Review Summary: An EP that shows both sides of a band in transition
There are a lot of things about Ephemeral
that don’t make a whole lot of sense. The trio of acoustic instrumentals that are the core of this EP flow together in a cohesive procession, however that doesn’t distract listeners from the fact that Insomnium are not firing on all cylinders in a few critical areas. The barren wasteland that is the title track is an embodiment of melodic death metal mediocrity, cycling from catchy chorus to catchy chorus without so much as a single unexpected lick to make your ears perk up in delight. However, there are also the warm acoustic tracks that bring back memories of the melancholy that permeated Insomnium’s back catalogue – but memories these should not be. The band crafted a bit of a departure from the sorrow-soaked melodies of their early albums with One For Sorrow
, and if anything Ephemeral
broadens that gap a bit more due in large part to the title track. Sure, the instrumentals are reminiscent of their former selves, but “Ephemeral” is a pit of nothingness where all melodic death metal clichés are compressed as if in a spiraling black hole, sucking them all in. Wrapped up in a suffocating production is a useless, chugging riff that backs the verses while a half-hearted melody sings with a hollow voice behind Niilo Sevanen’s deep growls to comprise a chorus with about as much emotional and artistic merit as a Michael Bay film.
It is a good thing, then, that what Ephemeral
is really about is not its title track. “The Emergence”, “The Swarm”, and “The Descent” are a trio of acoustic pieces that right the ship and show that maybe Insomnium do still have what it takes to craft true emotion in a genre so devoid of it. “The Swarm” rivals “Resonance” from Since The Day It All Came Down
for Insomnium’s best instrumental piece, with mellow and hopeful acoustic notes falling like rain from the strings, woven in with simple melodies to create a delightful listen. There is a similarity to all three tracks that gives the music a distinct sense of movement – a progression and maturity of a small idea first shown in “The Emergence” that becomes full-blown by the time “The Descent” rolls around, giving the album a sense of fulfillment that is so desperately needed. The instrumentals on Ephemeral
are just that: ephemeral. They come and go quickly, but shimmer brightly and represent the talent that Insomnium are capable of. However, if tracks like “Ephemeral” are to be representative of what is to come, they need to step back and take a good look at what path they are walking down. Whether that track is just a brief aside remains to be seen, but those who listen to Ephemeral
are better off skipping the title track and viewing this as a purely acoustic EP, and an evocative one at that.