When the cold dark wind is howling through the countryside with a bleak moon illuminating the wolves looking for sorry beasts to hunt down, then this feels like the mood the 2009 album Across the Dark from the Finnish metallers Insomnium projects.
This record reminds me of dreary landscapes. Places where one – in a desperate way – really wants to be depressed and look for some consolation. Across the Dark is the music you would listen to on the South Pole. Whilst your buggy races along the cold plains of unknown Kadath, looking for untold horrors.1)
Brutal and extended riffs abound, some of them fast, others again slow and almost hypnotic in style. You’ll find a ton of heavily distorted guitars, and growls that come through at very low levels of the (almost subconscious) spectrum. And then again, clear voice parts suddenly surge forward on some of the tracks.
Unfortunately, compression reigns at relatively high levels. This fuses pretty much all music elements into each other, which is a pity. It would have behooved Insomnium to get with a better quality sound studio. To get them tracks that actually have the spread to take it all in and give them the breadth of production worthy of their qualities.
And not least for the sake of the lyrics, which are actually quite good in their gloomy splendor. On their 2014 record Shadows of a Dying Sun, this has (or seems to have) happened. Quality actually already improved with One for Sorrow, but back in 2009, all this is a different story.
Those who have read a few of my reviews already know that I am usually not very fond of intros. However, the exceptions confirm the rules as we say. Because for Insomnium this does not apply.
This is one cool start to the album, and a worthy kickoff to get with the follow-on Down with the Sun. This one is absolutely superb Melodic Death Metal. Okay, some death metal purists again argue that Insomnium did cut the track into too many pieces. So that we earthlings cannot discern any melody anymore, right?
Where the last Wave Broke takes you along a journey. Harsh in the beginning, hypnotic for the rest with some great riffing in between. Kind of along the lines of what I mentioned above. The following tracks The Harrowing Years and Lay of the Autumn kind of hit the same spot. But both are not as good as track # 2.
Then the rest, hmm, the REST!! Not bad, but some of that stuff smells the filler. Again, this is not AC/DC, so things are not that straightforward and easy. The Melodic Death Metal is still juicy. But – gosh – somehow we miss the essence of the band by inches, if not yards. Difficult to pin that one down and describe it fairly.
I am a little disappointed by the very last track Weighed Down with Sorrow. Not bad, but again the record somehow misses some depth there. Actually, the track starts well with these faux violins. But just about when you want to start some headbanging, it seriously loses steam, which is a real pity. It does pick up some more power later in the song. To an extent only and it ends with a somewhat unexpected flourish.
Overall, Across the Dark is very good Melodic Death Metal of the Doom (and gloom) kind. I quite love the album, but it has more filler stuff in there than the other future productions combined.
One can of course argue that at that time they still tried to find their identity2). But some of that stuff comes through as a little flat. If this expression can be used with them. It is great news that in later albums they were able to work their style better and to their advantage.