INSOMNIUM – A Journey Through Seven Records

Written by Jovan Ristić

Most bands would lose their momentum after releasing six records, but not the Finnish melodic death masters Insomnium. After the incredible reception “Shadows of the Dying Sun” received, Insomnium decided it was time to get even more serious and became determined to raise the bar yet again with their latest record “Winter’s Gate”, comprised of a single, 40-minute track. And while we’re enjoying this incredible journey through Scandinavian musical landscapes, let’s take a moment to look back at where it all started.

“In The Halls of Awaiting” (2002, Candlelight Records)

Just as In Flames were starting to thread a road that would take them far away from their Gothenburg roots, the Universe was working on restoring the balance and setting the scene for a band that would fill the inevitable void. Indeed, it’s hard not to notice the obvious influence early In Flames records like “The Jester Race” or “Whoracle” had on Insomnium at the time they released their debut. In truth, Insomnium did not break any new ground by combining the Gothenburg melodeath school of riffing, harmonies and guitar solos often flirting with power metal, acoustic pieces that accent the melancholic nature of the material and raspy, deep growls. However, they did build a solid foundation for what is yet to come.


“Since The Day it All Came Down” (2004, Candlelight Records)

Building upon the foundation set by the debut, “Since the Day It All Came Down” picked up the pace, both figuratively and literally. The band would further evolve with their sophomore release. The now trademark acoustic parts became more sophisticated, and the Gothenburg influences enriched by a more traditional Finnish melodeath approach, with a more aggressive rhythm section, virtuosic guitar work and more up-tempo tunes, but not at the expense of the melancholic, winter-like landscapes they’ve painted a picture of with the debut.


“Above the Weeping World” (2006, Candlelight Records)

With two great albums under their belt, by now Insomnium was considered a force to be reckoned with in the metal community. Taking the best of the first two records and refining it, Insomnium shaped their sound to perfection with their third release “Above the Weeping World”, owning a big part of it to a much more modern and polished production. This further strengthened the guitar sound, while the melodic and aggressive elements were emphasized and perfectly balanced out. Still, the question of whether the modern production worked at the expense of the atmosphere is open to debate. Fortunately, the acoustic parts were still here to set the right mood.


“Across the Dark” (2009, Candlelight Records)

Style-wise, the material on “Across The Dark” was a continuation of its predecessor, with one significant addition. With this album Insomnium experimented by adding clean vocals for the first time in their career. These are a perfect contrast to the deep, rough growls that adorned their sound from the very beginning. The proverbial cherry on top was the once again impeccable atmosphere that made their early works stand out. Sit back and pour yourself a glass of mulled wine, play “Lay of the Autumn” and try not to enjoy this season even if you still favor summer.


“One for Sorrow” (2011, Century Media Records)

If you had to use one word to describe the band’s debut with Century Media Records it would probably be “consistent”. Picking up where their previous effort left off, “One For Sorrow” was built on the same style, but with notably more clean vocals handled by the band’s guitar player, Ville Friman. Equally well composed and recorded, “One For Sorrow” made a great contrast between uplifting guitars and sorrowful vocal melodies, straight out of the Dark Tranquillity textbook.


“Shadows of the Dying Sun” (2014, Century Media Records)

While the previous few releases saw them treading familiar grounds and perfecting their sound detail by detail, with “Shadows of the Dying Sun” Insomnium raised the bar by presenting an album that is more aggressive, more emotional and more mature. The melodic elements, catchy-as-hell choruses, clean vocals and acoustic passages were fully perfected, and the sum of all these brought Insomnium the much deserved mainstream attention and critical acclaim. The album also presented a new guitar player in  Markus Vanhala (Omnium Gatherum), as the band had previously parted ways with Ville Vänni. With memorable and profound tunes presented on this record, Insomnium made a killing.


“Winter’s Gate” (2016, Century Media Records)

While the rest of the melodic death metal scene is looking at metalcore for inspiration and experimenting with modernizing their sound, Insomnium have decided to seek inspiration in days past. Their latest offering “Winter’s Gate” is a single, 40-minute track that evokes nostalgia for the diverse and rich Scandinavian metal scene of the 90’s and bands like OpethAmorphis or Emperor. At the same time though, the album pushed the band forward with richer, more mature arrangements and perfectly incorporated progressive, doom and death metal influences. The Finns have simultaneously paid their respects to the bands that shaped them into who they are and elevated their style further. Not a single moment of this song/album is dull. You’ll never want to check the clock to see if it’s ending soon. “Winter’s Gate” is an amazing journey, front to back.


Insomnium @ MetalDays 2016, photo Marko Ristić

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