Sigh - In Somniphobia
Candlelight Records
Avant-Garde Metal
11 songs (1:04:39)
Release year: 2012
Sigh, Candlelight Records
Reviewed by Goat
Album of the month

Always the very definition of forward-looking black metal, Japan’s Sigh have, of late, gravitated towards a more freewheeling sound that takes in elements of everything from prog rock to classical, and ensured that they remained at the cutting edge of the underground each time. You may not always enjoy the results of their experiments - I’m controversial and prefer the fuzzy power metal stylings of Gallows Gallery to the orchestral thrash of Hangman’s Hymn - but you have to appreciate the work put in, the skill undeniable. And full-length number nine from the band is no exception…

In Somniphobia is a retro album in many ways, coated in thick layers of Mirai’s synths and almost groovy at times; opening track Purgatorium is a catchy number driven by infectious riffing and a surprisingly memorable croaky chorus. Musicianship is top-notch, especially Junichi’s drums and Shinichi’s guitar. It’s said synths that catch your attention the most, layers upon layers of psychedelic oozles that veer between Hammond-esque squalls and more carnival-esque meanders, giving the entire album a strange, fantastical atmosphere matched by that strange cover art. The variety at play is stunning; the fantastic The Transfiguration Fear follows, a dementedly catchy singalong with galloping piano, saxophone solos and percussive flourishes that really let you know that the madness has began.

And what madness! These initial tracks would be good enough, before the multi-part epic centre of the album is introduced with Opening Theme: Lucid Nightmare, The Meads of Asphodel’s Metatron popping up as a guest narrator atop orchestral bells and whistles (quite literally by the end). The seven-minute Somniphobia’s 70s rock is a graceful beginning, Eastern horns atop saxophoned melancholy before taking an almost doomy turn, vocal duelling atop slow riffing that often drops completely and allows the electronic backdrop to reign unalloyed. The Meads of Asphodel’s experiments in psychedelic tripping are a good comparison; although Sigh have none of the British band’s punkiness here, the willingness to try literally anything seems to have come along for the ride. You think you’ve heard everything Sigh have to offer, wait until you get to L'excommunication à Minuit, which is something like The Mars Volta crossed with Mr Bungle, a black metal vocalist snarling threats at the listener atop the funky morass. Ending in ominous mad laughter and ambience, it’s certainly enough to set the bar even higher for Sigh.

You’ll come for the catchy bits, and stay for the psychedelia, the band never content to let you enjoy the music when they could be screwing with your mind as well. The groovy stomp of Amnesia is buried beneath a torrent of oddness, from vocal exhortations to electronic squelching noises to lounge-jazz interludes, complete with glorious guitar solo and trip-hop outro. Dodheimsgard’s persistent shade is reanimated for the haunted circus that is Far Beneath The In-Between, whilst those looking for the black metal will find elements in the nine-minute Amongst the Phantoms of Abandoned Tumbrils, which again features Metatron and kicks the band’s work to date up into a sandstorm of blast beat-backed insanity, that doesn’t forget to take time out for accordion and oddly militaristic male choirs… Even closing duo Fall To The Thrall (the heaviest thing on the album, a thrashy prog-metal stomp) and Equale (an eight-minute jazzed-up hard rocker on crack) are stunning, Sigh somehow taking the various elements thrown in and constructing coherent, enjoyable pieces of music out of them.

A weird, weird, weird album, then, but one that has utterly blown my mind and made me grin like a loon, many, many times since that first listen. It’s a long listen at over an hour, but a worthwhile one. 2011 didn’t contain any real musical surprises for me - on In Somniphobia’s evidence alone, 2012 will be very different…

Killing Songs :
Purgatorium, The Transfiguration Fear, Somniphonia, L'excommunication à Minuit, Amnesia, Amongst the Phantoms of Abandoned Tumbrils, Fall To The Thrall, Equale
Goat quoted 93 / 100
Other albums by Sigh that we have reviewed:
Sigh - Graveward reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
Sigh - Ghastly Funeral Theatre reviewed by Crash and quoted no quote
Sigh - Scenes From Hell reviewed by James and quoted 82 / 100
Sigh - Infidel Art reviewed by James and quoted 90 / 100
Sigh - Scorn Defeat reviewed by James and quoted 98 / 100
To see all 9 reviews click here
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