Across The Dark
Amuro Jay, on september 10, 2009 2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Sound: Take one look at the album cover for Across the Dark and you'll have a pretty good idea of how this album sounds. Bleak. Dark. Depressing. Cold. But what you can't tell from the cover is that the music intensely melodic and usually fast paced. It is a blend of melodic death, progressive, and doom metal. But if you're familiar with Insomnium, then you already knew their music was like that.
Every once in a while, certain bands will release an album which seems to encompass their entire history. For Insomnium, this is that album. You'll be able to hear traces of each of their previous releases throught this record. Some are obvious, some, not as much. You'll hear classic riffing influenced from their debut, a lot of leads based entirely on their high A string (an obsession they found on Since the Day it all Came Down), and extended instrumental sections courtesy of Above the Weeping World.
But what does it all mean, really? Well, it's nothing new. Sure, it sounds pretty good, but sometimes I feel like I've heard a lot of this before, either on another Insomnium song or somewhere else. Some of the leads on different songs here sound very similar. One of the riffs on Down with the Sun sounds pretty close to Change of Heart. Not too close, but still. And the opening riff to Against the Stream reminded me a lot of Darkest Hour's For the Soul of the Savior. While shuffling through my iPod, I was actually convinced for a few seconds that I was listening to Darkest Hour rather than Insomnium.
Similarities aside, the songs are very well written. In a previous interview conducted with one of the band members, it had been stated that the band had been studying film scores in order to write better music. Why would they study film scores? Because music in movies is designed to evoke a certain emotion. It's meant to almost control your feelings.
By the sounds of it, the band took some good notes and put what they learned to good use. Instead of the grand piano intro we've grown to expect from Insomnium, the album starts of with a light acoustic tune. It's almost dreamlike. Upon hearing it, it sounds like you've been transported to a world of carefree bliss. That is, until everything comes crashing down. The perfect world that you were just in has been obliterated, and from that point on, it's nothing but despair, loss, and mourning.
However, the album has a much more motivated feel to it than previous Insomnium albums. Certain parts, such as the prechorus to Down with the Sun or the intro to Against the Stream (and many other sections scattered throughout the album, such as the powerful chorus from Into the Woods) have a sort of determined feel to them. It almost sounds like there is a small sliver of hope somewhere across the dark that is worth the loneliness and despair. But, this is Insomnium, and for every upbeat riff, there is a depressing chord progression somewhere.
Instrumentally, the guys have improved a bit. The guitarists write riffs that are as delicious as ever, but the real improvement lies in the rhythm section. Their drummer has been able to improve a little since Above the Weeping World (which is great since his drumming there was so much better than before). Basswise, things have gotten to be a little more interesting. In sections where bass is the dominant instrument, Niilo noodles around just enough to make your head nod and prove that he isn't the kind of guy who only knows how to play a root note. Check out the break in Weighted Down with Sorrow to hear what is quite possibly the most interesting Insomnium bassline ever.
Aleksi Munter of Swallow the Sun lends his keyboard talents to the band for the record. Good choice, guys. The way he is able to accentuate the music on the keys is a major plus for this album. Whether it's ambience, backing, or a melancholy transition, it's done well. The outro to Against the Stream is probably the most powerful keyboard section in the history of Insomnium. Simple, yet effective. // 9
Lyrics: Like always, the guys in Insomnium are capable of writing some great lyrics. Aggressively depressing, yet refined. Niilo's growl is sharper than ever, yet still occasionally unintelligible. From the standpoint of the lyrics and death growls, it's really nothing new.
However, there is a major difference between this album and previous efforts. This album sees the introduction of clean vocals, courtesy of Jules Nveri (Profane Omen, Enemy of the Sun). It's kind of like their ace in the hole. The secret weapon I had always hoped they would never have to use. I was always afraid that the day would come when Insomnium would implement clean vocals into their music.
Now, don't get me wrong, I love to listen to good singers. And Jules is a very good singer. It just doesn't seem to fit with Insomnium all the way. I mean sure, some moments are brilliant, such as the chorus to Where the Last Wave Broke, but other times the clean vocals seem out of place. It's like they're trying to be too melodic. But don't take that the wrong way. It sounds great, but I feel that sometimes the singing was unnecessary. I'm probably just being picky though, since I miss the spoken word/soft whispers that seem to be relatively rare in this release. I just think some parts should have been whisperimg rather than singing. It would have been more like Insomnium. But, things change. // 8
Overall Impression: These days, a lot of bands who claim the title "melodic death metal" are usually prone to having people accuse them of being either borderline metalcore or a corny At the Gates ripoff. Sometimes they'll escape with the lucky label of just being generic or boring. Fortunately, in my opinion at least, Insomnium doesn't fall into any of these categories.
