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InsaN – Lighthouse

by Andrew Graham at 23 October 2020, 5:56 PM

INSAN’S “Lighthouse” EP is a fascinating mix of styles and moods, themed centrally around “the monumental building of the Lighthouse, shown through the prism of human feelings and experiences”. This project is a major success, evoking the feeling of isolation embodied in the architecture of a lighthouse through haunting and moving musical emotions that strongly stir the ups peaks and troughs of human emotions.

Progressive elements have been increasingly incorporated into a wide variety of metal genres in recent decades, including metal’s most extreme strands. In more recent times black metal has joined the ranks of those musicians seeking to do more to expand the conventional boundaries of their sub-genres. In many ways the progressive scene has become ever more diluted by influences from other sub-genres (reversing the trend in many ways!) InsaN has managed to pioneer a very unique progressive sound influenced very strongly by black metal’s harsh rawness and willingness to shout into the void.

Amel’s achievement here is truly remarkable, as he manages to masterfully paint a dense emotional canvass against which the listener is able to enhance with their own personal baggage. I recently came across a very prescient quote from American novelist Richard Kadrey: “Memories are bullets. Some whiz by and only spook you. Others tear you open and leave you in pieces.” This album almost plays like an attempt to transform that quote into music.

The production is very clean overall, with big drums and chuggy guitars punctuating the moments of profundity that are heightened by harsh vocals delivering heavy-hearted lyrics. The synths adding layers in the background sail smoothly along, laying out complex emotional backdrops against which guitar melodies paint the finer details.

“A Light in the Dark” begins with a distant, solitary operatic voice echoing quietly before strings and piano add to the aural canvass of ocean waves. Drums creep in, followed by solo guitar and more ethereal keyboards, which all cut out suddenly and leave us with the ocean waves. This scene-setter gives us the emotional tone for the album: bittersweet, regretful, solemn, melancholic.

“Surrounded by the Sea” opens heavier than the opening track, with layers of drums, chugging chords, and distant tremolo melodies. After about a minute we get a quiet passage with a repeating melody which finishes on an unexpected and quite jarring note. This plays nicely to the overall theme of memory and how they are so often at once both a comfort and a curse. This track is a daydream that conveys very strongly the jarring, mixed up, and often disjointed nature of memory and daydreaming. Warm, comforting harmonies are often broken up and end in places we don’t expect them to.

“Lighthouse” is a slow, chugging colossus (with a vaguely oriental-style melody following the end of each riff). The track takes a different perspective on isolation that would be expected by most. In the place of a sorrowful, mournful outpouring of emotions we have instead a voice shouting into the void, demanding to make itself heard, if only for a moment. Heavy drums and riffage underlies the gravity of the material here, and it is on this track that the black metal influence is strongest.

Reverberating piano notes open “Stones of Remembrance”, the track which gives us precisely that mournful introspection that would have been more expected on “Lighthouse” – though the title of this track makes us expect something of this kind! Heavier sections with thick riffs are enhanced with panged solo harmonies, all of which eventually fade out to the same beeping that is present at the very start of the EP (heart monitor perhaps?) With excerpts from poems by David Romano and Charles Bukowski, the listener is left feeling deeply introspective, and just that little bit optimistic.

At the end of the day, this is a hopeful recording, laden with life-affirming lyrics, spoken words and melodies that challenge us to truly live in spite of everything (and under present circumstances that is certainly a tall order!) This EP, particularly the closing track, reminds me strongly of a line from another poem, this time by Paul Valéry: “Le vent se lève! … Il faut tenter de vivre” – “though the wind is rising, we must try to live.”

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 7
Memorability: 7
Production: 7

3 Star Rating

1. A Light in the Dark
2. Surrounded by the Sea
3. Lighthouse (feat. Daniel Tikvić)
4. Stones of Remembrance
Amel Mahmic – Everything
Record Label: Independent


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