Sound: Thought you knew Insomnium? Think again. This is a side to them that you've never seen before, and you will never see again.
The four track demo opens up with Dying Chant, which is, by my estimates, the newest song on the demo. Why do I say this? Because this track ended up on their debut In The Halls of Awaiting, and sounds like the folk/doom/death tracks that had become their signature sound. Even though you may have already heard the newer version of this song, it is still worth a listen on this demo because of all the subtle differences in the song.
The next three tracks were what really surprised me. While they do show the beginnings of what was to become the Insomnium sound, there is a vast difference between the last three tracks and Dying Chant.
Vicious Circle Complete sounds like it was heavily influenced by Iron Maiden, which is unusual for this band. Never before have I heard such blatant NWOBHM influence in their music. Unmourned starts to sound a little bit more like future Insomnium songs, and Numen Divinum gets even closer. It's almost like listening to the evolution of the band in four songs.
It is arguable that the production on this release surpasses that of their debut. The tone is nice, and you can actually hear the bass over the guitars. But there are small mistakes in certain places that were just left there, but I think that just adds to the character of the demo.
Musically, it isn't heavy enough to where you'll bang your head, but it is melodic enough to the point where you'll nod along or tap your foot to the beat. If you're looking for something brutal, this isn't for you. But if you want something really catchy, look no further. While the guitarists don't play anything too complicated, they are almost never at rest, and are always playing something interesting to hold your attention. Drums are standard, they pound away with the kick and keep the beat. The bass follows along with the guitar for the most part and doesn't really do anything flashy at all, but that's excusable since the bassist also handles vocal duties. // 9
Lyrics: Insomnium's lyrics are almost poetic, and usually deal with sorrow, despair, sadness, anguish, anger, and guilt. Luckily for us, they pull it off with more class and finesse than other bands who's lyricists are native speakers of English. Keep in mind that these guys are Finnish born and raised, yet they can write better lyrics than most English bands can.
Niilo sounds much younger (three years younger, to be exact) on this demo than on their first studio album. His growls are just a bit drier here than later on. I assume he's still perfecting his technique here. Even still, it's a pretty good growl. Only problem is that it gets pretty monotonous because his growls aren't really versatile and don't change much (if at all) through the entire album. // 8
Overall Impression: This is a pretty solid demo which lays the foundation out for a pretty solid band. I'd have never thought for some of these songs to sound the way they did, but I'm glad that they did. It almost makes me wonder what they would have sounded like if they continued on in their original direction instead of changing the way they did.
There isn't really a bone to pick here other than a few slip ups in the playing. Each song has a slightly different sound to it, so it's quite an interesting listen. It may be short, but it's also sweet. Maybe it could have been better if there were more of their earlier songs on it (if any) but it's still good the way it is.
The best thing about this demo is that it's completely free. That's right. Free. The band put it up on their site because they knew it was hard to find. What nice guys. Just go to their official website and download it. Since it's so easy to get a hold of, I urge all fans of metal to give this a listen. It's only twenty minutes long, and it's free, so if you don't like it, then don't worry. No time or money lost. // 10