Released: 2009, Candlelight Records
It seems like everyone’s heard of Insomnium besides me. From what I'm reading, their previous album ABOVE THE WEEPING WORLD sounds like it was the melodic death/doom equivalent of the second coming of MASTER OF PUPPETS and DON’T BREAK THE OATH. Well, better late than never, so here goes with Insomnium's latest, ACROSS THE DARK.
The Finns play a curious amalgam of Gothenburg style melodic death metal crossed substantially and quite effectively with gothic death/doom bands a la Paradise Lost, Forest of Shadows and My Dying Bride. What arises from this is a sound most closely approximate to Swallow the Sun or newer Amorphis, but with a heavy tinge of metalcore like Killswitch Engage. The latter comes mainly from two things: the Gothenburg-ish twin guitar harmonies that remind one of Dark Tranquillity and In Flames, but also in the clean/harsh vocals attack. This is one of the weaker points of Insomnium in my opinion. The harsh vocals are decently done, adequately conveying power and menace, although they are a little generic. But the clean vocals, done by Jules Naveri (Enemy of the Sun), while not terrible, just take away the downbeat mood that the music otherwise creates.
ACROSS THE DARK wavers from being utterly brilliant to being just mediocre. There are some magnificent melodies created the two Villes on guitars, certainly on the dark doom-y sections of the CD. While the Gothenburg elements may be a little derivative, some of the lead doom riffs are reminiscent of the best of Swallow the Sun, Amorphis, Warning and Cathedral. The bass work is utterly top notch, and they intend for you to feel as well as hear the bass, right from the first minute of the first song. From crawling with melody and feeling, to driving with fell purpose, the bass is ever-present and is beautifully done thanks to Niilo Sevanen. Mr Sevanen also does the growls, and as I've already said, they fit the sound even if they don’t stand out on their own – more importantly, they’re also quite clear and intelligible, not just roaring for brutality’s sake.
I'd actually only revisit this album for a couple of standout songs, and unsurprisingly, the Gothenburg-heavy songs inevitably get the 'skip' button more often than not. 'Against the Stream' for example is pretty throwaway from my point of view, even though it's got a luscious bass-heavy midsection. 'Where The Last Wave Broke' gets the thumbs down because of the clean vocals, and it's also a very typical melodeath type song that we’ve all heard from In Flames and Dark Tranquillity before, as with 'Into The Woods'. 'The Harrowing Years' has a really nice semi-folky JESTER RACE feel to it, yet it never overtly fellates it - and it's got a great driving melody to help it along and give it its own personality. Ditto for the first two songs 'Equivalence' which segues into 'Down With The Sun'. The 9-minute long 'Lay of Autumn' is a source of some conflict to me, as it combines some great musical themes expressed with skill and sensitivity (that bass sound in the midsection is pure eargasm), but once more not helped much by the clean vocals, thankfully kept to a minimum. The final song 'Weighed Down With Sorrow' is probably Insomnium’s nod to Amorphis and Swallow the Sun - whose keyboardist, Aleksi Munter coincidentally plays guest keyboards on this album.
An enjoyable album that's good for a rainy day when you'd like a bit of gloom to mirror what's outside your window. Make no mistake about it, these guys have an ear for a great melody, and if they’d sort out the vocals and maybe pay less tribute to Gothenburg, we’d really be seeing the future of melodic death metal right here in front of us.