In Somniphobia

Written by: EW on 30/03/2012 10:10:23

You hardly need know beforehand yet a mere glance of the cover of "In Somniphobia" should be enough to convince of the musical insanity that lies in store for anyone approaching the latest and most increasingly avant-garde opus from Japanese individualists Sigh. Steeped in black metal history, the last few years have instead witnessed the band dive headlong into a maelstrom of theatrical keyboard accompaniments, jazzy rhythmic patterns and all manner else of musical wanderings with scant regard from where they've come. Through "Gallows Gallery", "Hangman's Hymn" and "Scenes from Hell" there was enough to declare Sigh an ex-black metal band but that declaration has now been rubber-stamped and carved in stone, if ever such a thing could actually be done.

Even now after a handful of listens over the past couple of months have I yet to get my head around probably around 90% of what is going on here - that, dear reader, is for you to do in the end - but I do know with each progressive listen it is starting to make sense that little bit more. The rasping vocals of band mastermind Mirai Kawashima and more recent addition saxophone-wielding Dr. Mikannibal and the occasional blastbeat are the only lasting remnants of extreme metal, as opener "Purgatorium" displays through its jazz-tinged verses and serene violin leads that no cessation will be made to common musical trends. That so much happens in these opening five minutes and yet there is 60 more to go is frankly daunting but the rhythmic drumming which opens the catchy and leading track "The Transfiguration Fear" help ease this process in; this is joyful, as seen in the collective hand-clapping and whistling (there's some of that here too) sense, or perhaps the subsequent reggae-tinged keys/saxophone/guitar soloing.

With the merging of mellotron, ethnic instrumentation and synth backing the influence of Brits The Meads of Asphodel (an equally loony act in their own right and direct contributor to a number of songs here) and Norwegian-black-metallers-gone-avant-garde Ulver becomes apparent in "In Somniphobia", "Amnesia" and "Amongst the Phantoms of Abandoned Tumbrils" in highly engaging, if mind-boggling ways. "Far Beneath The In-Between" smoothly emerges as a soundtrack to a bizarre circus world of the ethereal and macabre, "Fall to the Thrall" is more like the Sigh of their middle-era where traditional metal instrumentation plays a larger role before "Equale" closes out in pure prog-jazz fashion with mellotron leads battling against piano for winner of 'biggest defining factor' in this stunning closing song.

I have reviewed a number of records, and read the reviews of many more from my colleagues on here, of bands who try to incorporate numerous styles into one unit, with the result often being spectacular failure. Through a production job which places enough weight on the traditional metal in the background yet emphasises the plethora of avant-garde virtuosity in the limelight, Sigh have not only increased the bar on quantity of disparate styles being accepted as an influence, but also made a stronger attempt than but all others at actually pulling it off. Don't ask me how, but sometimes the ears hear things the brain cannot compute. There will be no more eclectic release this year for "In Somniphobia" is a record beyond the normal and bears presents for everyone.

Download: Purgatorium, The Transfiguration Fear, Far Beneath The In-Between, Equale
For The Fans Of: The Meads of Asphodel, Ulver, Hollenthon, Devin Townsend
Listen: Myspace

Release date 12.03.2012
Candlelight Records

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