Insomnium - Above The Weeping World - 2006 - Candlelight Records
1. The Gale 2. Mortal Share 3. Drawn to Black 4. Change of Heart 5. At the Gates of Sleep 6. The Killjoy 7. Last Statement 8. Devoid of Caring 9. In the Groves of Death
Insomnium’s rise to the apogee of the melodic death metal scene is nothing short of remarkable. After forming in 1997, the group released a pair of demos, shuffled a couple members, and by 2001 had landed a contract with Candlelight Records (a relationship still standing today). The following years brought their acclaimed debut ‘In The Halls of Awaiting’, and ‘Since The Day It All Came Down’ two years later. By the end of 2004, Insomnium were well renowned in most circles and once the hype for 2006’s ‘Above the Weeping World’ began to circulate, this youthful Finnish quartet suddenly had a high profile, widespread, and devoted fanbase.
Taking their dominant position into account, ‘Above The Weeping World’ greets us in appropriate fashion. Insomnium have always been a fairly unassuming group, both in the press and on record, but this album carries with it a sense of prestige—a more refined, developed atmosphere. ‘The Gale’, with its light rainfall and solo piano, sets the tone Insomnium have always established as their own (melancholic and highly textured melodic death), but in a slightly more grandiose way than in the past. Other Insomnium releases have had just as many acoustic intros, substantiating string harmonies, and whispered segues, but all these techniques are simply used with more showmanship on ‘Above the Weeping World’. Too, where before there was a subtle folk orientation to some of the guitar arrangements—particularly the acoustical— this album is decidedly rooted in the rock rhythm guitar tradition.
While on the one hand this does make ‘Above the Weeping World’ a little more anthemic and head-banger friendly, it also diminishes some of the notable atmosphere that had helped Insomnium carve out their niche. More specifically, ability to layer Gothenburg leads, which are by now predictable but still likeable, with the weighty melancholy eminent in the Finnish metal tradition. This album does inarguably demonstrate the tightest and fullest songwriting we’ve seen from Insomnium yet, but also some of their most predictable. Gothenburg riffing is a sure bet for memorable melody, but it can be a double-edged sword, as the majority of the metal fanbase is either burnt out on its familiarity or too indoctrinated by melodic death’s illegitimate child (metalcore) to appreciate the subtleties of the father.
On a more personal note, I must say that Insomnium has long been on the cusp for me. I enjoy them and recognize their talent, but they have always been something of a second-tier group that fails to elicit the emotional response that they ought to. ‘Above the Weeping World’ further cements both my respect for them as musicians and my resolve that they will never convert me fully to their cause.
For those already sold on their style, though, ‘Above The Weeping World’ will no doubt be a pleasure. It is dissimilar enough from Insomnium’s previous efforts to maintain a good level of interest, but familiar enough to appeal to both all their old fans and new, prospective ones.
Finally, although Niilo Sevänen is a competent vocalist (and quite obviously a disciple of the Mikael Stanne school of practice), his effort still leaves something to be desired. He either growls at a moderate pitch or is whispering, neither with particularly moving conviction, and has done just the same on all records before ‘Above the Weeping World’ as well. Perhaps this is simply their production style, though, which somehow manages to be full without carrying much weight. It seems fitting, really, as a representation of Insomnium’s ultimate impression: complete and professional, but beneath the glossy surface, what substance does it really offer?
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