Sound: I came across this band while listening to Pandora Radio (My In Flames station, to be specific), and it took a second, but this band clicked with me very quickly. They're melodic death metal with a bit of doom thrown in. Not to mention a touch of folk metal. If you like any of these genres, I recommend this band. If you don't, well, sucks.
There isn't anything that's really new or innovative being done here, but there are two things that this band does really well. The first thing they do is create music that is fast and aggressive, yet at the same time very melodic and extremely depressing. Next, they are able to transition smoothly from heavy parts to soft parts. I've heard dozens of bands try to do this same thing, but a lot of people (including myself) just can't pull it off. If there is anything about this band that deserves recognition, it's that.
The instruments themselves are alright. The guitar melodies are catchy and interesting, but the bass is very simple. But this is excusable since the bassist also handles vocal duties. The drumming isn't all that complicated, but it has a big impact on the music. One time a riff will play with a normal beat, then the next time you hear it, the drummer will be blasting away with the kick drum. Little things like that are what make the record nice. // 8
Lyrics: There is a touch of doom influence in the band, which is most noticeable in the lyrics. The lyrics are extremely depressing, yet well written. But this isn't like pansy-depressing, this is dark, bleak, and grim. For instance:
"What sin do I atone for in this dreadful way? Why do the gods sneer at me as I keep writhing in pain? Where has my dearest gone to? Where sings now my maiden fair? Beneath the darksome waters underneath the moonlit waves."
Keep in mind, these guys are from Finland, yet their lyrics are written in a style more refined than that of people who have spoken English their entire lives (such as most of us on this site). Poetry isn't dead, it just relocated. The lyrics were what got me into this band. Well written, and tastefully depressing. But this doesn't mean a thing if you can't understand what he's saying, which is common for a band like this. For the most part, if you listen closely, you can pick out the words, but on some parts it is difficult since some words will be pronounced incorrectly. Niilo's growl, however, is sick. It's the icing on the cake, pretty much.
It all fit's together pretty well, really. Whenever the music softens up a bit, the vocals do as well. He goes from his death growl to an almost haunting whisper. In fact, that's how this record starts out, with clean guitars playing a somber melody and Niilo's whisper, before bursting into heavily distorted guitars and death growls. // 10
Overall Impression: This is a solid debut from a solid band. It isn't perfect, but no debut album ever is. Production-wise, it has a few flaws, but it's a diamond in the rough. If you liked Jester-era In Flames, or old-school Amorphis (who Insomnium actually took influence from), this record might be a good one for you. I'm glad that they're a relatively young band, since that way I know they'll be around for a long time.
The only negative aspect I can think of is the production quality/guitar tone. It isn't bad by any means, it's just not as good as it could have been. But if they re-recorded this album, hell, I'd buy it.
Also, if really long songs are a turnoff for you, steer clear of "Shades of Deep Green" and the title track. At first I wouldn't listen to them because they were so long, but I got around to it. Good stuff.
If you can't be bothered to go out and get this album, at least check out these few tracks: Ill-Starred Son, Dying Chant, Black Waters, Journey Unknown. // 9