Review Summary: A avant-garde black metal experience akin to the greatest horror films
Up to this point, I have been almost completely unfamiliar with Sigh. I heard a couple or three songs on YouTube in the past, as many do when deciding if they should delve into a band's catalog, but never actually got around to purchasing any of their albums. The most I knew was that they are known for their avant-garde approach to black metal. Needless to say, when I popped in In Somniphobia
, I was in for quite a surprise.
I can't speak for their back catalog, but with this album, Sigh are pushing at the boundaries of what is acceptable to do in metal... and it works in every way. With each listen, all of the odd instrumental usage becomes more and more clear. The saxophone, the organs.... everything - it all builds up into a cohesive, nightmare-inducing whole. That's what comes to mind through the entire album. This could've been the soundtrack to a horror film. Not one of those cheesy horror films either, but the really screwed up ones that seem to leave a severe scar. The movies like "It."
Of the 11 tracks, the first two and last two are the only ones that can really be classified as true metal. They're all more guitar oriented, and deliver a contrast of viciousness and harmonious melodies. The third and ninth tracks are (oddly) the "opening" and "closing" tracks, which, in essence, do open and close up the very haunting and and eerie "Somniphobia" section of the album - this could actually have been released as its own album, and it would've worked tremendously well. It is in these songs that the haunting atmosphere is really built up, coming to its ultimate climax in "Amongst the Phantoms of Abandoned Tumbrils" at ~5:30 - ~6:20, which is truly a highlight of the entire album. The entire song builds up to this point, where the combination of Mirai's raspy vocals, the beautiful piano melody, intense drumming, and repeating riff peak out as some very haunting choir chanting unites with Mirai's vocals, slowly taking them over. The atmosphere it builds up can only be described as spine-chilling - it's the perfect climax to the "horror" sound that the "Somniphobia" section of the album worked so hard to build. Finally, as out of place as you'd think it'd be, the accordion brought in after the choirs really brings about a perfect ending to the song before it wanders off into some sound effect nonsense (which happens at the end of most songs on the album - it's largely pointless, but does no harm whatsoever).
The real winner of the album, however, is "The Transfiguration Fear." The riffing here is super catchy, the vocals are great, and all of those odd instruments that dominate the rest of the songs are toned down slightly to create a perfect balance with the guitar. Then, the way the guitar solo continues off the saxophone solo at 2:41.... purely amazing. The song is wrapped up perfectly with some Western-like whistling sound, and it really works. This song is actually so good that the rest of the album almost
seems weak in comparison.
Another noteworthy aspect of the album is the wonderful work by saxophonist Dr. Mikannibal. The saxophone really dominates the album (further contributing to that "horror" sound, by the way) in a way one wouldn't expect out of any metal band, but I couldn't imagine the album without it. It's smooth and sexy as hell. It is put to its best use in the song "Amnesia," yet another highlight of the album. The saxophone work combines with the piano in a way reminiscent of old nightclub music, and the entire song has a heavy jazz feel. The raspy vocals and other instrumental experimentation turn this sexy jazz metal into a twisted, eerie, macabre incarnation of madness (then again, a lot of the middle songs could be described as that).
This album is truly "avant-garde"; I haven't heard anything this experimental in a long time. I can't imagine anybody without an open mind will appreciate what this album has to offer, but for those of you who do... you're in for a real trip. The music is experimental, complex (there are a lot of progressive metal tendencies here), heavy, and - most of all - creepy. Every track is awesome, and my favorite one seems to change each time I come back to the album. In Somniphobia
is a fascinating album, and the best one I've heard this year so far. Be warned, though: this is
nightmare-inducing, especially if you read the lyrics along with it.