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Insomnium - Heart Like a Grave Award winner

Insomnium
Heart Like a Grave
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 21 September 2019, 10:28 AM

Strange and formidable things may grow from humble beginnings. Back in 1997, in the remote town of Joensuu, beyond the great vast forests of eastern Finland, some teenage Metalheads got together to play loud and fierce music, drink beer and have fun. Little did they know that two decades later they would be saluted as one of the spearheads of their genre, preparing to release their 8th studio album and embark on another world tour.

Since 2011, INSOMNIUM’s line-up has been Markus Hirvonen, Ville Friman, Niilo Sevänen and Markus Vanhala (who does double duty in OMNIUM GATHERUM) In 2018, it became apparent that guitarist Ville Friman could not combine the heavy touring anymore with his another career as a lecturer in York University. Hence the band decided that a third guitarist was needed to get the machinery running properly. They did not have to look far, since certain Jani Liimatainen (THE DARK ELEMENT, CAIN’S OFFERING, ex-SONATA ARCTICA) had already been a live guitarist on several tours. So blood oaths were done, toasts raised and unholy contracts signed, and the band became a quintet. Their latest offering, “Heart Like a Grave,” is due for release on October 4, 2019.

“Wail of the North” leads off the album, with charming piano notes, creating a sad but hopeful atmosphere. When the main riff drops, it’s absolutely commanding. “Niilo’s vocals are on point, deep and dark in scope. It lasts only three minutes but leaves an indelible mark. It segues into “Valediction,” which opens with a faster pace. The harmonic clean vocals are absolutely catchy here, and combine with Niilo’s Death growls in some parts, creating this layer of richness. I keep going back the clean vocals in the verses…they are so well done. Following the second chorus, there is a beautiful bridge done with keys and clean guitars, and then that signature INSOMNIUM sound comes back around.

“Neverlast” opens with some harmonized guitars that immediately grab you out of the gate. The chorus is rich and full, and those harmonized guitars come back after the second chorus, rising high as a mountain spire into the clouds. “Pale Morning Star” is a lengthy track, at close to nine minutes in length. It opens with melancholy clean guitars and then the main riff hits like a locomotive train. The lead guitars dance over the track and give me goosebumps as I imagine staring into the heavens on a cold dark morning…peaceful is the word that comes to mind. It’s both despondent and hopeful at the same time. They really labor in this song but it keeps the sound touching and memorable.

“And Bells they Toll” opens with clean guitars and some background ambiance. It’s a slower moving song but allows you to take it all in. it has a powerful and majestic presence. “The Offering” opens with an all-out assault on your senses. Niilo’s vocals are earnest and deadly. The little “extras” they introduce here are wonderful…beautiful snippets of melody. “Mute is My Sorrow” opens with charming clean guitars and some background atmosphere, until the main riff hits with a hopeless tone. But I have always said the dark can be a beautiful place to be. The guitars create most of the wondrous atmosphere in this track and it really opens up and breathes. “Twilight Trails” is more Doomy and straightforward than previous tracks, with every bit of power and reverence. Following the second chorus, the clean guitars shine. Following the second chorus there is a lighter passage that features clean guitars and a despondent tone.

“Heart Like a Grave” opens with clean guitars that are pretty and alluring. It moves slowly with pronounced guitar parts and Niilo’s gritty and low vocals. In the chorus, both clean and harsh vocals play nicely together. It’s sort of a sad tale, at least for me, stamped with section where some of the sound drops off. “Karelia” closes the album; an eight minute instrumental tale. An extended clean guitar passage opens the song, followed by distorted guitars. The lead guitar cries out like a lonely man on a mountainside, with only his echo listening. It’s an interesting choice for a closing song…referring to an area of “historical significance” in Northern Europe for Finnish people.

When I think about where this band started, and where they are today, what a lovely journey it has been. They never lost the sound that you have become accustomed to, but on “Heat Like a Grave” they weave in subtle nuances of melody that support the heaviness and aggressiveness akin to subduing a prehistoric beast, and the ambient and more mellow passages serve two purposes…first, it makes the heavier passages that much more pronounced, and second, it serves to remind you of their gracefulness. Great bands always have a sense of the refined and elegant, and INSOMNIUM is no exception. Put this album on your radar for “album of the year” for sure.

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 9
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Wail of the North
2. Valediction
3. Neverlast
4. Pale Morning
5. And Bells they Toll
6. The Offering
7. Mute is my Sorrow
8. Twilight Trails
9. Heart Like a Grave
10. Karelia
Lineup:
Niilo Sevänen – Vocals/Bass
Ville Friman – Guitars/Vocals
Markus Vanhala – Guitars
Markus Hirvonen – Drums
Jani Liimatainen – Guitars/Vocals
Record Label: Century Media Records
     


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