Review Summary: Maybe not Insense’s first beat around the bush, but the Norwegian metalheads have if anything accomplished to create the best album in their carrier.
Prior to this release, the name Insense didn’t tell anyone much. Since their formation in 1999 they toured Scandinavia, and released their three albums; Insense (2002), Soothing Torture (2005) and The Silent Epidemic (2007). 2011 was however the year when Insense would leave their first mark on the metal world. 2011, the year they signed to Indie Recordings, got booked to huge festivals like Metal Town, Hove, Norway Rock & Getaway Rock, toured Europe with In Flames and Trivium, and of course, released their masterpiece “Burn in Beautiful Fire”.
Burn in Beautiful Fire is a thrill to listen to. It opens with the powerful track “Death of Me, Death of You”. It’s an in your face song which is based on blistering drums and groovy guitars. It never loses its heaviness, even when the haunting chorus and guitar play comes to play. In many bands, the singer is what makes the band, what sets them apart. Tommy Hjelm, the singer/guitarist of Insense is truly an amazing singer whose signing capacity is far from average. When Hjelm has the most to offer, is in songs like the albums lead single “Surviving Self Resentment” or the melodic head banger “Alone in a Crowd”. Both these songs are songs that take you on a journey from rough and heavy to emotional and beautiful. The transition between harsh and clean vocals are pulled off perfectly, unlike other metalcore acts like Killswitch Engage or Miss May I, where the clean parts, (or harsh parts) often sound unnecessary and out of place. Hjelm is by that perspective probably a key member to the band, seeing how he also provides half of the head smashing riffs heard throughout the record.
However, Insense might have been a pretty decent band if you had Hjelm at the helm (no pun intended), but what makes Insense special is that every band member plays an important key role to the sound of the band. While Hjelm also has guitar duties, let’s not forget about Martin Rygge, the one who plays all the technical parts and leads throughout the whole album, like in your face “Social Woes” and the blistering “Nothing to Live For”. Ola S. Hana is a decent bass player, but doesn’t get as much time to shine as the others. He’s particularly important in the structure of the bands breakdowns, which are present in almost every song, especially the albums closer, “High on Rejection”.
Now I’ve said something about every member but one. There’s a reason for that, I’ve spared the best for last, Truls Haugen, the bands drummer. Without him the album wouldn’t sound anything close to what it does. Haugen wrote most of the tracks on the album, including the atmospheric “Envy the Dead”. His drumming is as tight as a Space Shuttle. Due to him the chorus isn’t a pop-anthem driven by clean vocals, which separates them from other modern metal bands such as Sonic Syndicate & Caliban. And even though he isn’t credited, when the clean vocals on the album are at its best, it’s Haugen who’s singing not Hjelm.
If I had to categorize Insense, I would probably place them somewhere between hardcore and (progressive) metalcore. But it isn’t easy to categorize them. Why? Because Insense isn’t as any other metal band around; they have the ability to sound extreme yet polished, dark yet beautiful, hardcore yet soft, technical yet simplistic. Insense captures Sepultura’s raw heaviness with Meshuggah’s technical prowess combined with the extreme controlled aggression of Slipknot as well as Dark Tranquility’s ability to stay heavy, yet melodic. All this without falling into the “pathetic”-trap, where bands such as Bullet for My Valentine should stick to the basics instead of trying way too hard. It's also worth mentioning that even at the most melodic parts of the album, keyboards are never used. It's with this formula that the Norwegian metal heads have created their best album yet, and probably one of the best albums in Norwegian metal history. This album is different and it's unique, and I haven't heard anything quite like it before. If this isn’t a lucky one time in a million record, and Insense are in fact capable of keeping up this level of intensity, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were the headlining act on a big tour across Europe in a couple of years.
“Surviving Self Resentment”, “Alone in a Crowd”, “Nothing to Die For” & “Social Woes”