I don't know what it is about Japanese metal bands, but they seem to be some of the craziest of the crazy—and the most talented. Avant-thrashers Sigh are no exception, and their latest release, 2012's delightfully titled In Somniphobia, has some of their best work yet.
From the first few seconds, you know that this is classic Sigh at their best: tons of fast, thrash metal riffage paired with their near-indescribable penchant for making music sound so...hilarious. The ridiculously over-the-top orchestration, the jocular riffs, the head-tiltingly confusing instruments, and the bright piano effects all serve to give you the distinct impression that you're listening to carnival music played at twenty times the speed with someone assaulting a carney over the PA instead of actual vocals. Trumpets, classical piano, accordion, even whistling are all mixed in with the traditional heavy metal set up, and the effect is unparalleled.
The compositions are all very good, but some of the shorter tracks can be just a bit forgettable. They tend to be more straightforward thrashers--solid, but not very creative. The real highlight of the album is the 40-minute long centrepiece “Lucid Nightmares”, which is divided up into tracks three through nine on the album. Though it's mostly just an amalgamation of shorter five to nine-minute pieces, the combined effect is astounding. Sigh's tour through nightmares and dreamspace is equally treacherous and engaging, even sounding legitimately frightening at times.
That particular song also features guest artists Metatron (The Meads of Asphodel) and Kam Lee (Massacre, really, really early Death), both of whom provide some amazing vocal contributions. Metatron's haunting narrations that bookend the work are chillingly frightening, serving to set the atmosphere quite well, and Lee's guttural grunts and growls are equally, if not more so, unsettling.
Oh yeah, and how about that artwork? Prolific heavy metal artist Eliran Kantor (who has done work for artists like Atheist, Mekong Delta, and Anacrusis) has really outdone himself with this disgustingly intriguing scene. I know it has nothing to do with the music, but it's definitely one of my favourite covers in a long time.
The only real hangup here is there really isn't anything with these tracks that they haven't done before, only better. That's not to say the pieces here are bad, mind you—this album is still fucking fantastic. It's just not that much of a step forward for the band, which is surprising when you have an artist as tuned to the avant-garde as Sigh is. Anyone who's familiar with Imaginary Sonicscape, for example, will probably have little new to find in their sound.
But in general, In Somniphobia is still an excellent, fun album. It will bring a smile to your face in that slightly-demented way that only Sigh can bring about, all the while giving the bigger music fans something meaty to chew on. Not their best release, but hell if it isn't close.
Recommended if you enjoy: Dog Fashion Disco, Mekong Delta, not being able to sleep properly
9.0 / 10
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