Sound — 9
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.
Lyrics — 8
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.
Overall Impression — 8
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.