Review Summary: A journey through darkness; powerful, well-orchestrated, and with a palpable depth
Being popularly categorized as melodic death metal, Finnish band Insomnium perhaps don’t garner the attention they so definitely deserve. In a sharp contrast to most other bands that fall within the same genre accolade, Insomnium are not the typical melo-death band. As opposed to the streamlined, accessibly heavy sound of such bands as In Flames, Children Of Bodom and Dark Tranquillity, the band exhibit a sound that has all the sensibilities of death metal, but with an emphasis on melody implemented over intensity and brutality. This puts them at something of a bizarre impasse, as they attempt to sit atop their own brand of metal in a market that is positively flooded by a wealth of bands all attempting to perform the same formula in a slightly different way. Insomnium’s sound is thick, crushing but always beautifully tuneful, featuring an impressively well-rounded production and low vocals, as opposed to the usual melo-death style of shrieks and screams. The thing that should perhaps best be noted about the band is the fact they actually sound like a death metal band. I, as a reviewer, have always been a little dubious regarding the tag ‘melodic death metal’, mostly because it does not seem derivative of the genre ‘death metal’. It appears to have more In common with traditional metal with hardcore punk elements such as breakdowns, but with addition of harsh vocals. Insomnium, on the other hand, sound like a death metal band, albeit with a somewhat softer touch than a number of their contemporaries.
Taking a similar songwriting approach to previous albums, most notably Since The Day It All Came Down
, Across The Dark
is a bleak, grandiose and powerful musical journey that is practically overflowing with melodies and rife with traditional death metal influences. The music itself is not as sophisticated as it has been on previous albums, where the intricate linking of all the musical elements formed viciously well-written musical tempests. Across The Dark
takes a similar tack but focuses more on melody as a composite element. Therefore, most of the tracks feature a conventionally straightforward guitar riff that is then elucidated and expanded throughout the song, creating a blissfully orchestral but sweepingly epic score against which the growls are perfectly emphasized. The twisting and always developing composition of the songs leads to some enjoyably memorable moments, including some organic and well-implemented breakdowns, neat basslines and well-sustained brutality. The vocal style ensures the release has a consistent and angry tone, the lyrics featuring, much like the rest of the band’s output, grim and mournful subject matter, such as death and loss. The use of such themes as these has always given the band a more mature edge, despite the fact that the topics could be considered ‘emo’ by naysayers. The lyrics themselves are not particularly evocative or memorable, but they’re well-written enough for the imagery to present itself suitably both through the words themselves, and the music.
The majority of the tracks on the album have a somewhat considerable running time, but all are sustained admirably. This pleasant consistency means that the album’s weaker moments appear only marginally weaker than the album’s better tracks. For instance, ‘The Harrowing Years’, which could be considered a lesser track, features a repetitive but brilliantly written riff much in the same vein as that found on the title track of 2nd release, Since The Day It All Came Down
. The song struggles to find a direction after the main movement featuring the riff has concluded, but the melody holds the song together, and ties it in really well with the surrounding songs. Other tracks, such as ‘Into The Woods’, toy with melodic motifs and treat the listener to sporadic fretwork that encourages the sense of intricacy as seen on earlier releases. These asides feel a little like teases, however, as for the most part, the album treads water in terms of its’ aural endeavor. Insomnium have barely changed their style in the years that they have been a band, but Across The Dark
does not seem to have the sense of progression shown by the band before. The music is still tight, but without progress, one can’t escape the sinking feeling that the whole release feels ever so slightly hollow.
Across The Dark
has a few unfortunate issues, but none of these are major enough to class the music itself as anything short of wonderful. The release soars through tumultuous highs and crushing lows (mostly lows), barely stopping to settle or catch its’ breath throughout the whole release. True, it may lack the complexity the band has been shown to be capable of, but no punches have been pulled as regards emotional intensity, and this leaves the base musical experience very much intact. The experience as a whole is a dark, unrestrained, but still remarkably artful album that takes all of the hallmarks of death metal, and lovingly incorporates melodies that are almost as universal and as haunting as an old nursery rhyme. It may not be their best release, but everyone who has at least a passing interest in heavy music owes it to themselves to listen to this animalistic, profound, and excitingly epic release.