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Insomnium - "Across The Dark" (CD)

Insomnium - "Across The Dark" CD cover image

"Across The Dark" track listing:

1. Equivalence (3:18)
2. Down With The Sun (4:22)
3. Where The Last Wave Broke (5:03)
4. The Harrowing Years (6:39)
5. Against The Stream (6:11)
6. Lay Of The Autumn (9:08)
7. Into The Woods (5:08)
8. Weighed Down With Sorrow (5:51)

Reviewed by on September 14, 2009

"'Across The Dark' shows the heights an established band can reach within the boundaries of its chosen genre."

Finland’s Insomnium has returned with their latest opus, “Across The Dark,” intent to prove to the world that death metal can be brutal without sacrificing melody. Fans of bands like Dark Tranquillity and Chain Collector will be right at home with Insomnium’s new addition to the melodic death metal field, as it has everything that makes the genre great. While not a particularly innovative album, “Across The Dark” is still among the best albums that combines death metal with heavy symphonic and melodic elements.

There is an intriguing dichotomy present between the two different styles of music played throughout the album. The instrumental and symphonic aspects are generally played in a more depressing manner, giving off a downbeat doom edge like what would be expected from a band like Swallow the Sun, but without the slow moving structure. Opening track “Equivalence” immediately presents that facet of the Insomnium musical scale, playing a melancholy instrumental segment to prepare for the hellish growls to come. When the heavier parts then come into play, the songs suddenly become much more upbeat. Each guitar riff and bass line has an overall feeling like they are actively attempting to move the listener towards a specific destination, instead of just playing music at a captive audience. The skillful combination of the two styles gives the album a flowing rhythm not matched by many other similar offerings.

For an additional dash of the melodic, Insomnium recruited Jules Naveri of Profane Omen to lend a few clean vocal lines. The clean singing is generally layered alongside the death vocals, showing two sides of the same coin in unison. Naveri’s singing is incredibly smooth and has a clean confidence that isn’t often heard from death metal bands that dabble in mainstream vocal styles. The core of the vocal style remains deep death growls, however, so the album doesn’t sacrifice much heaviness for the added melody.

“Across the Dark” has its share of fresh ideas and new takes on old themes, but there are still quite a few derivative guitar riffs that have been heard before. Melodic death metal has been thoroughly explored by a wide range of bands, so it’s inevitable that there will be some bleed through somewhere. Even when the music isn’t groundbreaking or completely original, it’s still played with enough enthusiasm and heart that any fan of the genre probably won’t care whether they’ve heard it before or not.

As would be expected from the title, album ender “Weighed Down With Sorrow” is heavy on the gloomy and cheerless symphonic elements. The scratchy radio sound effects in the background give the song a distinctly cinematic presence and add another layer to the atmosphere. A clear picture is painted with the music of a dreary and slow-moving day seen through a colorless lens. To keep the theme of the song consistent, the guitars subdue their standard upbeat tone and go for a more restrained sound not heard elsewhere on the album.

“Across The Dark” shows the heights an established band can reach within the boundaries of its chosen genre. Anyone who didn’t like melodic death metal before won’t have their minds changed, but fans of the genre will likely hail it as one of the best releases the style has seen in recent memory.

Highs: Atmospheric symphonic elements, solid clean vocals, excellent guitar work

Lows: Some of the sounds have been done before in other melodic death metal releases

Bottom line: One of the best melodic death metal releases in recent memory.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)