The melodic death metal subgenre is one quickly losing momentum in the metal world, and with good reason. Former mainstays like In Flames and Soilwork are rapidly degressing into more commercialized, less aggressive forms and there aren't too many bands coming in to pick up the slack. Granted, Dark Tranquillity is still rocking the way they always have, but there just isn't the fresh blood the style could really use.
Luckily, there's a group of Finnish dudes who go by the name of Insomnium who prove melodic death can still be a viable genre in the metal world. They formed in 1997, released two demos, and eventually landed on Candlelight Records, where they released their excellent In the Halls of the Awaiting in 2002. Two years later, they released Since the Day it All Came Down, an outstanding release that slipped in under my radar last season because I just couldn't find it for the longest time.
For a guy like me, Insomnium is truly a godsend. Why is that? Imagine a band that combines the vocal-stylings and song structures of Opeth with the melody, harmony, and riffs of Dark Tranquillity and older In Flames, a small dash of Amorphis, and then throws in a little bit of their own flair for good measure. Vocalist Niilo Sevanen has a nice thick, deep growl that manages to be aggressive, but not overwhelmingly brutal throughout the album. There are a number of licks on here that will take you back to In Flames' glory days, and plenty of soft, acoustic passages that will scream "OPETH!!!!" right in your ear. However, the band manages to combine all those elements with enough of their own flair, wrapped up in a very nice little package that definitely has a fair share of melancholy elements as well.
The album opens on a somber tone with "Nocturne" , a beautiful, soothing piano piece with some background orchestrations that would make a hell of a live intro for this band (if they don't already use it). It builds itself up slowly before the band comes crashing in with "The Day it All Came Down." Practically an antithesis of the opening track, "The Day it All Came Down" is a beautifully brutal track with some of the album's harsher vocals (controlled screams, more or less) over some Dark Tranquillity-esque harmonies. About midway through the track, things slow down briefly with a nice little acoustic interlude before crashing back into their melodic death assault. This pounding song definitely sets the pace for the remainder of the album, as its use of dynamics is very similar to what will be used throughout the album.
"Daughter of the Moon" is one of my favorite cuts on the album, and serves once again as a very nice feel of what Insomnium has to offer in terms of their songwriting. An acoustic intro, heavy riffs, acoustic passages, melodic leads and harmonies, a mixture of aggression and melancholiness, death growls, and whispers are all woven together to create an excellent piece of metal that calls forward the names of a number of prominent Scandavian bands while maintaining its own unique identity. The breakdown in the later stages of the track comes in very effectively, leading up to a nice 'lil gloomy solo that brings the track to its conclusion.
"The Moment of Reckoning" opens up heavy enough, but features a number of acoustic licks that feature some rare clean vocals before assaulting you once again with heaviness. Some of the acoustic parts in this track will definitely take you back to In Flames' glory days (especially the Whoracle era). "Bereavement" is a relatively thrashy song, effectively placed on the album to bring some speed and aggression into this painting of gloom. Prominent double bass drumming and palm muting make a triumphant appearance on here.
If anyone were to REALLY make an Opeth/Insomnium comparison, one listen to "Resonance" would be the first piece to your puzzle. A soothing little interlude smack near the middle of everything, "Resonance" is a relaxing piece that despite its style doesn't feel out of place on the album thanks to its overall style. So what exactly does any of that have to do with Opeth? Well, it's quite simple really - the main theme is pretty much identical to that of "For Absent Friends" off Opeth's Deliverance album. However "Resonance" is more complex and I think more interesting to listen to.
Of course the band can't come out of something so peaceful on a limp note, so it's safe to assume "Death Walked the Earth" is one of the heavier songs on the album (for the most part of course, as its got its fair share of soft parts as well..noticing a pattern?). If you bet on the heaviness of this song, you'd probably make a few bucks, as the band's aggression pulls you right back out of the minor trance "Resonance" left you in. At roughly the halfway point the band hits another clean-toned passage, with a relatively rocky feel to it before once again closing out with a distorted go-around.
"Disengagement", clocking in at 8:39, is once again a mixture of heavy, aggressive passages, and softer, more relaxing parts, and is written in a way that will make Mikael Akerfeldt give this band his blessings. With over 8 minutes to work with, the band treads through a number of different musical terrains, although they live on the gloomy side for the most part here. Obviously this song has an Opeth feel to it, but it is executed in a manner that is most definitely Insomnium. As the song ends itself on a somber note, the next track, "Closing Words" comes screaming in with a pretty spiffy lead. And for whatever reason, "Closing Words" is not the last song on the album either. I don't really know why, but whatever. "Closing Words" is a fast, heavy song that takes all the somberness of "Disengagement" and slaps it across the face.
The album's REAL closer, "Song of the Forlorn Son", is quite the atmospheric piece, all orchestral-like in the beginning and whatnot. The song's heavier parts are relatively slow, but still effectively powerful. And of course, they mix acoustic and electric segments to weave together a very solid conclusion to an excellent album.
It's not every day a band like Insomnium comes along, taking elements from some of the most prominent bands in a genre and still having a sound that is distinctively theirs, even in a genre that many consider already reached the peak of its originality. Insomnium's songs are carefully constructed throughout the album and show a good amount of maturity for this relatively young band. Everything on the album is weaved together in an outstanding little package that is both angry and somber at the same time.
In these days, with In Flames playing to the metalcore crowd, Soilwork putting out who the hell knows WHAT now, and At the Gates becoming more and more distant of a memory (reunion rumors have come up from time to time however), it's good to see there are bands Insomnium who are willing to keep the genre alive. Since the Day it All Came Down is a ridiculously solid album that proves melodic death still has some life to it.