Insomnium - Across the Dark (Candlelight/Earsplit)

Once described as a vulgar amalgam of Children of Bodom and early In Flames, Insomnium's music seemingly reached a zenith of creativity and overwhelming hard-frozen emotion on Through the Weeping World. Across the Dark has broken that almost impenetrable frontier.

Here's a small disclaimer. I am probably the biggest Dark Tranquillity fan known to man. I own all their records. I have their last two on vinyl (and I scour eBay for the remainder.) I bought their Projector album twice: the regular edition and the re-master. My account will attest to my overwhelming love for them. But if you were to ask me "who are the most innovative and expressive melodic death metal band at the moment" I would have to unabashedly reply with Insomnium.

Where as my beloved Dark Tranquillity look towards the future to bring forth their cybernetic sound, Insomnium are like a defiant return to nature; instead of electronics, they use piano and acoustic guitars in conjunction with electric; e-bow and folk-inspired passages instead of clipped bursts of intense anger as is DT's wont. Whereas the Swedish kings have all but abdicated, Insomnium and the Finnish melodeath invaders under their charge have finally absconded with their crown.

If creativity in melodic death in recent times resembles a bitter harvest, then Across the Dark is a veritable cornucopia of soul-rattling and introspective melody and lyricism. As with every release, the band sets the mood through layers of autumnal guitars yielding to a mournful, almost visceral harmony of slam-in-your-gut vocals, paired with polished and punchy riffs in Down with the Sun.

The Sentenced-inspired Where the Last Wave Broke, washes over the listener with chant-like singing and whipping riffs; likewise with Against the Stream that introduces one to a vast tundra of sound that only seems to increase in size as the melodies approach a magnificent zenith, yielding to rest atop a solemn piano line. Their up-tempo Into the Woods pounds with a sense of urgency and yearning, while the sprawling opus Lay of the Autumn strikes one instantly with its muted hues, lush guitar textures and hypnotic vocals. On this disc, they reach backward into their canon to project forward; the addition of tides of keyboards, morose singing and chilling orchestral passages just seems to heighten their considerable appeal.

For Insomnium, dynamic and contrast are where they excel and ultimately succeed. The subtle mastery of their craft, leading the listener in directions both familiar and foreign, will leave an indeliable impression on listeners, righteously clutching that crown in their calloused fingers; the hallmark of passion, hard work and creativity.

Insomnium's Across the Dark is out now on Candlelight/Earsplit.