The selling point to In Somniphobia is the series of tracks in the middle of the record that rally behind the concept of somniphobia. They are the most challenging songs the band has written in their 20-year career, a big feat considering what has come before it. While not one complete piece of music, the songs are all connected by lengthy outros and bookended by an “Opening Theme” and “Ending Theme.” What would be preposterous if attempted by any other band is naturally suited to Sigh, as they enter into a world of horror and sweat-induced fright for forty-plus minutes.
Black metal has a minor role in a sound full of everything from jazz to progressive to surf rock, and each song puts a new perspective on Sigh. The bombastic synthesizers of “Somniphobia” sound like something from a deranged David Bowie outtake, while the sultry saxophone plays along with a flirtatious piano on ‘Amnesia.” There are plenty of surprises that won’t be spoiled in this review, but they are all important to the theme of a hellacious night without sleep.
The songs within this saga are so loopy that the ones that surround it seem tame by default. They are the most immediate favorites, the ones that will get the attention on the first listen. Guitarist Satoshi Fujinami was restrained a touch on Scenes From Hell, which makes his explosive solo as the very first thing heard on opener “Purgatorium” a relief. Fujinami plays some of his best leads to date, welcoming the chance to turn heads.
Vocalists Mirai Kawashima and Dr. Mikannibal do more of the back-and-forth banter that was one of the highlights of Scenes From Hell. Dr. Mikannibal gets a larger role, taking the lead vocal spot several time and having more prevalent use of her saxophone. Fans of Hangman’s Hymn will squeal in delight out of the chorus of clean vocals and frenzy action on “The Transfiguration Fear,” and the three-part “Equale” has a classical touch with its instrumental “Prelude” and surreal whispering on the keyboard-heavy “Coda.”
Every Sigh record has been its own creative discovery for the metal community, and In Somniphobia is another obtuse record that should find a following from people who like their music weirder than usual. Some of the outros are excessive, and “Amongst The Phantoms of Abandoned Tumbrils” is not worth the nine minutes it takes up. However, the production is more refined, the songs are adventurous as always, and guest spots by Metatron (The Meads Of Asphodel) and Kam Lee (Massacre) fit in seamlessly. Any fear one may have of drifting into slumber will be heightened by the time In Somniphobia enters the picture.
(released March 13, 2012 on Candlelight Records)