Published Sep 21, 2016Insomnium are an anomaly in today's music landscape. Since forming in 1997 and releasing their first album in 2002, the band have yet to put out a record that has been even lukewarmly received by fans, consistently releasing quality material every two or three years. This, combined with their 2006 album Above the Weeping World being considered a landmark in modern melodic death metal, has given them a solid fanbase, something that many metal bands might use as an excuse to rest on their laurels and pump out similar material album after album. Not Insomnium, though. On their newest record, Insomnium shake things up again.
Winter's Gate is a concept album with only one epic, 40-minute title track. This alone invites inevitable comparison to Edge of Sanity's Crimson, and while that album is an inspiration to the structure of Winter's Gate as well as its melodic death metal core, the band include a few disparate influences in the mix so that it doesn't feel like a simple rehash. Different passages in the track take influences from folk metal, including an acoustic guitar on top of crushing riffs, and black metal, with fast-paced and chilling compositions. At one point, the band even incorporate a riff that would be right at home on a Thin Lizzy record. This leads to an overall excellent concoction that never gets too repetitive or stale.
If there are complaints to be had, they're more to do with what the album isn't than what it is. Despite being based on a short story written by bassist and vocalist Niilo Sevänen, the album itself doesn't feel like a narrative experience, instead feeling like several interconnected passages that don't quite form a story. The band also occasionally incorporate musical ideas that are never fully fleshed out, such as throwing in a synth during a few transitions, but never actually doing anything meaningful with it.
However, these don't impact the quality of the record as a whole. Overwhelmingly, Winter's Gate is a tight and focused melodic death metal album, and yet another quality release in Insomnium's discography. Some may think the band's due for a slip-up, but almost 20 years in, it's seeming less and less likely. (Century Media)