'm looking at you, Marty DiBergi). Last night's Sigh show started precisely when the booker told me it would, at 9:30, and it ended not more than 45 minutes later. Some would say, "Pretty weak for a headlining band," but I felt totally satisfied.

There's always something a little comical about watching a band take to BB's tiny stage. I'm sure many of these acts play much larger and more roomy venues in other cities, with much higher stages. The low ceilings at BB's, the prominent club logo on the back wall, the booths, the coat check, everything is a direct affront to seeming intimidating and/or badass. But few bands that play there really seem to care. Sigh, for one, hasn't toured the states in a few years, and they just seemed happy to be back. The crowd was small, but very devoted.

As you might be able to tell from the pic above, Sigh thrives on theatricality. Onstage the band comes across as one part no-nonsense working metal band--namely guitarist Shinichi Ishikawa, shredding heavily in a Possessed shirt at stage right but totally outside the spotlight; bassist Satoshi Fujinami, clad in an old-school jean jacket with tons of metal patches; and drummer Junichi Harashima, longhaired yet modest in spectacles and playing a very classy and nonmetal Pearl single-bass-drum kit--and one part over-the-top campfest.

Vocalist-keyboardist Mirai Kawashima (see previous post for an interview)--second from left above--and new vocalist-saxist Mikannibal--far left--make an awesome team onstage. They came off like some sort of sadistic Satanic revival preachers, with Mirai in a frilly all-black corset and tails and Mikannibal in, well, fetish gear (she came out in a tight dress, which she promptly tore off as the first song--"Introitus" from '07's Hangman's Hymn--raged forth). The great thing about the two is how well their vocals complemented one another: Sigh's records make heavy use of panning and multitracking on Mirai's voice, making it seem like the shrieks are exploding on all sides of you, and live, Mirai and Mikannibal traded lines in rapid succession to approximate this effect. The awesome thing is that he actually handled the high screams while she took on the deep guttural growls. Her voice was absolutely demonic at times, and it was really surreal to watch her prancing around like an exotic dancer and even beaming at the crowd at times in between beastlike bellows. (You couldn't hear her sax at all during the set, but when she was testing her levels in between songs, she blew some pretty righteous bebop-sounding stuff.)

Both frontpeople had this awesome way of punctuating their lines with accusatory finger stabs at the audience, too, as though damning everyone in the place to Hell. (I was reminded of this awesome interview in which Mirai states, simply, "Long story short, I just want all the people to die... I hate 99.9% of people on this earth. I'm not pretending a misanthropist, I mean it. I just want them to burn in hell.")

Despite that sentiment, Mirai was very gracious at the show, thanking everyone at the show and offering assurances to the diehards such as "Don't worry, we're going to play a lot of old stuff tonight." The set offered a pretty good mix, including "Inked in Blood" and "Me-Devil" (MP3 in previous post) from Hangman's Hymn, plus the awesome "Shingontachikawa" from Ghastly Funeral Theatre (also hearable in previous post), the title track from Hail Horror Hail and a few I didn't recognize. The encore was a speedy, raunchy version of Venom's "Black Metal," from the band's latest record, a full-on Venom tribute. Mikannibal was nowhere to be seen during this one, but right at the end she strode out, poured some unidentified liquid in her mouth, raised a torch and blew a big fireball out into the crowd. Pretty intense for a Tuesday night in Times Square.

*****

And quickly: Thanks much to the good dudes of Aa for inviting me to play w/ them at the Stone last night. Am always happy to be a part of that continually evolving endeavor, and I had an awesome time.

And very quickly: Don't sleep on the memoir excerpt from Alejandro Jodorowsky in the latest issue of Arthur. It's an incredibly creepy and intense account of big-time soul-searching and aesthetic-identity formation, with a heavy-duty Surrealist bent. Download the PDF of the issue here and skip to page 15.

And very, very quickly, I don't want to encourage any bad behavior, but I've garnered indescribable joy from the ALL albums available for download here and it would seem hypocritical not to invite others to do the same. Specifically I recommend the s/t remastered greatest-hits thingie and '93's Breaking Things, which I had way back in 8th grade but foolishly sold. Silly, silly me. (And man, I always yearn for that copy of Cannibal Corpse's Eaten Back to Life I hocked as well...) And if you haven't heard Allroy Saves and Allroy's Revenge, you're missing out on two of the weirdest, most awesome and most heartfelt rock albums of all time.

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