insomnium_winters-gateComing from the refreshingly short blasts of concise metal by High Spirits and Sumerlands and having to tackle a 40-minute melo-death song seemed like a particularly arduous shift of gears for yours truly. The reason for this conundrum is Winter’s GateInsomnium‘s seventh release, on which they wanted to pay homage to Edge of Sanity‘s legendary Crimson opus by crafting a massive composition filled with similarly diverse moods and complexions.1 Though a longtime fan, I wasn’t overwhelmed by 2014s Shadows of the Dying Sun, so I approached this with serious misgivings. Few bands can pull off such a monumental endeavor and nothing is worse than enduring a long-winded stem-winder devoid of inspiration and good ideas. Fear not though, as no sooner did I dip my steely toe into Winter’s Gate did Insomnium yank the rug from under me with an extremely well constructed tale brimming with emotion, atmosphere and hooks. This is a massive dose of top-notch sadboy melo-death; beautiful, morose and engaging, and as I listened, my misgivings were slowly buried beneath the falling snow as my doubts froze in the icy lake of my bitter cynicism. Yes it’s long and pretentious, but the end result is highly convincing.

Reviewing a 40-minute tune is no easy peach, as I quickly learned while taking notes on my listening experiences. The song isn’t broken up into movements like the very helpful Crimson II,2 so pointing out notable segments is all that’s left to me as ideas and influences swirl about my head. The album tells the tale of a band of Vikings setting out in search of a fabled island as a treacherous winter looms, and the music is perfectly suited to such a grim, frosty tale, equipped as it is with a hard, taciturn exterior yet laced with sad, depressive melodies. What hit me immediately was the song’s excellent pacing and flow. The tempos and moods flow together very well and keep things from growing tiresome. That “Winter’s Gate” doesn’t feel like a 40-minute song is proof of the band’s compositional acumen. I suspect many will sit listening raptly before realizing they’re 15 or 20 minutes in already. That’s great writing, sheeples.

Things open with the gentle sounds of wind upon the waves before erupting into classic Insomium riffing. The early going is fairly typical for the band but features some of their strongest writing in recent memory. At the 6:10 mark things move toward calmer waters, adopting a soothing, Anathema-like drone before heavy riffs return to wreck your dark tranquility. These riffs give way to an upbeat, almost Running Wild style “pirates on the high seas” lead which reoccurs periodically throughout the song. Somber melancholy sets up shop around 8:40 as gentle melodic leads join forlorn clean vocals. Around 13:00 an interesting Iron Maiden influence pops up with the Harris-esque bassline leading a soft, sparse section that could have been a transition on “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” The music then drifts back into dreamy, Floydian soundscapes with airy soloing before the slow build back toward heaviness at the 15-minute mark.

insomnium_2016

The rest of the album maintains this delicate balance between heavy and mellow, never lingering too long in either quadrant. One segment nails the classic doom/death style utilized by Swallow the Sun, and others veer into outright black metal blitzkriegs complete with blast beats and frantic trem-riffage. My favorite moments arrive around 26:00 where the music approximates Tales From the Thousand Lakes era Amorphis and later around 37:00 where they showcase gorgeous acoustic work rivaling that of SIG:AR:TYR. When the album finally fades out with more wind and waves, you’ll feel you’ve experienced something pretty special.

Downsides? As well as it’s all constructed and performed, “Winter’s Gate” is still a 40-minute tune meant to be experienced as a whole, which isn’t always possible or practical. You can fast forward but it doesn’t have breaks so it’s kind of an all or nothing proposition. In an increasingly ADD world there will be plenty of people simply unable or unwilling to devote the time and energy such a mammoth song requires, and it’s a shame there isn’t a way to break this into more digestible nuggets o’ metal. With production handled by Overlord Swanö, you know it sounds great, and I hear it’ll have a slobberknocker vinyl master too. Oh Dan, why can’t you produce all the world’s albums?

insomnium_artworkFrom a performance perspective, the music represents some of Insomnium’s best work. The biggest improvement from Shadows of the Dying Sun is the riffing. Ville Friman and Markus Vanhals stepped up their game considerably and the recycled vibe I sometimes got on Shadows is gone. Their riffs drive this unwieldy beast and hold the listener in their sway throughout, regardless what genre they wander into. Even the sparse, near-ambient sections feature beautifully minimalist noodling. The acoustic segments are my favorite and Friman and Vanhals truly shine there, especially during around the 37:00 mark. While Niilo Sevanen’s death rasps never blew me away, they fit the style well enough. Here he seems more inspired than usual, at times going extremely guttural, making things brutal enough even for Kronos camouflage cargo pants.

After the last albums from Insomnium and Omnium Gatherum left me somewhat underwhelmed I was starting to think they should just merge into one super band (Insomnium Gatherum?). After hearing Winter’s Gate I no longer entertain such foolish thoughts. This is an epic piece of music capable of captivating the listener for the entirety of its insane runtime. 40 minutes of great melo-death, all at once, all for you. Will you take the Finnish ice bucket challenge?


