At first, Heart Like a Grave sounds like one of them Amon Amarth records. It is this straight-in-your-face, rumbling Death Metal that compares so well to the yonder icy tracks from the muscular and bearded ones. The only missing part is the dragonhead and the inevitable Viking longship.
So nope, this cannot be it. Instead, we – indeed – get a hefty dose of pretty stellar Insomnium. The type of Melodeath, which does not take prisoners.
If you remember, Winter’s Gate already went Viking in 2016, much to the insane pleasure of the Norns. Insomnium set the bar already very high with this courageous and – I daresay – unexpected one track monster. The one with an already energetic, yet still comfortable flow of their typical Melodic Death Metal style with a doomish tinge that this band always performed so well. Plus a few experiments to round things up.
It is only with this last record that Insomnium started to break stride and kinda hesitantly took a different direction. And they scored mighty high with a worn-out concept. One that many shipwrecked on and few succeeded.
In other words, Winter’s Gate was already quite contrary to the former somewhat cookie-cutter style structure that made this band’s offerings so starkly recognizable. Just go ahead and compare Shadows of the Dying Sun and One for Sorrow for example. Those seemed to be cut from the same cloth, a template of sorts, with variations of intonation and melody. But never anything breathtakingly new.
Heart Like a Grave – in a way – continues where its predecessor left off. With a few extra metal shots of vitamins to spice things up. And Niilo Sevänen who growls away with an undeniable new-found gusto. That’s some severe polish upgrade right off the bat.
But let me tell ya. In the runup to the new album, I grew somewhat disheartened. This felt gluttony of clips that came out of the woodwork prior to the release of the record just did not bode well. Loads of green trees and lakes, but – hey – not a great deal of substance or emotion. And as videos go, you can positively drown a lack of quality in picturesque settings. In that vain hope to fool the fan base into believing that a stellar record is afoot.
And didn’t I relish some of the somewhat sarcastic ‘nice countryside’ comments. Because you’ll find them, those more critical fans on YouTube. Rare as they may be because yaysayers notoriously overload their very own echo chambers on that channel.
So, Quo Vadis, Insomnium?
Heart Like a Grave once again rearranges style and direction quite dramatically over the last record. This time with an almost disconcerting switch to speed and energy. And a new, pretty aggressive bite that brutally asserts itself in ways Eluveitie usually occupies. Mute is My Sorrow be my witness here.
Kudos go to Insomnium for such wisdom, though. If anything, this move proves that – after all these years – they still have a few aces up their sleeves. Because that kind of change was sorely needed. On the other hand, it is – of course – also true that they could have comfortably sailed on the same tack forever to Happyland and beyond. Mid-tempo growls ensconced in atmospheric riffs and rumbling drum work. With a trifle clear voice chanting to spice things up.
And there’s more. The addition of Jani Liimatainen (ex Sonata Arctica) as a full band member with yet another guitar surely turned out to be a kicker. Despite our fears, this added beautifully to the overall sound of Insomnium. I never had the impression of that dreaded wall of sound that often appears, once too many cooks are at work. This leads to a new richness in their sound, which frankly was not quite there before.
Some parts of Heart Like a Grave also took a turn towards the more blackened metal universe with tremolos appearing more prominently. All of that smartly set on a number or pretty energetic tracks that proved great Melodic Death Metal still exists. Yet, methinks that some of them could have been shortened and curated a bit better to increase bite still more.
In the end, Insomnium delivers a somewhat more assertive brand of their typical fare to our turntables. One, which now oscillates somewhere between the aforementioned Amon Amarth and the darkest gothic urges an Amorphis usually brings to the table.
So, by Loki, Heart Like a Grave is (yet another) high-quality Melodic Death Metal record that we had the pleasure to review. A great new piece that aligns perfectly with the already existing discography of a band on a roll.
Oh, and consume without moderation. We truly enjoyed it.
Ed’s note: The record successfully made it onto the 2019 Top 10 records. Congrats!
Get dat tune: