Sigh - In Somniphobia
Despite Sigh's humble beginnings as a less than adventurous black metal band, their reputation has been built on the avant-garde stylings they've cultivated since the late 90s. For me, Imaginary Sonicscape was the apex of their career; it's a marathon of weirdness that remains one of my favorite albums. Word that In Somniphobia would be a darker Imaginary Sonicscape unsurprisingly got me and many others eager for its arrival, and after months of waiting, here it is. Sigh have delivered on their promise for an experience reminiscent of Imaginary Sonicscape, but unfortunately it is sorely lacking in the brilliance of the latter album. The strength of Sigh's previous work was their ability to ground their experimentation in a rock solid foundation of metal; the hand claps, synths, weird electronic voices and organ solos all complimented the core of the music, those wonderful riffs, leads, choruses and solos that make much of Sigh's work so memorable. In Somniphobia feels first and foremost an experimental experience rather than a metal one, and it's very much to the music's detriment. I'm not a metal purest, or afraid of experimentation, but the weirdness' lack of a strong foundation leaves all the synth and sax oddness feeling hollow.
There is no absolute dearth of riffing, but the guitars lack the same substance as the best of what Sigh has previously offered. It's immediately evident from opener “Purgatorium”, where the riffs and leads seem like they're there more to complement the organs and strings rather than to bring any real substance to the song. Melodic leads in general make a big showing, but they feel weak and don't muster the same force as those in, say, “Corpsecry-Angelfall” from Imaginary Sonicscape. Mirai's vocals are at his weakest here as well; while his growls are generally derided, I find that they presented a lot of emotion and texture in the past, whereas here they feel more standard. The catchy choruses are missing as well, denying us the same glorious hooks of Sigh's previous work. All in all, it is quite frankly boring; the album fails to justify it's running time, which falls just short of 65 minutes. Many of the longer songs individually carry on with a similar mix of self-indulgence and fruitlessness (see: “Amongst The Phantoms”).
There are times when the experimentation works well. The brooding spaciness of “Somniphobia”, the urgent excitement of “L’excommunication a Minuit” and the album's highlight, the sinister and jazzy “Amnesia”, provide a brilliant series of tracks that present some of the album's best guitar work and experimentation, and a great mixing of the two. Sigh clearly still has the chops to produce great music, but unfortunately the album as a whole doesn't represent that very well.