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Tentacles Coiled Around My Brain - 95%

Twisted_Psychology, May 17th, 2013

Originally published at http://suite101.com

Once upon a time, Sigh attained attention as an early pioneer of Japanese black metal and for their connections to the loveably controversial Deathlike Silence Productions. But while many bands would be happy with that cornerstone status, Sigh has pushed many boundaries over their twenty-year career and could be regarded as the Mr. Bungle of extreme metal. In Somniphobia is the group’s ninth full-length album and provides another good example of how to expect the unexpected.

Sigh’s style is one that is rather hard to pinpoint and their status as a black metal band has become somewhat questionable in recent years. The vocals are as raspy as ever and the drums can reach some faster points, but the rather melodic tone seems to have more in common with thrash or power metal than anything else. That’s not even factoring in the various out-of-genre flirtations that include (but are not limited to) classical, blues, prog, ambient, and even a bit of disco…

The band’s dynamic is also rather odd though every musician shows off a lot of talent. The guitar and rhythm section get plenty of chances to shine but they’re not as characteristic as the vocals and keyboard work. The album is also made memorable for its saxophone use as it provides melodies and solos in a way similar to Dick Parry’s collaborations with Pink Floyd.

But with all the potential for madness and anarchy, Sigh is one of those avant-garde bands that are nice enough to know how to make their compositions stand out and most of the tracks on here are quite energetic. “Purgatorium” starts things off strongly and plays out like a more sophisticated Children of Bodom with its bombarding keyboards, catchy vocals, fast drums, and bright guitar melodies. “Amongst the Phantoms of Abandoned Tumbrils” is another fast highlight and features consistently speeding drums and guitars supporting some climactic chants and fanfare within its nine minute running time.

The real meat can be heard on “Amnesia” and “Far Beneath the In-Between,” two slower tracks with similarly waltz-like tempos. The former is a bluesy tune that features smooth keyboard work and seductive saxophone solos going against a harsh blues groove while the latter has a carnivalesque atmosphere with a fun guitar riff and an insanely infectious guest performance courtesy of legendary Massacre growler Kam Lee. Both tracks use their weirdness well and “Amnesia” makes me wonder if blackened blues could ever a legitimate subgenre…

The album’s numerous interludes are also worth noting. While two of them are separate tracks, the majority of them are placed in the songs themselves to serve as demented segways. The resulting effect is jarring when listening to individual tracks but fitting the album’s nightmarish concept when played as a whole.

In a world where extreme metal is combined with everything from metalcore to shoegaze, Sigh serves as a strong example of how combine multiple genres without sight of good songwriting. As someone that’s been meaning to get into them for years, I don’t know the highest recommended starting point but this one would probably be a good idea to try out. It’s definitely one of the more interesting efforts that 2012 has offered.

Current Highlights:
“Purgatorium”
“Somniphobia”
“Amnesia”
“Far Beneath The In-Between”
“Amongst The Phantoms of Abandoned Tumbrils”