Across The Dark

Written by: BL on 24/10/2009 21:10:21

You know, I'd say it's been a somewhat slow period for melodic death metal in recent times. There hasn't been that much in terms of any outstanding releases this year, and this writer has many times felt disappointment over this fact, despite being the whatevercore kinda guy I am. So when Insomnium's new record "Across The Dark" dropped itself onto my desk, my eyes suddenly lit up with excitement and weighted expection - this is a band that has always failed to disappoint. If you were like myself, a fan given the strong past discography these Finnish dudes have put out, then I can definitely say you are in for a real treat because if there's one thing these guys can do no matter what, it is that they can write great melodic death metal songs.

A lot of melodic death metal acts suffer from the issue of being too caught up in living out their own stereotype - boring and recycled harmonised staccato riffs plague songs that end up going nowhere with barely any noteworthy end product or progression. Not only are the songs on here constructed with the greatest care towards balancing the pleasant melodic side with the heavier death metal side, their tried and tested injection of melancholic doom metal ambience also does wonders in painting a barren, yet rich atmosphere inside your head. You probably won't find many bands better at developing the melodies they craft - whether it be a patient build-up or right to the point balls against the wall shredding.

Axe-wielding duo Ville Friman and Ville Vänni have continued to write some of the finest and catchiest guitar work to date in the genre and have also kept up their habit of turning what would be average guitar riffs to stellar pieces of guitar composition using clever layering. "Down With The Sun" is perhaps one of the standout song choices: the recurring mid-song chorus riff is ever so good, simple but with its harmony and lead guitar overlay, and just so perfect in every sense (perhaps think of the fantastic riffing that dominated "Change Of Heart" on the last album as a reference). The despairing guitar leads you will find on most of the tracks are simply delicious as well - another one of their trademark crafts ("Weighted Down With Sorrow" has some great ones as an example). Things are a little more direct than on the previous albums though, which I suppose is a return for some criticism that they occasionally let their lead guitars overstay their welcome with the longer songs and do too much wandering in the air.

Bassist and vocalist Niilo Sevänen sounds as strong as ever, as his growl has seemingly gained power especially in the deep end, which really helps the more powerful and moving sections of music where the lyrics are as dark and sombre as ever. Some decent clean vocals are contributed by guest vocalist Jules Näveri (of Profane Omen) on a few of the tracks, which marks a new element compared to the past albums. They appear in a rather restrained manner and are limited to just a few passages, which perhaps is a good decision since the last thing this band needs and wants is to take a poppy route (which would anger most of their hardcore fans), or overshadow Niilo's vocal work. Moving on from vocals, Niilo's bass guitar also plays some key parts during the clean and acoustic mid song interludes during "Against The Stream" and "The Lay Of Autumn", and elsewhere provides the foundation for the other guitars to work their magic as they always remain healthily in the mix (metalcore bands take note).

Similarly, and finally, Marcus Hirvonen's drum work, while staple to the genre, contains some great, albeit brief bursts of technicality to keep matters interesting throughout. Some of his timing when throwing in bouts of double bass pedals like on "Into The Woods" couldn't have been better thought out. I would say that it would have been really nice if the drums were a little more prominent in the mix, at times the vibrant and thick guitars do drown them out somewhat disappointingly.

If I were to look back at Insomnium's last full length, the fantastic "Above The Weeping World" and give a comparison to "Across The Dark" - I'd say that the band hasn't made too much of a change to any key component in their sound (as it might be obvious from everything I've already mentioned). But this is no bad thing as Insomnium have simply worked hard at just doing what they did before but better, catchier, more succinct, and without recycling anything they've already used. The lead guitars are simply to die for and while you may argue that at times the other guitar work may seem a little too direct when thinking in familiarity terms, they're still as strong as they've always been and seem refreshing enough to be exciting at the same time. If you're a fan of melodic death metal at all, then there is no other way to put it but to just listen to this as soon as you get the chance - this is a band that just keeps on giving.

Download: Equivalence, Down With The Sun, Where The Last Wave Broke, Weighted Down With Sorrow
For the fans of: Omnium Gatherum, Kalmah, Dark Tranquility
Listen: Myspace

Release date 07.09.2009
Candlelight Records

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