Now I’ll be honest and say this album is probably the one I’ve been looking forward to most this year. Since I discovered Insomnium back when One For Sorrow was released, they’ve formed an integral part of my metal music. So, can the band beat their previous albums? Well let’s find out….
The concept behind this, their newest album is actually rather intriguing in the fact that it’s not an album at all. It’s a single. Which is 40 mins long! Based on the book, “Talven porrti” (or Winter’s Gate), the song pretty much follows the story in a more musical way.
Given that the track has been mixed by the legendary Dan Swanö (who I did an interview with recently), you can bet that the album has an epic sound to it. Add in the additional backing instruments courtesy of Swallow the Sun’s Aleksi Munter, and you’ve got one truly sweet sounding album.
Musically, the track goes through various different sections. Each of these sections has it’s own soundscape and could almost be technically considered individual songs in their own right. Yet, I feel as though splitting them off would ruin the overall vibe of the track. So whilst I initially had some reservations about it being one track, I’m finding myself agreeing with the bands decision.
One thing that surprised me most when I was listening to the track was Ville’s clean vocals. Holy cow, that guy can sing! He’s obviously been getting in some practice since Shadows of The Dying Sun as his vocals fit in a lot more seamlessly then they did in that album.
Another thing that struck me was how simplistic yet fitting the drums are. They provide the drive where needed but also fall back when necessary. The same is also true of the guitars. They provide melodic heaviness where necessary but also tone down when required. And when they do tone down, we get to hear the beautiful backing instruments, which are epic in their own right.
On the topic of guitars, I’d like to draw attention to certain man whom does some of the most epic guitar solos I’ve heard. The legendary Markus Vanhalla (who I also interviewed earlier this year). I don’t know what it is but that man has such a way of making everything he’s on sound superb. And he’s outdone himself here. His unique style is present throughout the track adding some rather tasty solos and melodies.
The section around the 7:10 mark is one of the bits where he shows off some of his playing and boy, what a riff! Ascending speed picked patterns, choral parts, the growls of Niilo and super speed drums make it easily one of my standout ‘moments’ on the track. And then they go and add in an acoustic guitar bit along with Ville’s beautiful clean vocals. Wow. That’s all I can say really.
Around the 25:30 mark, I was caught off guard by what are some of the most visceral growls I’ve ever heard in melancholic death metal. Couple that in with the slowed down ‘doom’ sounding riffs and you’ve got one seriously heavy section.
During the last 6 minutes of the song, I got goosebumps when the cold and majestic riff from the beginning returns to signal that winter has indeed arrived. Backing choral arrangements, super speed drumming and the growls of Niilo send the album off in style. And then, to top it all off, a key change! They really know how to spoil us don’t they!
So, have the band committed commercial suicide by releasing this album of one song? Well, no. They’ve actually created something unique and really rather magical. By making the album one continuous track, it allows the whole album to weave and flow through it’s various environments.
But I hear you cry, is it better than Shadows Of The Dying Sun? Well no. It’s not. It’s on a whole other level. It’s as if the band examined themselves and decided to focus on making themselves become even better. It’s quite honestly the best melancholic death metal album I’ve ever heard. And that is why it’s my album of the year.
Rating: Album of the year
Winter’s Gate is released on the 23rd of September via Century Media Records. You can preorder the album on amazon in [amazon text=CD&asin=B01HRZ75DU],[amazon text=Earbook&asin=B01HRZ7530] and [amazon text=Vinyl&asin=B01HRZ744A] formats.