Black metal is probably one of the most controversial genres of our time. As an extreme off-branching of heavy metal, it features insane tempos, ominous vocals and distorted guitars. The genre has spawned a variety of sub-genres, some preaching hate, others beauty and still others pushing new elements of sound. Our editors, while not completing many black metal reviews have kept our pulse on the genre. And yes we will also admit the astonishing album art did intrigue and draw us in further.
Interestingly we come to find that Sigh, hailing from Japan, originated as one of the first black metal bands in Japan. In sampling their previous works, we note that overtime, their sound slowly began to morph into a sub-genre known as avant-garde or experimental metal through the use of unconventional sound.
The first track of In Somniphobia, "Purgatorium" starts within the standards of black metal than progresses with touches of background piano, violins and synths, while holding true to their form. The album progressively takes a turn as the next track "The Transfiguration Fear" introduces subtle background rhythmic clapping accompanied by what appears to sound like decrepit troll chants. This song also contains surprising hooks and melodies that become infectious, along with very solid vocals accompanied by a subtle saxophone solo. After a few listens, you come to realize that the sax actually becomes a unique presence throughout the album. Its appeal layered with piano also hit the sensory nerves introducing yet another vibe with a jazz heavy backdrop. We won't go there and say Jazz Metal.
The next few songs get even more bizarre providing an array of very interesting sounds and melodies through the use of flute, accordion, choir music, piano and the kitchen sink. The standout track for us comes through with the unique vibe emanating from the pure evil undertones of "Amongst the Phantoms of Abandoned Tumbrils". The accordion and softness blended with disturbing vocals make for an interesting trip. We feel like grabbing a nice glass of Shiraz and then crawling into the dark corners of a basement for effect. Yup... hard to understand, just give it a listen and you’ll understand. The song ends with what appears to be clamoring wind chimes, sounds very ominous when cranked to 11.
We can't say we have ever come across a black metal album that strives for so much depth and diversity. Yet, Sigh, has created In Somniphobia, a journey into new black metal territory. There is something here that every music fan should consider if they have not explored the black metal genre and want to add something truly unique. We would love to see a double bill with our friends of The Violet Tribe (check our review of their latest album) and Sigh. We cannot think of a more eclectic show. - 2/14/2012
Standout Tracks: Purgatorium, The Transfiguration Fear