Sigh // In Somniphobia
Rating: 5.0/5.0 — There will be double vinyl. And you will own it.
Label: Candlelight Records
Websites: sighjapan.com | facebook.com
Release Dates: EU: 2012.03.12 | US: 03.13.2012

Sigh - In Somniphobia

Bands really get the shit end of the stick sometimes from their fans, and one of the major offenders is the concept of change. On the one hand, a band is never supposed to change their sound. Their fans will freeeeak out and everyone will call what they do a big pile of shit (how about that last Drudkh album, went from darling of the scene to whipping boy in the matter of a day). On the other hand, others will hear a record from a band that’s functionally the same and say something cocky like “Is Cannibal Corpse or Slayer even remotely relevant anymore?” [Oh wait, that was me and everyone got mad. — AMGSigh is one of those bands that I think threads that needle perfectly—offering up records every couple of years that change their sound, while keeping the intangible core in place. In Somniphobia is really no exception to this rule—and it triumphantly continues the band’s current success streak.

Particularly Sigh‘s last couple records, Hangman’s Hymn and Scenes from Hell, have been orchestral black metal with a distinctly neo-Baroque or Viennese Classical kind of melodic approach, but mostly the writing was just fast and slightly raw. Scenes from Hell had a weirder, and more foreign kind of production due to its uses of a real orchestra and it had a nice claustrophobic sound to it. What’s weird is that when I put on In Somniphobia, I didn’t think it sounded that much different from Scenes from Hell. But then after a time I started to re-evaluate that, as In Somniphobia FELT like Scenes from Hell (as in, it was obviously the same band and the x factor was still there), but musically it’s a very different beast. While the opening two tracks and closing two tracks are both “straight metal” tracks, only “Purgatorium” and “Fall to Thrall” would have belonged on Scenes from Hell, for example. While “Equale” and “The Transfiguration Fear” both have more of a NWoBHM meets 1960s rock feel. And, like Hail Spirit Noir before them, it works tremendously well. These songs are catchy, fun and awesome. I particularly love Dr. Mikannibal’s slightly harsh vocals and how they’re used in the background.

Sigh 2012The middle part of the album is probably the part of the record we could call In Somniphobia. It’s 42 minutes long by itself and could easily have passed for its own very, very good record. Here, the weirdness is cranked up another notch and the music separates itself from the band’s earlier material a lot more. From the opening strains of “Somniphobia” which brings in what sounds like a haunting, distinctly “Oriental” (for lack of a better adjective) viola [Edit: It’s an Indian instrument called a Sarangi, the sound awesome], to the late Arcturus-like drops of electronic circus music, to the sultry tones of noir jazzmetal complete with porn sax and an imaginary woman in a red dress on a piano on the track “Amnesia,” Sigh sounds like a band that is trying to push at the boundaries of what is OK to do within metal and frankly, to keep themselves entertained. But, as Mirai Kawashima (who I’m pretty sure mans the band’s Twitter account) says “[W]e live in [the] 21st century. In Somniphobia isn’t avant-garde enough to scare people…” But that doesn’t mean that it’s not going to impress, though.

And impress it does, every song on this album is amazing. I am particularly fond of the the moments of 60s rock and the idiosyncratic performances, like having clapping and organ in a black metal song. But a lot of this stuff is just Sigh doing what they’ve always done well: good orchestral arrangements and smartly constructed melodies that take the listener in and really grip him. The 9 and a half minute conclusion to the In Somniphobia section of the record demonstrates this perfectly, building up and reaching a climax around 6 minutes into the song. Then, against all better songwriting judgement, they just riff on this build-up and it sticks. The use of accordion and chanting makes both the aforementioned track and “Far Beneath the In-Between” sloping examples that recall ArcturusLa Masquerade Infernale, while having a feel all its own. And so on. And so forth.

Hell, even at over an hour long, this victim of Reign in Blood syndrome cannot pull himself away from listening to this magnificent work. I’ve had this album since January and it has never left my playlist. I’ve listened to Sigh more than any other band this year and I haven’t liked a record this much since Orphaned Land‘s ORwarriOR. Sure, these are very different records with very different target audiences and ideas, but what they both share in common is that this Angry Metal Guy can’t. Stop. Listening. Oh, and isn’t the artwork fucking amazing? There is nothing wrong here at all. This isn’t just an album you should own, this is an album you should own on vinyl.