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media
Websites: insomnium.netfacebook.com/insomniumofficial
Releases Worldwide: September 23rd, 2016

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Note both Winter’s Gate and Crimson run exactly 40 minutes, no more, no less
  2. Thank you, Mr. Swanö

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  • Westpaceagle

    Yay! Not ashamed to be a long time Insomnium fanboy. Glad this is Druhm approved.

  • Reese Burns

    Was waiting to hear your review first, now I feel more justified in ordering my white LP.

  • Dr. Wvrm

    /walks into review
    “Pleasebegoodpleasebegoodpleasebegood.”
    /4.0
    http://tinyurl.com/RobbieLuDancinFor4U

  • mtlman1990

    Sounds awesome

  • mtlman1990

    Definitely will be there best record to date from what I’ve heard.

  • AnnieK13

    Really looking forward to this one!

  • bob

    The name dropping is dialed to 11 on this one.

    • I’m a lazy, provocative reviewer.

      • bob

        yeah it felt forced, right from the start.

        • I hear you, buddy. Forced is my middle name.

  • The Nerd.

    Thank the maker. I had my reservations knowing that it was 1 song. But it sounds like it’s going to be a treat.

    Thanks Mr. Druhm

  • @nordlingritesovkarhu:disqus

    What do you think of this, Bearbro?

    • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

      I haven’t heard it, but I liked the idea and am hopeful about it

  • Hammersmith

    What are the chances this will be .99 on iTunes…

    • Meat Tornado

      Zero. But it is 7.99 right now

      • Hammersmith

        Huh, oddly enough its broken into 7 “parts”.

        • tomasjacobi

          Not odd at all. The “one 40 minute song” sounds good as a marketing angle and it was probably a good creative tool to try and make a coherent album. But listening to the album it’s obvious that it consists of 7 songs that each has a beginning, middle and end. Sure, the songs segue into on another, but I don’t really buy the “one song” sell.

          • Hammersmith

            Fair enough, I just remember that the last Gorguts was one song, and didn’t get split up into tracks. I feel like that Meshuggah EP was the same deal.

        • lumberjake

          I heard this was done strictly.for he purposes of itunes. Makes sense.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    A band I have tons of respect for – I own their last 2 albums, but the thing is, I never wanna listen to them. Nonetheless, I’m gonna buy this new one as well. Don’t always listen to them, but I’m never disappointed when I do.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Glad to know you enjoyed it. Gives me hope that I will enjoy Insomnium once again myself.

  • Hopefully, somehow, someway, the vinyl master will be made available at some point.

    • I predict it will be made available on vinyl.

      • Actually Steel, you’re close: I know for a fact it will be cut to wax.

    • Reese Burns

      I just preordered the special white vinyl version, how much better is the vinyl master??

      • A lot actually.

        • Reese Burns

          Awesome, that’s good to hear. I was hoping that there’d be a noticeable difference.

  • AndySynn

    I’m glad you guys gave this a positive review. I was somewhat sceptical after their last one ended up about 70% bland (and, as you said, recycled), but I have much more hope now.

    • Based on our general rating compatibility you’ll probably go with a firm 1.5.

      • AndySynn

        It’s going to be the first review published on AndyMetalGuy

        • Don’t force me to put on my lawsuit.

          • AndySynn

            Don’t force me to use the safe word.

          • It better not be “Camel”.

          • AndySynn

            Where exactly ARE my camels, btw?

          • Monsterth Goatom
          • Monsterth Goatom

            The Steely Wonder superhero suit?
            He kicks legal ass so you don’t have to!

    • Thatguy

      The last one was indeed bland but I’m very willing to give this a good go in view of SD’s enthusiasm.

      SD can be enthusiastic about some odd things though…

      • Are we beefin’ now? It feels like we’re beefin’.

  • The Unicorn

    Great review, great release. Now fix that choppy background!

    (heres a 2000 x 2000 image link)

    http://www.outoflineshop.de/media/catalog/product/cache/5/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/p/r/pro_187_-_darkher_-_realms_2.jpg

    • You’re the best!

    • [not a Dr]

      I’m surprised no you-know-whats were involved…

      • He’s not a one trick pony.

        • METAL OTTER

          He’s also a one horn pony.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Maybe even one horny pony!

      • The Unicorn

        Hey, Im not just a one trick pony!

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        The unicorn in the website sidebars would have been a nice touch… ;)

        • The Unicorn

          LESS CAN BE MORE?????? YES!!!!!

    • That’s actually the one that got used. You’re looking it at. Someone just upscaled the 700×700 version that went out with the promo.

  • Despite my love for Above the Weeping World and Across the Dark, I’m also in the same boat of being completely unmoved by the last couple of Insomnium albums, so I’m glad to hear the hype has been confirmed. m/

  • Zadion

    Insomnium was one of my first “trve metal” bands as I was still tryna evolve out of my sadboycore stage way back in 08 and they’re a long time favorite (Above the Weeping World is one of the best albums of the decade). That said, Shadows was pretty shit and I was not hype for this. I mean, a 40 minute MDM song?? Especially from a band like Insomnium, not exactly known for their innovation, right after releasing the biggest offender of their catalog?

