Japan may not have the world's most renowned metal scene, but Tokyo's Sigh have gained a reputation as one of the most forward-thinking extreme metal bands on an international scope since their formation in 1990. The band's constantly changing sound and ability to consistently put forth unique albums has impressed avant-garde metal fans for two decades, and In Somniphobia is proof that these giants have no intention of slowing down. This is a weird, weird album that spans nearly every conceivable genre out there, and yet Sigh manages to deliver their sound with consistency and fluidity. Although In Somniphobia is probably too "out there" for your average extreme metal fan, anybody with a craving for forward-thinking and truly innovative metal music is bound to have an absolute blast with what these Japanese masters have conjured this time around.
In Somniphobia served as my introduction to Sigh's music, and although I have since investigated some of their earlier releases, I'm still awestruck by how eclectic this album is. I've really never heard anything like this before, and while some comparisons can be drawn to groups like Mr. Bungle or Unexpect, Sigh is a distinctly different band. The 'black metal' label that is usually used to describe the band is rather minimal, and instead In Somniphobia sounds like a blend of death metal, classical music, progressive rock, jazz fusion, funk, trip-hop, free jazz, pop, psychedelic rock, avant-garde, Arabic music, and just about anything else under the sun. Possibly the most surprising factor about In Somniphobia is that, in spite of its seemingly 'random' nature, Sigh manages to blend all of these vastly different sounds into a cohesive and logical sound - somehow the band makes all of these genres sound as if they were 'meant' to be blended together, and this is unquestionably In Somniphobia's greatest strength.
Take a listen to the twisted, brutal-take-on-lounge-jazz of "Amnesia", for instance. Though most sane people would agree that lounge jazz and death metal don't belong within 100 feet of each other, Sigh begs to differ, and creates a unique concoction of these two vastly different styles - and, most of all, it works exceptionally well. Keep in mind, however, that this is just one out of eleven tracks. Before this album is over, you'll be treated with a strange neo-classical extreme metal sound in "Purgatorium", a Latin jazz rhythm section from hell in "The Transfiguration Fear Lucid Nightmares", a disturbed carnival music opus in the form of "Far Beneath the In-Between", as well as just about anything else the most perverted parts of your brain desire. This is a demanding, disturbed, and extremely challenging record, but Sigh manages to convey their avant-garde sound in a way that still manages to be fun for the open-minded listener.
Although the hour-plus playing time can make for a rather exhausting listen and the unpolished production doesn't quite fit the music in my opinion, these are minor complaints when we're talking about an album that's this damn good. As eclectic and flat-out weird as In Somniphobia may be, Sigh manages to make their one-of-a-kind sound come across as coherent and fluid - something like this can rarely be said about most bands that take a musical approach as decidedly avant-garde as Sigh's. This is a simply spectacular album, and 4 stars is the very least I can give out in this case. Fans of Sigh and avant-garde metal in general owe it to themselves to hear this magnificent opus.