By Monk and The Dark Queen

It may have taken them three long decades to bring their distinctive brand of eastern darkness to the normally Emerald Isle, but there can be no doubt that Japanese avant-garde extremists Sigh more than adequately rewarded the patience of their legions of fans in this small corner of the Überverse with one of the most intense shows it has been my pleasure to witness in recent years.

Sigh in Belfast November 2023

While one of the oldest pubs in Belfast city centre, The Deer’s Head is also Belfast’s newest bespoke venue, its upstairs totally revamped and energized in the post-Covid era to provide an excellent performance space, with a spacious stage taking up one end of the room, which is basically one long rectangle, with the bar at the other end of the room. A beautifully designed little space indeed.

A distinctive feature of this evening is the audience demographic: not a single nu-generation whirlwind dancer in sight. No, instead, it’s so good to see so many old-school death heads of our generation absolutely losing their shit – and unashamedly so – something not the least evinced by the amount of T-shirts being bought by the virtual armful…

Laster in Belfast November 2023

“What the fuck are they?” DQ asks me about halfway through Laster‘s opening set… and it’s a very good question. With the Dutch trio dressed like a cross between a low-budget Uncle Fester and a post-modern Nosferatu, the answer is something akin to an electro-punk industrialist re-interpretation of the latter, producing a dystopian BM/EDM-infused post-punk soundscape delivered with a brooding dynamism which captures the largely attentive crowd.

Their frontman, at least we assume it is he, sums it all up when he introduces one of their songs – they’re singing in Dutch, so fuck me if, even after lived in their native Utrecht for some time, I know what’s going on lyrically – as being “a little bit weird”.  The understatement of the week, mein herr: weird it definitely was…

The big question of the night inevitably was would it have been worth the 30 year wait to finally see the Japanese masters of avant-garde Eastern extremism gracing a stage right here in ÜR’s back yard? Well, as intimated in my opening remarks, it truly was as the trio delivered a masterclass in dark shamanic death metal, atavistic, hypnotic and visceral at the most basic, and most elevating, of levels.

Sigh in Belfast November 2023

Their combination of Nordic, Oriental and tribal rhythms mix with blasting beatdowns, while the copious use of backing tracks to add the recorded layers of atmospherics, while potentially disconcerting and distracting but a necessary evil in the circumstances of a live delivery of what is sometimes very complex studio material, help to fill out the sound and make it sound absolutely HUGE in this compact space.

What Sigh deliver is as much a ritual as a performance, an art that bands like Sleep Token have studied with close intent: but these are the original masters of that craft, as they prove through a beautifully and beatifically sculpted set which sees them showcase every dimension and era of their career.

Sigh in Belfast November 2023

Let’s hope they don’t leave it another 30 years to return…

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