Finnish melodic death metal legends INSOMNIUM come back to the attack with their eighth studio album entitled “Heart Like a Grave”, to be released on October 4th via Century Media Records. Since the Finns have had a very consistent career spanning over twenty years, the expectations on their next studio album are always going to be high. One of the main attractions of this new release is the addition of a third guitar player, no less than Jani Liimatainen (ex-SONATA ARCTICA, who will permanently replace founding member Ville Friman in their live shows. This record also marks their first collaboration with famous Swedish sound engineer Jens Bogren, who was in charge of the mixing and mastering of the album.
The album opens with “Wail to the North”, which builds up from a soft piano introduction into a mid-tempo melodeath track which brings to mind an unborn child between AMON AMARTH and AMORPHIS. The keyboards by long-time studio collaborator Aleksi Munter make this song very atmospheric, blending perfectly with the guitar harmonies. They continue with “Valediction”, the first single of the album, released already in August. The song starts in a very energetic fashion, giving way to more melodic sounds and clean voices, but including also more aggressive bits. Since the beginning, we notice how INSOMNIUM master the art of adding contrast to their music in the right amounts. A great start to this journey into the heart of Finland.
The next track is one of my favorites on the album, I’m talking about “Neverlast”. After a misleading beginning with a progressive feeling, the track quickly takes off with a feast of sharp melodeath guitar riffs, including effective breakdowns into mid-tempo sections. I have to say that I prefer to hear more of Niilo’s growling instead of the clean voices by Jani and Ville. “Pale Morning Star” is a more intricate song which starts with acoustic guitars evolving into blast beats and tons of melodic guitar harmonies. This track features great work by drummer Markus Hirvonen, who delivers a clockwork performance. Lasting over nine minutes and including plenty of changes of intensity, it becomes one of the most epic songs on the album.
On the other hand, “And Bells they Toll” is more slow-paced and although it features nice clean vocals and interesting guitar melodies, in the end, it feels a bit flat and uninspired compared to the rest of the album. With “The Offering” they get back on track with a display of catchy guitar riffs and those awesome well-articulated growls by Niilo Sevänen. The softer interlude in the middle section is very soothing an injects some fresh air into the record. This song maybe summarizes all the classic elements of the band in a nutshell. “Mute Is My Sorrow” is another outstanding track, featuring some acoustic bits and plenty of infectious guitar harmonies, with a very intense and energizing rhythm section.
“Twilight Trails” continues the path of glory, it has this Viking Metal feeling to it, and it works perfectly as a mellow battle hymn. The interlude in the middle section includes some acoustic elements and gothic-like vocals. “Heart Like a Grave” feels like an odd choice for a title-track because it doesn’t really represent the overall sound of the album. It’s not a bad track but it lacks the energy and novelty to stand out from the rest. The journey ends in a triumphal way with the superb instrumental “Karelian”, a masterful display of virtuosity, filled with moving and gloomy sounds. It’s a song that claims to be heard in a dark room with your eyes closed, eargasm guaranteed.
With “Heart Like a Grave” INSOMNIUM reach a new level of excellence in their songwriting and performance, becoming one of the most interesting melodeath releases of the year. The production is flawless, the sound is crispy and allows them to create very atmospheric moments, where you can easily immerse yourself in a dark and cold Finnish forest on a winter’s night. Anyone who has spent a winter in this country can relate to the feeling of melancholia surrounding the album. The addition of Jani as a third guitar player and as a songwriter clearly adds a more melodic touch to the band, allowing them to evolve in a maybe more commercial direction, but without losing their musical identity. We’re looking forward to seeing them on the road!
INSOMNIUM – HEART LIKE A GRAVE VIDEOS
1. Wail of the North
4. Pale Morning Star
5. And Bells They Toll
6. The Offering
7. Mute Is My Sorrow
8. Twilight Trails
9. Heart Like a Grave
Markus Hirvonen – Drums
Ville Friman – Guitars and vocals
Niilo Sevänen – Vocals and bass
Markus Vanhala – Guitars
Jani Liimatainen – Guitars and vocals
Album review by David Araneda