I would have never thought Gothenburg-style melodic death metal would impress me so much again. The last time I really, really enjoyed albums like this was in the late 90's; and even though I have never grown away from the genre, I felt many of the stuff was far from exciting. Finally, Insomnium's third album Above the Weeping World has come along and taken me by storm. A great improvement over their previous albums, this disc will totally slay any death metal fan who likes his music both heavy and melodic.
The best part about this album is its consistent heaviness. While Insomnium still heavily relies on the melodic quality of earlier In Flames and blend it with strong vocals, they have toned down on the ever-present acoustic transitions that permeated their earlier material. They still play lots of acoustic guitars on this release, but they are all brief sections in the songs rather than huge, drawn-out passages. Add to this the powerful vocal performance of Niilo Sevanen. I honestly can't imagine a better vocalist for this band; he exudes never-ending aggression, singing with tons of emotion, and unlike most other bands in this vein, he doesn't switch to redundant clean vocal harmonies. Rather, he likes to alternate between a more midranged growl and painful screams, depending on the mood of the song, and he will also use goose bump-inducing whispers.
"Drawn to Black" would be a great choice to represent the general sound of the album, as it combines every aspect of Insomnium to great effect. Its epic-scale intro suggests this band can easily kill most of those Children of Bodom clones who are simply adding in some clean vocals to the mix alongside generic, excessive folk elements that simply don't mesh. Insomnium, on the other hand, is capable of utilising forceful dual guitar work with crushing riffery and explosive drum and bass battery. They really know how to compose death metal songs, adding in their own melodic signature to it. Despite coming from a distinct Gothenburg school of metal, their songs are undeniably stamped with the Finnish darkness fans have come to know ever since Sentenced's North from Here came out. These slower, more melancholic parts are mostly put forth during clean-toned acoustic sections which are underpinned by Sevanen's clever bass lines and harrowing whispers.
Another essential ingredient on the album is Markus Hirvonen's drumming. Very different from the norm, Hirvonen prefers to inject a sparse beat to each piece to basically guide the entire composition, much like he does on the amazing intro of "The Gale", where his rhythm work lays down a very atypical foundation to the otherwise melodically rich guitar harmony. Same thing happens on "Mortal Share", with a great drum rhythm placed atop fatal twin guitars; or the superb anthem "Change of Heart", one of the more compact songs that has a lullaby-like beginning. At one point, when the band recede to a great acoustic break, Hirvonen simply lays down a neat dolo on top of it. Some of the finest material on the album has got to be "At the Gates of Sleep", complete with strong harmonies, vital bass work, and searing guitars until a slowed-down moment where a great nordic folk melody rises to the fore out of nowhere, only to be replaced by a terrific build-up with massive guitar riffs. Likewise, "The Killjoy", also featuring some backing vocals by Antti Haapanen, is among the heaviest cuts on the album, with deep, merciless growls, and punishing staccato lines that culminate in a wonderful climax.
The lyrics are once again inspired by poets such as Bourdillon, Holderlin, and Poe, giving an edge to the songs, "Last Statement" being a standout. The way Sevanen's tortured vocals repeat the line "Don't forget me / Burn a candle when you can" over and over will leave anyone who is into this type of music shaking. Melodic death simply cannot get more honest and emotional than this. The ten-minute finale "In the Groves of Death", where the band moves from beautiful keyboard-driven atmospherics to epic guitar solos and diverse vocal styles, ends exactly the way the album starts: the sound of rain. This lends this disc a great stylistic cohesion, something few new death metal bands have achieved so well over the years.
On another note, the artwork, upon first seeing it, had me thinking of Searing Meadow's Corroding from Inside, another Finnish band, in tone and texture, but as with the music, this one is better. If you are into In Flames until The Jester Race and Dark Tranquility until Projector, and also enjoy the melodic sides of bands like Jarva-era Sentenced, Eternal Tears of Sorrow, and Swallow the Sun, you cannot pass this up. This could be the best melodic death album of the year. This is melodic death metal perfection.
- The Gale
- Mortal Share
- Drawn to Black
- Change of Heart
- At the Gates of Sleep
- The Killjoy
- Last Statement
- Devoid of Caring
- In the Groves of Death