Insomnium
Heart Like A Grave


3.0
good

Review

by Kyle Ward EMERITUS
September 27th, 2019 | 144 replies


Release Date: 10/04/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Diamonds in the rough

For as much as I was on the fence about whether Winter’s Gate was as fully-realized a concept album as others lauded it to be, what I can say is that I wish Heart Like A Grave borrowed more from its audacious songwriting. It is not that this latest offering is especially bad, it just lets you know moreso than any other Insomnium release that there is a strict dichotomy between the more straightforward melodic death metal singles the fans love and the far more interesting, unorthodox side of the band’s songwriting. Think the difference between “Mortal Share” and “In the Groves of Death” when you listen to “Valediction” and then “Pale Morning Star” – one clinging closely to the more traditional aspects of the genre presented in an entirely inoffensive format, while the other is a winding epic that forsakes a solid structure and instead embraces a more freeform nature that does not restrict the ebbs and flows of the band, its tempo, or its lyrical structure.

This dichotomy is the definition of the way Heart Like A Grave is written. There is a strict diet of run-of-the-mill Insomnium tunes interspersed with a select few gems that prove to be the pillars supporting the album. In large part, the arrival of Jani Liimatainen and the three-guitar attack this creates goes underutilized, and Liimatainen’s additions to the clean vocal department hardly make up for Friman’s lack of singing prowess. Until you hear the incredible layered tremolo riffs of “Pale Morning Star” you would be none the wiser that there were three guitarists, and despite the ample use of acoustic guitars to add atmospheric variance you would be hard pressed to pick an arrangement that is as impacting as those from, say, “Resonance” or “At the Gates of Sleep”. Rather than defining the direction of a song, they merely accent, and for that the atmosphere of misery and melancholy suffers.

A similar criticism can be levied toward the riffing in general – not much is truly memorable, but rather merely passable. To pick a favorite from the guitars would be to look at either “Pale Morning Star” or “Karelia”, and little else. Even the wonderfully evocative lead in “Karelia” overstays its welcome in a song that does not evolve nearly as much as an eight-minute instrumental closer really should. It is all just a bit too formulaic for its own good, with songs like “And Bells They Toll” being entirely forgettable from a songwriting perspective, despite the overall instrumental performances being perfectly adequate. Niilo Sevänen steals the show with the breathy whispers and tempered growls of the title track – supplanted as the best vocal performance on the album only by the powerful screams of “Pale Morning Star” that meld with the guitars with utter perfection. It is unfortunate the clean vocals are not nearly as in-tune with the instrumentation, as more often than not the vocal melodies feel forced. On Winter’s Gate, their use made sense within the overall flow of the record, and on “Valediction” or the chorus of “And Bells They Toll” there is no such fitment.

Given the fact that, from a technical perspective, the album is just fine, the fault lies entirely in the composition. I have a hard time understanding why there are not any riffs like “Against the Stream” or “The Killjoy” that stick with you long after the album is done. Even more recently, Winter’s Gate contained a plethora of excellent riffs that Heart Like A Grave simply does not. Vanhala’s leads more often reduce to simple, wailing highs and the “heavier” riffs of “Valediction” or “The Offering” miss the mark in terms of memorability – a key aspect to the album’s overall lasting power. Without an arsenal of well-thought-out, catchy riffs, the tracks begin to blend and meld together. The middle of Heart Like A Grave suffers quite severely from this ailment, and ends up losing the listener’s interest before the final few tracks have an opportunity to keep the engagement alive.

The legacy of Heart Like A Grave, then, hinges on the listener’s ability to tolerate some rather stale songwriting and truly appreciate the moments of brilliance when they arise. From a critical perspective, that is a rather harsh negative that drags the album’s overall worth down into the lower echelon of Insomnium’s discography. It is not as dreary as One For Sorrow, but is not as interesting as Shadows of the Dying Sun – it trends toward the former moreso than the latter. Is it a failure? No, there are a few songs here that can be considered all-time greats for the band; it is just that there is far more in the vein of “Ephemeral” in terms of compositional style than “The River”. This is something that has been the case since the band’s inception – that their better songs are always their more unorthodox ones, and Heart Like A Grave can simply be summed up by saying that most of the tracks here are merely passable from a songwriting standpoint.



