02. The Transfiguration Fear Lucid Nightmares
03. Lucid Nightmare
05. L’excommunication a Minuit
07. Far Beneath the In-Between
08. Amongst the Phantoms of Abandoned Tumbrils
09. Fall to the Thrall
10. Equale (a. Prelude, b. Fugato, c. Coda)
You know, I usually am a big fan of writing a traditional review that is very descriptive, but this album defies characterization. If you’ve ever listened to Sigh before, you’ll know that this album will be batshit crazy like their previous work, bu let’s take a step back and start over; What is In Somniphobia? Who are Sigh? Well, they’re a Japanese avant-garde black metal band. They’re completely insane, blending power metal-esque cheese, raw black metal, saxophones, video game music, and middle eastern influences to name a few. Sounds like a trainwreck, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. There’s a reason Sigh are known as one of the most avant-garde bands — it’s because they’re great. In Somniphobia is their ninth studio album since their inception in 1990 (they’re one of Japan’s first black metal bands!) and they’re crazier than ever.
Yes, this album is so fucked up — in a good way. Right from the beginning, it starts off with a solo borrowing from 80’s shred and videogames. ‘Purgatorium’ is very catchy, and reminiscent of their previous work on Hangman’s Hymn. It’s very cheesy and tongue in cheek, but Sigh do it without messing it up. This song sounds like a black metal soundtrack to a NES game, but in the best way imaginable, if that makes sense (it doesn’t, really). The album slowly descends deeper and deeper into madness, with the following track taking the same vibe, but adding tribal percussion, a saxophone solo and a chorus of vocals with a wild western whistle section. I have to admit, while the production is black metal (read: a bit lacking and raw), everything is still clearly audible. I would have preferred a fuller sound, but it works.
Tracks like ‘Lucid Nightmare,’ ‘Somniphobia.‘ and ‘Amnesia‘ are exactly as insane as their names sound. This album is quite experimental and just straight up mental. There are orchestras, narration, jazz, middle eastern wind instruments, xylophones, cheesy keyboards, electronica… You know, this sounds like a mess when I’m writing about it, but it just works. It speaks to the craziness and skill of Sigh, putting together all these elements into a metal framework and still making it sound good. If you like Mr. Bungle, you’ll like this too. You just need to keep an open mind. Let me warn you, this album isn’t for someone who wants a crushing metal experience; this is music to be admired and be amused by. Unlike most avant-garde artists, Sigh don’t really have a self-image issue. They’re not trying to establish some sort of cred, as this is just natural to them, which is exactly why they can make all these outlandish ideas come together and make it sound cheesy and awesome at the same time.
I don’t have a better word for it, but at times the albums sounds like what I’d call “B-metal”, as in “B-movies”. There’s the same self-deprecating disregard for convention here. How else do you transition from film noir music to black metal rasps in the same song? I have to admit, this is Sigh’s least metal album so far, but because of that, it’s their most interesting. They’ve just thrown the handbook out of the window. Now, by this point you’re either shaking your head in disgust or your mouth is watering with excitement. Rarely do I have a hard time explaining an album in writing, but in this case I’ll throw the towel. This album is more than the sum of its parts, and the parts themselves are a huge heap to begin with, so it’s just something to be experienced. The album is a bit long, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Every song is completely different and weird in its own way, so the length is warranted. On the other hand, the non-stop weirdness can be fatiguing to all but the most grizzled weirdo-metal fan. But hey, this is really cool stuff. Don’t go in expecting anything. Close your eyes, sit back, relax, and have a drink or something. Be prepared to shoot it out in laughter, because Sigh will surprise you at every turn, and it will be a pleasant surprise. If you’re at least a little bit intrigued by what I’ve said so far, give this a spin. You won’t regret it. This is definitely something that must be heard at least once.
Sigh – In Somniphobia gets…