Insomnium – Across the Dark
Rating: 3.0/5.0 – Enjoyable and well done, but doesn’t quite stick
Websites: myspace.com/insomniumband | insomnium.com
Release Date(s): FI: 9.9.2009 | EU: 26.09.2009 | USA: 09.15.2009 (apparently this album was delayed)
Insomnium is one of those bands that rides on the border of melodic death metal and progressive rock, straddling the fence between good, solid heavy music and the proggy stuff that all the sadboy metal guys listen to. Those guys who secretly love The Cure and Depeche Mode and end up making stuff that sounds like newer Katatonia, Anathema or Amorphis. This isn’t really a critique, but it lets you know right off the bat where these Finnish melodic metallers are standing in reference to the never ending “is melody metal” war that seems to be going on these days.
And these guys are very good at what they’re doing. Across the Dark is a highly polished, excellently produced record. The music is melodic and fairly interesting, and sounds like an expert blend of Whoracle/Colony-era In Flames, Opeth and modern Amorphis (though, admittedly these guys use a lot more death metal vocals). While it starts a bit slowly, these Finns have you in the grip of their darkest dreams and melancholy aspirations in no-time, transferring smoothly between the heavy and the progressive with the ease that very few bands possess.
There are issues with this record, however. The first is the vague feeling that I’ve heard this all before. It’s not like I consider Insomnium‘s sound to be a direct rip off of any one band, but instead these guys are a bit like the stranger who you meet that you swear you recognize from somewhere. They consistently tell you that they’ve never been to that specific bar, and they don’t know that person you know from college, but you’re still fucking positive that you know the guy. I spent this whole album thinking to myself, “man, have I listened to these guys before?”
The second thing that I’m not terribly keen on is that the clean vocals and chorus parts seem a bit formulaic, wandering a little too close to the Killswitch Engage territory for my own tastes. Clean vocals are fine for me, but the way that they’re built into big catchy choruses, when the rest is heavy melodic death metal just rubs me the wrong way after being inundated with metalcore bands jumping on the KSE bandwagon. Those parts sound too polished, too clean, too commercial for me to really feel like there’s anything dangerous about this band. Instead, it sounds like they’ve got a producer sitting in the room going “and now, my friends, you need a catchy chorus! I know just the guy to write one for you!”
However, that isn’t the whole album and that certainly isn’t the feeling that I get from it all. There is a good deal of excellent melodic death metal riffs on here that I really dig, the clean vocals on “Lay of Autumn” stand out for me, and the album has a flow that it is really important for me and that speaks to talented writers with a feel for detail. All-in-all Across the Dark is not the strongest record I’ve heard this year, but if you’re a fan of melodic death metal, progressive death metal or stuff in that vein you probably won’t go wrong buying it.