Compared with previous albums, In Somniphobia is Sigh’s most adventurous record to date, piling layer upon layer of musical intricacy into eardrums around the globe in an attempt to further the avant-garde side of metal they helped establish. Japan’s eccentric has always been known for their mishmash of various music genres with metal, but their latest release takes their method to madness to an extreme, one that puts previously thought outlandish efforts to shame. Borrowing heavily from 2001’s Imaginary Sonicscape, not only in sound, but atmosphere, In Somniphobia blends thrash, black, and heavy metal into a cohesive package, all while covered in a myriad of influences pulled from the world’s musical palette.
Among their peers, Sigh present themselves as part of the cultured—the musicians that have studied every nook and cranny of the creative world with dreams of venturing into the bizarre realms of metal. In Somniphobia traverses the musical cosmos by fusing Middle Eastern melodies next to a seemingly polar opposite Spanish flamenco guitar, followed by a saxophone or orchestral-centered passage. Classically influenced and Hammond organ-like keyboard lines resonate for much of the record as well. While this is no surprise for a band like Sigh, this equates to their most musically dense album, even more so than the previous Scenes from Hell, which touted an impressive resume of cultural and worldly influences that was at the time the group’s magnum opus in terms of eclectics.
Vocally, In Somniphobia is no different than Sigh of the past with Mirai’s operatic, raspy folklore complimented by Dr. Mikannibal’s growling antics that have been at the forefront of the last few records. The production, though squeaky clean and somewhat plastic sounding, is well suited for this type of layered music because it leaves no instrument hidden in the back of the melting pot’s clutter. Guitar riffs are standard Sigh fare, appropriately genius, in particular flirting with galloping and thrashier alternate picking, but despite romping through familiar territory, there’s always a sense of retreat to some semblance of avant-gardism. Whether this is for bettering the band’s sound or to craft something the metal world hasn’t heard before is only in the minds of Mirai and company. What listeners can be sure of, however, is that Sigh’s motives are not simply odd for the sake of being odd. The band has a formula in hand, and without it, their music would be a jumbled mess of inspiration.
As usual, Sigh has succeeded in condensing a plethora of ideas into a tiny package, only to revisit and improve upon their roots when the time comes to release new material. In Somniphobia represents the quintessence of Sigh at their peak, but as the band’s history typically tells, the previous album’s regime will topple in favor of an extraordinary design that renders the preceding nearly obsolete. Although it remains to be seen if In Somniphobia will be a fan favorite, there’s no arguing that it is currently the group’s glowing achievement.