Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sigh - In Somniphobia



I’ve always read that the first step towards recovery is admitting that you have a problem.  I suppose that’s true.  For the longest time, I didn’t want to admit that anything was even out of the ordinary.  Yes my work was suffering, my personal hygiene was at an all-time low, and my friends told me they didn’t know me anymore.  But hey, everyone goes through some rough patches now and again right?  Am I right?  Anybody?  Hello?  Okay, I can clearly see that I’m not fooling anyone.  Fine…have it your way.  I admit it.  I have a problem.  Satisfied?  Luckily I was able to locate a support group that meets a few miles from where I live.  I’ll be attending the next meeting.

“Hello friends.  I’m glad you could all make it tonight.  Looking around I see a new face amongst us.  Sir, would you care to tell us your name?”
“Ummm, hi.  My name is Penfold.”
Everyone in the room speaks in unison.  “Hello Penfold.”
“Uh, hello.  Hi there everybody.”
“Penfold, my name is Roger.  I’m the group leader here.  I want to make absolutely sure you’re aware that the room we’re sitting in is a place of understanding, and a place of healing.  No one here will judge you.  All we want is to help you cope with whatever it is that you’re going through right now.  That’s why this group exists.  So, would you like to share your troubles with the group Penfold?”
“I don’t know Roger.  Honestly, I feel a little embarrassed.”
“Penfold, there is no need to feel embarrassed.  Regardless of what you believe, the truth is that you’re surrounded by people just like you.  All of us have been in your shoes before, and I hope you won’t mind my saying so but you look pretty terrible.  You need to tell us what you’re experiencing before you break down.”
“I know you’re right Roger, but I can’t help but feel my problem is sort of silly.”
“Penfold, no problem that causes a person to appear in public the way you do today is a silly problem.  Let me ask you a question.  When was the last time you had a good night sleep?”
“I haven’t been able to sleep more than a few hours for months.”
“Now Penfold, I need you to be very specific with us.  Why haven’t you been able to sleep?”
“Well, for as long as I can remember the thought of sleep has frightened me.  In my mind, sleep amounts to time being forcefully stripped from my overall existence.  Sleep is a monster.  As I’ve grown older the monster has grown up with me.  When I was a child the sleep monster would appear in my dreams approximately the size of a small dog.  It was frightening, but I was able to deal with my fears thanks to its diminutive stature.  By the time I became a teenager, the monster had grown to a height equivalent to that of a human adult.  My fear had risen accordingly but I was still able to evade the monster with quick footwork.  Now though?  Now the monster that haunts my dreams is a towering giant.  There is no escape.  Every time I do sleep a little bit I have the same terrifying nightmare and I wake up in a cold sweat.  My heart will be beating so quickly I’m concerned it will rupture.  I know that one of these days I’ll let myself slip into a deep sleep and I won’t wake up.  I’m terrified!  I know my body is going to betray me sooner or later.  I mean look at my face!?  I own a mirror.  I know what I look like.  I’m fighting as hard as I can, but it’s only a matter of time.  ‘The end is nigh’ as they say.”
“Penfold, I need you to listen to me.  What you’re experiencing has a name.  You suffer from a condition called somniphobia.  This condition is defined as an abnormal fear of sleep.  Fortunately, I know where you can get treatment for your disorder.  I’m going to call a cognitive therapist I know who owes me a favor.  She’ll see you this evening.”
“Thank you Roger.  I don’t know what to say.”
“You don’t have to say anything now, but I do expect to see you at our next meeting.”
“I wouldn’t miss it.”

How are you doing today waveriders?  Are you doing well?  Good.  How’s your mental health?  Solid?  Great, because today I’m going to talk to you about an album that’s going to seriously mess with your mind!  Not in a bad way.  No, no, no.  In Somniphobia by the band Sigh simply operates off of its own set of musical rules and regulations.  Can you guess what the first rule might be?  That’s right!  The first rule governing this album is that there are no rules!

While I can’t speak for anyone else, I absolutely love it when a band decides that they are going to do whatever they want with their music regardless of what anyone might think.  Sigh is definitely one of those bands.  Before we continue how about a little background information?  Sigh is a Japanese extreme metal band that put out their first full length album all the way back in 1993.  According to various online sources Sigh began life as a fairly straightforward black metal band.  As the years progressed the band took their music in a decidedly avant-garde direction, seemingly incorporating any musical style that struck their fancy. 

Unfortunately, as is too often the case with a great band I’m far beyond fashionably late to the party.  I was aware of Sigh’s existence thanks to some very positive reviews of their last album on two websites I regularly frequented.  Also my interest was piqued when I found out that Mirai Kawashima, one of the founding members of Sigh, had contributed some keyboard work on an album by The Meads of Asphodel that I flipped out over.  The impetus to learn more about Sigh was certainly there, but I never followed through.  Thankfully a couple of months ago I discovered In Somniphobia on one of the promotional music sites Ripple scribes utilize, and I hit play.  Waveriders I’m not going to make some outrageous statement like ‘my world has not been the same since’, but I will say this.  My musical landscape for the year 2012 was irrevocably changed for the better on that fateful day.

If you’ll indulge me waveriders, at this time I’d like to analyze In Somniphobia by recording all of the shocks to my system that it delivered.  First of all, I was expecting to hear something similar to other black metal albums I’m familiar with.  When album opener “Purgatorium” began my immediate reaction was to question whether or not I was listening to the right album.  This music sounded more like power metal than black metal with clean, soaring guitar lines moving along at a pretty good clip.  It was only after the song settled down and the blackened vocals took center stage that I regained my footing.  The second song, “The Transfiguration Fear”, rockets out of the gate with an overall sound somewhat resembling a befouled Iron Maiden supplemented with some dynamic auxiliary percussion and some wicked soloing from guitar, keyboard, and saxophone.  Yes saxophone!  Dr. Mikannibal’s sax and vocal work is brilliant throughout the entire album!  The title track “Somniphobia” beautifully incorporates peaceful, dreamy passages heavily influenced by Indian music that transition into discomforting, nightmarish metal and back again.  It’s stunning!  “Amnesia”, a song best described as an extreme metal rendition of a classic detective movie soundtrack is far and away one of my musical highlights this year.  “Far Beneath The In-Between” has such a powerful main guitar riff that I’m afraid my brain is rattling around a little too violently inside my skull when I listen to it.  The closest this album gets to traditional black metal is with the song “Amongst The Phantoms Of Abandoned Tumbrils”.  Purists are advised to ignore the accordion.  Everyone else should enjoy!  Finally there is closing track “Equale”.  This is less of a song and more of a classical composition with three distinct movements.  Amazing?  You had better believe it.

My fellow waveriders.  Sigh’s In Somniphobia is an album that I’m going to hold aloft for some time as a shining example of incredibly creative music done well.  If you hunger for extraordinary music that will take you to places you haven’t yet experienced this is the album for you!  In Somniphobia is unbelievably good, and it gets better with every listen.  Trust me.  Would I lie to you?

{If you’re wondering…the answer is no}

--Penfold





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