There isn't really a bone to pick with this album anywhere, other than a few instances where the clean vocals were unnecessary. I just wish that they would have used them sparingly. It would have been enough to just have the singing in Where the Last Wave Broke. That's where they're the best, in my opinion.
While Insomnium still stick to their roots, they are changing. Clean vocals and upbeat riffing may only be the beginning. But, they execute it well, and as long as they continue to do so, then they will remain a driving force in the modern day melodic death metal scene. Check out the tracks Weighted Down with Sorrow, Where the Last Wave Broke, and Down with the Sun to get a clear picture of where they're headed. // 8
Across The Dark
UG Team, on september 10, 2009 2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Sound: Harvesting the vast fields of melodic death metal doesn't always result in much yield. An adrenaline-pumping riff or an engaging vocalist will always appeal to fans of the genre but to forge a career's worth of valuable material you must do more than tick the boxes. Finland's Insomnium are often seen as one of those cream of the crop' bands with their rich, doom-laden sound striking quite a chord with many. They've picked up momentum with each release and now, four albums in, they have grown into one of their label's flagship artists.
Across The Dark' is another step along their musical road, keeping the balance between progression and acknowledgement of their strengths neat and tidy. The sound at its core is similar to that of their last album, Above The Weeping World'; a thick mix abundant in doom metal melody and melancholy, but also in the drive and energy found in melodic death metal. It's a highly effective combination, but one that I fear has already been perfected on ...Weeping World'. Still, you can't help but be whipped up in the majesty of it all by customary intro track Equivalence', which starts things off very nicely.
Instrumental performances are at a high point here, with some meaty Gothenburg-esque riffs sure to appeal to guitar players. Niilo Sevnen comes out with surprisingly tasty fills on bass at times, and his more explorative moments are no longer restricted to acoustic sections, which is great to see. Whilst the other three members shine, there's a suspicious frequency in the number of times where you'll hear a familiar drum fill from Markus Hirvonen. Effective as they are, most of his best moments on the album have been done in the past with only little variations this time around, so unfortunately the man remains mostly in the background.
One thing which does stick out about the arrangements here is that the backing of keyboards and strings, whilst making only the odd appearance in the past, has become near-constant on some songs. Aleksi Munter of Swallow The Sun handles these duties and handles them well, giving a substantial harmonic backdrop to the melodies which so effortlessly flow out of Ville Friman and Ville Vnni. Questions may be raised about how these songs will translate to a live show, but for the purposes of the album the job is done. Far more noticeable, though, is Jules Nveri who guests on a few tracks with some clean vocals. His big moment is on the chorus of the stupidly catchy Where The Last Wave Broke' but the clean melodies are really used to their full potential on The Harrowing Years', where the relentless 3/4 pulsing is soothed by the singer's lament which sounds as if it has been a part of Insomnium all along. // 9
Lyrics: Despite guest vocals going down rather well on the 3 songs they appear on, it's never questioned that Niilo Sevnen is still king. He yet again proves his worth as one of those vocalists who just gels perfectly with everything else around him, and his growls are as vital as they ever were to conveying the band's undeniable passion for their music. Even if the lyrics are so steeped in metaphor that they can be hard to relate to as a text, vocalists of Sevnen's calibre render that unimportant and every word will ring true regardless of whether or not you really know what they're about.
That is not to say that the lyrics have nothing to them, however. The vocalist's interest in literature helps with both style and substance and, overused as themes of trees, leaves and other such foliage are, there's still something very alluring about the way these guys use them. // 9
Overall Impression: It is unavoidable that this album will be compared to Above The Weeping World', and Insomnium themselves have created this album with that in mind. Across The Dark' will undeniably please existing fans (myself included) and gain the band some new ones, but unfortunately it falls at the last hurdle when it comes to surpassing their masterpiece. Into The Woods' is almost complacently Insomnium-esque and by the time the directionless Weighted Down By Sorrow' has come and gone, the warm, hospitable progression of Down With The Sun' and all-round album highlight Against The Stream' have become somewhat distant memories.
It is difficult to weigh up exactly how good Across The Dark' is, as it is always going to be in another album's shadow. However, what I do know is that this one contains six absolutely fantastic songs, and another two that are only average, rather than explicitly bad. For any minor shortcomings it is still a beauty of a record, and one that metal fans as a whole should savour. // 9