Japan’s Sigh is a rather eccentric band. Other than the obsession with having their release titles’ first letters match S-I-G-H in that order, there is also the musical style that the band plays in – one that is ever-changing and hard to classify. Ever since my first exposure to the band in the form of Hangman’s Hymn I was hooked, with the surprises that were kept in store in all their releases. While Hangman’s Hymn featured bombastic orchestral and symphonic elements, 2010’s Scenes from Hell saw the band heading towards a darker territory, dropping most of the flamboyant musical display, and In Somniphobia now leaves one wondering which direction the band would choose to take.
And it does not take long for one to know the answer as a melodic lead guitar instantly greets the listener on opening track Purgatorium. Unlike the bombastic sound on Hangman’s Hymn and the dark overtone on Scenes from Hell, there is a markedly mellowing down in the band’s sound on In Somniphobia, with the increased focus on the melody of the music, and there is even an almost buoyant/hopeful mood in the music. This is especially so with the neo-classical elements that the band has incorporated this time round, such as the usage of violins and a piano on Purgatorium, helping to give a somewhat beautiful and charming touch despite the contradicting gruff growls of Mirai and Dr. Mikkanibal. And it is also the usage of this neo-classical element that helps to mark Sigh as a Japanese band, with the numerous acts out of Japan that tend to utilise such influences in their music, and this is certainly not a complaint seeing how Sigh manages to incorporate these in their style of black metal with ease. Of course, it is also this catchiness in the music that ensures that fans of Sigh would instantly recognise the band despite the rather radical shift in style compared to previous releases.
Sigh‘s reputation as masters of avant-garde metal is certainly proven in the songwriting of the music that is contained in In Somniphobia, ranging from the usage of proggy synths on The Transfiguration Fear and L’excommunication a Minuit to the sexy-sounding saxophones of Dr. Mikkanibal that are combined seamlessly with the rest of the music. The appeal of the saxophone is especially so on Amnesia, complete with J-rock inspired guitar solos and tasteful pianos that transport the listener into a high-class lounge. There is even a heavy industrial/electronic sound on Somniphobia, displaying the wide range of influences that the band has included on the album. In addition, there are times when the band lets their oriental side shine, such as the percussions on The Transfiguration Fear and the melodies of Somniphobia and Amongst the Phantoms, giving an exotic taste to the album, with the latter helping to keep up that avant-garde style and image of the band.
Numerous sound samples are also littered throughout the album, giving it some sort of a storytelling flow and Opening Theme: Lucid Nightmare even helps to reinforce that haunting mood on the album, though towards the end of the album it starts to get slightly redundant and overwhelming, with the interludes that are included on almost all the tracks which could have perhaps been shortened or left out instead. Despite so, In Somniphobia once again manages to prove that Sigh are the masters of the avant-garde style of black metal, and further explores and improves on the sound that they have created on previous releases.