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user ratings (126)
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Crysis
Emeritus
September 27th 2019


17426 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I wanted to like this more than I do. Now that "Pale Morning Star" is released you've heard the two best songs on the album.



Winter's Gate has grown on me over the past few years, and taken in context with this record it is truly a step above.

Pikazilla
September 27th 2019


4956 Comments


Winter's Gate is their best album though, followed by One for Sorrow, for me.

Pale Morning Star was great, the other two tracks - not so much.

Still secretly hoping the rest is at least as good as Shadows.

Crysis
Emeritus
September 27th 2019


17426 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

If you didn't like the title track or Valediction then you will likely not enjoy this record.



Pale Morning Star I think is a complete anomaly in terms of quality versus the other tracks.

Pikazilla
September 27th 2019


4956 Comments


Goddamit! That's not good!

I wonder if that's because part of their ideas went into Belzebubs (assuming it's the same guitarists). Or maybe Markus is keeping the good stuff for Omnium Gatherum. Really enjoyed their last one.

lucazade22
September 27th 2019


544 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Well...I much prefer "Mortal Share" to "In the Groves of Death"!

Pikazilla
September 27th 2019


4956 Comments


Both are meh, to be fair, man

Crysis
Emeritus
September 27th 2019


17426 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

That was more a reference to structure rather than quality. Mortal Share, despite being a relatively formulaic song, is massively better than Valediction simply because the riffs are actually good and there are no terrible clean vocals.

haggmeez
September 27th 2019


69 Comments


Just listened to Pale Morning Star for the first time. Good stuff. I enjoyed the title track and Valediction, but probably not as much as their older work. I LOVED Winter's Gate, so any time that happens I'm usually prepared to be disappointed by the followup album. Although, to be fair, I'm sort of an unapologetic fanboi, so I'll probably eat up whatever they put out, even if it does show clear regressions.

Digging: Hath - Of Rot And Ruin

haggmeez
September 27th 2019


69 Comments


Above the Weeping World will always be my favorite. Last Statement and In The Groves of Death really stuck in there for me.

veninblazer
September 27th 2019


10169 Comments


...this isn't even fully out yet, is it?

Digging: Dayseeker - Sleeptalk

Crysis
Emeritus
September 27th 2019


17426 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

We have had the promo for over a month

Pikazilla
September 27th 2019


4956 Comments


crysis what's your aoty this year

Pikazilla
September 27th 2019


4956 Comments


also surprised you haven't run out of ideas for cat krallice avatars, especially considering you've been using them for over seven years now

Itwasthatwas
September 27th 2019


1944 Comments


What’s with the 2003 scenecore album title

Pikazilla
September 27th 2019


4956 Comments


The Hotelier would be proud

Crysis
Emeritus
September 27th 2019


17426 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

So far its the new Falls of Rauros album, but im not going to pretend like that is an opinion that matters since I have not heard many albums from this year.



Regarding the avatars, Krallice are the ones providing the material, every new album gives new opportunities.

Pikazilla
September 27th 2019


4956 Comments


Cosmic trems ain't always bad, man

Crysis
Emeritus
September 27th 2019


17426 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I honestly havent listened to Krallice since the cosmic trems of dick album so idk if they are better or worse

Poet
September 27th 2019


6047 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"We have had the promo for over a month"



I know this isn't the case, but I've always felt like you were an unofficial PR member for Insomnium, except you were the one who gave brutally honest opinions even if it didn't match what the band wants lol.



Dmax28
September 27th 2019


691 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

So what are the good songs on it this record you say? Pale Morning Star and what else?



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