    Nonetheless, I’m thrilled to see Steely D give the proverbial thumbs up. I’m still a bit doubtful, but I can feel the hype mutating somewhere inside my gut. I hope that’s the hype, anyway.

  • Meat Tornado

    Shadows was excellent. The River is my favorite song by them, and I love a lot of Insomnium songs. I really don’t understand the hate for Shadows, it’s beautiful.

    • SuzyC

      Indeed. Shadows is a truly great album. ‘Revelation’ is one of the most beautiful metal songs I’ve ever heard, and I’m old enough to have heard and appreciated the first Iron Maiden album when it was the only Iron Maiden album. For my money, Insomnium has yet to put out a weak record.

      • Ernesto Aimar

        High five to that, “Shadows…” it’s a great album

    • André Snyde Lopes

      The River is, indeed, a kickass tune. My favorite from Shadows, no doubt. Everything else on that album left me cold (and not it a good way).

    • Hammersmith

      Yeah I was surprised at the review of it on here. I thought it was much stronger than One for Sorrow and Across the Dark. Seemed like they finally found a clean style that fit the music.

  • Eli Valcik

    everyone on discus should change their avatar to a unicorn, it should be a requirement for this site.

  • Piet

    Pre-ordered it two days ago, now I’m even more stoked about this. This band always hits the right notes for me so I’m sure I’ll love this. Excellent review as always Steel.

  • GardensTale

    With High Spirits and Sumerlands in mind, this is shaping up to be a pretty tight month so far! I fucking love Crimson, I still remember when we had homework hours at high school in 2005 or so, and I could comfortably listen to Crimson all the way through in that timeslot, hiding the forbidden earbuds under my long hair. I never really got into Insomnium despite liking Since the Day it All Came Down. Looks like I have to remedy that! But since I can’t get my hands on this one yet, I’ll have to sate my thirst for sadboy melodeath by relistening Slumber – Fallout for the umpteenth time instead.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Great review, I’m still a little disappointed by the last one… but will have to check this out.

  • Another great example of a single track album is Green Carnations “Light of Day, Day of Darkness”. Other than a 5-6 minute passage in the middle of a woman moaning, its a full hour of single track greatness!!!!

    • Hulksteraus

      I was going to say the same thing. That album is just awesome. Have already ordered the insomnium album, want the book as well…

  • madhare

    Ooooohhhh…. Insomnium AND concept album… **droooollsss**

    WHAT ELSE WOULD A MAN NEED FOR AUTUMN!

    **runs naked in the snow**

  • Amg is not going to like this….

  • Ah I’m such a shameless fan, I was really hoping it’d be good partly because I love the band and partly because I can be justified in my love yet again… I mean, I loved Shadows of the Dying Sun, so if Mr Steel says this is great I’m probably going to become particles and gently float up to space while weeping tears of joy (and sadness(tm)).

  • herrschobel

    Winter’s Gate ? already ?

  • Bart the Repairman

    As a fan of Insomnium, a fan of long music forms and concept albums, and a fan of Dan-The-Man’s mixing abilities, I’m glad that I’ve found out about this album just few days ago. Less of sleepless nights ahead of me.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Wish their was more actual music and less talking in a language I don’t speak in that clip, but I’ll be buying this because it’s Insomnium. Quite a few great bands coming out with new albums: These Guys, Opeth, Sabaton, DEP, Evergrey. It’s gonna be a fun October!

  • Ernesto Aimar

    Any info/feedback on the vinyl master will be appreciated, so I can decide wheter I buy just the CD or both formats of this marvelous album :)

    • Danny

      The vinyl comes with a CD copy (and a lovely copy of the original short story printed in three languages) if that is relevant

  • SegaGenitals

    Brilliant album. Between this, Hyperion, and Moonsorrow, it’s been an epic year for melodeath.

    • EPIC!!! And how about Be’lakor?

      • SegaGenitals

        Their recent album didn’t captivate me quite like the last one.

    • It’s been quite a year: Slægt, Hyperion, Omiun Gatherum, Oceans of Slumber, Countless Skies, Moonsorrow, Belakor, Insomnium. With Dark Tranquillity and Inflames yet to drop!

      • The Nerd.DMF

        In Flames will surely disappoint.

        • Emil

          Well predicted

  • Meat Tornado

    Is the “one 40 minute song not being ideal for an ADD world” the only reason this is 4.0 and not 4.5 or 5?

    This is a masterpiece.

    • Nope, I didn’t feel the length was a negative. It’s a great album, but shy of a 4.5 in my book.

  • Couldn’t agree more – I haven’t stopped listening to it since the minute it was released. SO AWESOME!!!

  • Tristan gummow

    I really wish theyd turn the volume down. Like Mors Principium Est they record way to loud and distorts the music if you crank it. And loud is the only way for metal ;)

  • Nag Dammit

    Just revisiting this – perhaps as an antidote to my scorchingly hot, rubbishly air conditioned office building – and forgot just how damn good it is. Wintery melodeath and an epic longboat voyage. What more can you ask for, besides a horn of ale?

  • Cho Tube

    After listening and following the story through the lyrics, the group that left their homes died at the end of the album? Really is an epic story telling that is meant to be listened to its entirety in one sitting.