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