Saturday, June 18, 2011

Insomnium - Across The Dark (2009)

When last we left Finnish melodic death heroes Insomnium, they were taking the world by storm with their breakout album, "Above The Weeping World." Three years and countless tours later, the band find themselves at a unique crossroads. Do they continue down the path they forged over the course of 10 years, or do they do that which so many bands before them have done: "progress"? Thankfully, the choice they made was easy. No time for a 50 piece orchestra. No room for fluff. "Across The Dark" is Insomnium at that intense, in your face best.

There is no intro, no preparation for the slaughter to come. The band crashes into their own brand of high speed thrash, with the first riffs blastin g through your speakers. Drums, guitar and bass are in perfect unison with one another, laying the framework on which the deafening vocals will be built. Harsh, violent and abusive, the screams are relentless. Even as the music slows, the growls only grow more intense. A short, but stunning acoustic portion gives you moments of reprieve. One final attack commences with a piano outro.

A headbanging anthem follows, with "Down With The Sun" giving you all you can handle. Rapid double bass and crashing cymbals are a constant, sharing time with jabbing guitar notes and distorted chugging. It may seem impossible for screams of agony to be considered "beautiful," but you may change that opinion here. Often lost in the senseless screams of death metal are the emotional lyrics contained. Don't let them pass you by, or you will regret it. The soft tones of an acoustic dominated "Equivalence" are followed with booming kicks and a roaring bass line. The grating vocals have their moments, guiding the track to an end.

Whispered lines are replaced with overwhelming cries of pain. Guitars are uptempo and precise, but only half as bludgeoning as the lightning speed of kicks and snares. A rare, but short lived, solo flies by, giving light to the darkness of "Into The Woods." The track ends with a bang, and slows nonchalantly into the next, "The Harrowing Years." The low, almost hollow punch of the kick is the perfect compliment to the bass line. Clean, melodic singing, though not used often, becomes a powerful tool on this track, especially when offset with the grit and grind of the normal vocals. A down tempo outro section pairs those same harsh screams with a clean guitar tone, creating a surprisingly great marriage of light and dark.

Running for nine minutes, "The Lay Of Autumn" isn't your typical metal epic. It starts delicately enough, but quickly chooses the sound of distortion over the clean strings. The acoustics return, with melodic chords being played in partnership with a strong bass. Back and forth, from clean to dirty, the song holds your attention, leaving you marveling at talent on both sides of the spectrum. A dazzlingly depressing title, "Weighted Down With Sorrow" is a delivered, as advertised, with hopelessness throughout. Unreal amounts of emotion are poured out, not only in the defeated vocals, but in each guitar note, bass line and drum beat. You will share in their pain, if only for six minutes.

There is not time to feel bad, no time to hang your head. "Where The Last Wave Broke" is as strong a closer as you will find. Versatile and downright impressive, thrashing guitars are force fed. Blast beats and fills consume your ears, unseated only by the deep growls. Stunning clean vocals pair with the screams in a harmony none thought possible. With every ounce of energy spent, the band give everything they have left in a drum filled, string tinged outro.

There is something so empowering about a band sticking to their guns, continuing to make the music that they, as musicians, can be proud of. Insomnium are true superstars of melodic death, time and again creating tunes that are as catchy as they are punishing. From their formation in 1997 until now, so much has changed. But even more has stayed the same. Like a candle in the darkness, Insomnium are lighting the way to the higher ground.


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