Once considered the “other Amorphis” due to the style and sound of their well regarded debut In the Halls of Awaiting, Insomnium have since evolved into one of the premier melo-death units in operation. Along with fellow Fins Omnium Gatherum, they’ve been steadfastly keeping the melo-death banner flying and the style alive and viable. In fact, no one is doing this style better, as One for Sorrow and Omnium Gatherum‘s ginormous New World Shadows amply demonstrate. Both albums employ hyper-melodic guitar-work alongside sub-woofer blowing death vocals and both shroud everything with the melancholy and sadness that seems to seep from the very ground of Finland. Over the course of four albums, Insomnium has churned out consistently high quality melo-death of this nature with very few stylistic shifts or changes. This has, at times, made their material feel a bit samey and can give the impression of roaming over well worn ground. While this was never a big issue for me personally, those concerns are still present here as they continue to hone their tried-and-true sound to a razor edge. Insomnium gives you ten new tracks of excellently melodic death that incorporates doom and elements of old Amorphis, classic In Flames, Brave Murder Day era Katatonia and Noumena. While there are no surprises, this is some great, emotionally powerful music and exactly the kind of listening material to stockpile as we head into the cold gloom of winter.
Lead off “Inertia” welcomes you back to the cold, and at times fragile and beautiful sound Insomnium trades in. It begins with haunting, somber guitars and spoken word vocals that both slowly build the tension before blossoming into their typically melancholy death sound. The leads at 2:55 are melodic, mournful and excellently done. Things get more urgent with “Through the Shadows” which sounds exactly like material off New World Shadows and showcases that same style of frilly, trillingly melodic guitar harmonies alongside guttural death vox and clean singing segments. As melodic as it gets, there’s that ever present feeling of sadness and doom that have become the calling cards for Finnish melo-death. Its a great song with top-notch riffing and melodic leads. “Song of the Blackest Bird” keeps the quality flowing with more beautiful harmonies juxtaposed with Amon Amarthy battle riffs and nods to Tales From the Thousand Lakes era Amorphis (check out the harmonies at 2:o2 and the morose soloing beginning at 5:31). “Only One Who Waits” mixes extra aggression with an H.I.M. influence and it works exceedingly well. Other highlights include the surprisingly catchy “Regain the Fire” and the plodding and emotional title track. All the songs are classy and scream quality melo-death. There’s a ton of emotion in the writing and playing and as with prior works, that emotion is sadness and despair. This is music perfectly suited for days spent staring out the window watching the falling snow whilst lost in dark reflections.
As far as musical performance, 90% of the success and appeal of Insomnium depends on the ability of Ville Friman and Ville Vanni to craft a host of memorably melodic riffs and solos. They accomplish that mission admirable and One for Sorrow is relplete with hooks and winning guitar riffery. Every song has its share and the album has a nice ebb and flow from faster to slower, more doomy material. There’s enough shifts in tempos to keep things interesting and more than enough atmosphere. Niilo Sevanen’s death roar is well done and always sounds great laid over the melody lines. His clean singing isn’t the best ever but it adequate and doesn’t hinder the material. The production is exceptional but not too clean or polished. The instruments are clear, the guitars sound great and the vocals are mixed in perfectly.
While I’ve enjoyed every Insomnium album, I admit to being a little underwhelmed by 2009’s Across the Dark (as was AMG). One for Sorrow is a solid step forward and in my opinion, a superior album. It may not redefine what they’ve been doing or offer something new but it’s them at their best and that’s enough for me. If you liked their prior platters or Omnium Gatherum‘s New World Shadows, buy this with confidence. Then, get thee to a window and await the impending snowfalls. Winter is coming.