This is the first in a number of reviews of the most recent releases from the bands on the Live Consternation Tour. Through this week, I will try to review Insomnium's In the Halls of Awaiting
, Swallow the Sun's Hope
, Katatonia's The Great Cold Distance
, and Scar Symmetry's two latest releases.
So, without any further delay, I present to you:
Insomnium -- Above the Weeping World
I first heard these Finns on Headbanger's Ball. Now, very rarely do I hear a band on TV and decide to check them out, but these guys really caught my attention. The shear volume and richness of theirs songs is enough to set the mood for any listener. Their musicianship is brilliant, their layering is magnificient (and they hold up well live.) Their singer has that traditional death/doom growl, that the audience can't help with confuse with November's Doom.
Another thing I noticed on this album is the band's ability to move from soft, romantic piano or acoustic guitar, straight into power chords and just overall rich death metal. But even their death metal sections arent mind-numbing, straight-forward, or boring. The guitarists couple together grinding riffs and power chords with melodic licks and sweeping. The drums are never too technical, they always fit in with the music...never playing distastefully fast as some death metal drummers sometimes do. The vocalist holds up very well, maintaining a uniform standard for his growling (no wacky screechs, screams, shouts of constipation.)
Yet another point of brilliance on this album is the unbelievable lyricism. But, I can delve into that later.
Above the Weeping World
begins with a short track called The Gale (Though it is longer than many SOD or Hatebreed songs.) Soft piano and the sound of a calming storm introduce the listener to the magic of Insomnium. After about 45 seconds, there is a mighty explosion of power chords and the beating of tom-toms. The other two minutes is just a huge mesh of towering guitars and the lone lyrics: When it rains, it pours like hell.
The song ends abruptly, and then the ultra-quick intro to Mortal Share begins.
The mighty melody instantly sets a pace for the song. The intro flows into the verse, in which the catchy melody is replaced with driving riffage, only to be quickly injected back into the verse break. The lyrics on this song are so thought-provoking and relevant to our world today:
On the burnished thrones they sit
Might in their blazing eyes
Vault of heaven at their feet
Undying flames inside
Drawn to Black begins with a simple back-and-forth from the guitaristsand then a brilliant mixture of power chords over high scale variations. Again, the lyrics on this song are really well-done, the chorus taken from Francis William Bourdillonís poem The Night Has a Thousand Eyes
. The singer injects a nice mixture of growled verse, whispered pre-chorus, and growled chorus.
The song fades out quickly, and then the slow medieval guitar licking of Change of Heart begins. The snare drum blasts accompany the chords for a rough change of pace. The guitar licks in the verse, but you can tolerate them better if you listen to the rhythm of the vocals. The lyrics for this song deal with the marriage of wind and fire, their interactions throughout the seasons, and their eventual departure from each other. The one thing I like about this song is that there is no rhyme scheme, and it is void of any verse-verse-prechorus-chorus-breakdown structure. The band can just kinda dick around with their parts. Unfortunately this makes the song less memorable, but who cares? They aren't trying to go platinum, are they? One piece of advice that I can offer the band is to end the songs more gradual. Some songs have a soft intro, but a real sketchy ending (just a short downstroke and cymbal crash.) To some extent, it lets the listener know there WILL be more to enjoy later, and it also sounds like they didn't really know how to end a piece.
The 7 minute At The Gates of Sleep follows with another acoustic intro, whispers, then a power-chord transition into the verse. Another thing I like about this band, is that they seem to put what could stand as a breakdown in between the intro and verse. It is such an effective teaser. The song isnt disappointing, the 4:45 mark giving the crowd a break from the riffage with a quiet lick and whispered growls. Insomnium seemed to have taken my advice on the endings, because there is a long, drawn-out growl and chord that fade the song to an end.
The Killjoy brings some happy guitars and nearly punk-esque drumming, but the overall sense of despair and rich depth remains. This is definitely the "party song" of the album. The end of the song sees some short blast beats and pretty fast double-bassing, only to end abruptly once more. Last Statement actually has a very eerie feel to it, and the way in which the vocals and guitar mix creates an almost Opeth-y sound. No part of this song is really harmful to the ears, but the myriad of stylings can seem a little difficult to cope with as they change pace and tone frequently. The tiny solo on this 7.5 minute song is pretty magical, and would fit very well in Final Fantasy or Legend of Zelda. For the second time, they end this song very slowly, but the uncharacteristic pop of snare and toms in some bastard fills breaks the silence. There is nothing truly awe-inspiring in Devoid of Caring, except maybe the chordal breakdown and keyboard outro.
Then comes In the Groves of Death. A 10 minute 7 second culmination of nearly ten years of Insomnium. The acoustic intro, is soon joined by a simple, yet fitting 4/4 rock beat, and for once on this whole album, the soft feeling is allowed to flow evenly into the verse, and not transition into power chords and riffage. This song, ultimately, is a cool-down song. I would have liked to see the singer hold back on the growling, since the music is generally quiet and relaxed, whispers or singing would have sufficed. At 4:23, the song could have ended, but an immediate return to the eerie intro keeps this epic alive. That section is truly heavenly, if they made a whole album of that doomy, acoustic guitar, I would buy a million copies. The vocalist does experiment with more whispers, and nails it. In a very creative move on the bands part, the song (and essentially the whole of ATWW) is closed with the same piano and storm that began The Gale.
Overall, this album is a journey. It is unlike any album I had heard before. This album introduced me to death/doom, and it forced me to listen to the music a little differently and dive into lyrics a little more than I would have previously done. If you like Swallow the Sun, Opeth, My Dying Bride, Daylight Dies, Katatonia, etc; then you might like this album.
8.9/10...It might have been a 9.5 had there been more variation in the vocals, and better endings to the songs.