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  • OzanCan

    Record of the month for March 2012

    PERIOD!!! m/

  • Erik Johansson

    Really want to like Sigh’s newer stuff, but I haven’t been able to get into anything after Infidel Art, one of my all-time favourite albums. Maybe this one will win me over again?

  • ZacP

    This is a great year

  • SuperBakaKing

    Holy was. I was just blown away by the track Amnesia. Reminds me of The World/Inferno Friendship Society gone black metal. Makes me want to re-listen to Ishahn’s After album. The saxophone Brings a smile to my face, and that is a rare feat for black metal, which usually makes me contemplative. It is a simple urge: I want this.

  • Kyle McDonald

    I definitely appreciate it for it’s originality, but am finding that i don’t like it as much as Dodecahedron’s new self-titled.  I would say that I like the first and last tracks however, which return to more orthodox black metal

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gustavo-Aquino/100000553856211 Gustavo Aquino

    Hey AMG,

    Thank you for this post, I had never heard of these guys before, and now I’m pretty much blown away by their music and their approach to Progressive / Black metal. It’s original, different, beautiful, addictive and haunting. Really impressive!

    Also, I’ve seen some videos of them on youtube, and turns out they have a very hot chick on the bank who pretty muchs owns the sax. 

    • ZacP

       She also owns a PhD in physics!

      • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

        Does she? She’s the perfect woman! Crazy smart, crazy talented and crazy hot.

  • Kalsten

    I am trying to find anything about this guys to listen to, but the only song they have on the Candlelight website is a musical passage with a talking voice over, so nothing that is black metal or similar on it. They seem not to have any myspace or anything, so, how do you guys have listen to it (i am refering to the people on the comments, not to AMG).

    • http://metalbandcamp.com MaxR

      Hey Kalsten, In Somniphobia, is now available on the Candlelight Records Bandcamp. I added it to Metal Bandcamp here: http://metalbandcamp.com/2012/03/sigh-in-somniphobia.html
      Their previous album, Scenes From Hell, is also on Bandcamp: http://sigh.bandcamp.com/album/scenes-from-hell
      @AMG: Great review. As usual.

      • Kalsten

        Thank you very much :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=654633369 Ian Salsbury

    Kalsten – this album has been available to buy for a couple of weeks now, that’s how I heard it! One of my favourite bands, pre-ordered it a while back.  They have facebook and twitter pages which are kept up to date.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000723526236 Cameron English

    Wow, this is another gem I’m sure glad you found. Great album!

  • http://twitter.com/hkkhell Hell³

    Wow, just hearing and this review doesn’t lie. Quite early in the year but surely it will be a strong contender for best album of 2012.

    Also, how does it feel to write about something other than Death Metal? (sorry couldn’t resist ;) 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001604760522 Erik Levitsky

    Good music, awful production IMO  I can’t get past the annoying hi-hat

  • GonzO Rodrigue

    When you hand out 5.0s, you REALLY MEAN IT.

    What an amazing, *amazing* record.  What would I do without this site.

  • Zadion

    Mother of ASS! I finally got around to listening to this, and fuck, this is amazing. I’m checking out their back-catalog immediately.

    The Transfiguration Fear is SO DAMN GOOD! Fuck.

    • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

      TRUTH!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=837240051 Julio Cesar B

       Aaah, doing this kind of mindfucks is not very Japanese. That 5.0 for these guys was screaming!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gustavo-Aquino/100000553856211 Gustavo Aquino

    Hey AMG.

    Just wanted to come back and thank you for this review, AGAIN.

    I have been listening this disc almost every day for the last month. It’s freaking addictive, and I’m completely hooked to the madness of this band’s sound.

    “Lucid nightmare pt IV” must be one of the single greatest songs ever recorded.

    Cheers and hail sigh!

  • GarrettValdivia

    Damn… how did I miss this band when I was on my J-music kick a few years back D:

    They’ve evaded all the downfalls of the average J-band stereotyping. Awesome stuff!