Genre: Melodic Death
Label: Century Media
Never to be a band that rushes releases, we have seen a new album from Insomnium every couple years, with each release surpassing the former in ingenuity, most recently Shadows of the Dying Sun in 2014. This was an absolute masterpiece and instantly became my favorite album of the year, and my quintessential melodic death metal album. To follow a piece of art like that is not a small undertaking, and many bands falter after producing several albums. Following an album I considered to be perfect, I was hesitant to see if Insomnium would be able to keep going with the creativity and maintain the standard they had set. Enter Winter’s Gate, the 7th full length from the Finnish quartet, an innovate concept album that pushes the band in to a format completely new to them.
It’s not uncommon for bands to try different formats to grow their fan base but the rate of failure is depressingly high. An inability to effectively deviate from the proven formula alienate many bands from their long time fans. Refreshingly, that’s not the case for this album, with its tale of ‘a group of Vikings setting out to find a fabled island west of Ireland, despite the treacherous winter drawing near’. Even with the new layout it remains very reminiscent of previous Insomnium albums, from speeding riffs to the gritty comforting cleans that explode into powerful dominating harsh vocals that manage to remain articulate.
As Insomnium does expertly, you get to the part where the speed and ferocity make you want to bang your head and scream along, and then the switch is flipped and a wave of calm eases you into a slower spoken bit. A slow, generous serenade, like the sun rising and hitting the morning dew, a melodic chorus paired with acoustic strumming that paint a serene picture of the utopia that the Vikings seek, gradually speeding up, thrusting you back into the characteristic death metal intensity. This album is seductive, plain and simple. From the intro to the outro, it is 40 minutes of cheek flushing, skin tingling, orgasmic beauty. Few melodic death bands manage to glide so effortlessly between the gentle caress of the ballad and the fervent rush of thunderous drums and incredible guitar solos that just the right length, they never seem to end too soon or go on to become a hindrance. Over the course of 34 minutes you are taken on a roller coaster of emotions, following the group of Vikings on their epic sojourn. Your heart rate increases to match the drumming, an intense climax ensues during the finale of the story, after which the pacifying sounds of rain, acoustic guitars and piano lulls you to in a calm, but you’re still shivering and shaking from the euphoria. You could say I liked it.