Melodic death metal has never been a favourite subgenre of mine, but Insomnium is one of the few bands that really shows how brilliant this style of music can be. Much of their music is based on the conflicting emotions of despair and uplifting hopefulness. It is truly incredible how they balance the two sounds, and it creates for powerful experience unlike any other. “Shadows of the Dying Sun” is the sixth full-length record for the band, and it largely continues in the style they’ve carved out over the last couple of records. Clean vocals have been fully integrated in this album; that’s not to say they appear on every track, but songs like “While We Sleep” and “Lose To Night” feature them prominently. In fact, the former track lets the clean vocals feel like the lead over the harsher growls because singing opens each of the verses. Ville Friman’s singing is still technically unimpressive, but he does a fantastic job fitting the emotions that the band conjures up. For this reason, “Shadows of the Dying Sun” is a tough sell on first listen. These are songs that you really need to listen to multiple times before they grow on you, but it is well worth the investment.
One aspect of this album that will not take long to get into is the improved quality of the guitar solos. Bringing in Markus Vanhala from Omnium Gatherum has definitely brought some inspiration to the band’s shredding. The solo at the end of “While We Sleep” is a fantastic example of a solo where every note is completely gripping, and given how impactful these songs already are, a great solo brings them over the top. Another stellar performance comes from vocalist Niilo Sevänen. His vocals are extremely deep and are definitely what keeps the death metal tag on this band.
From a songwriting perspective, there are a few obvious highlights. Both singles, “Revelation” and “Ephemeral”, are among the best tracks. “Revelation” is one of the band’s fastest and thrashiest tracks on this record, but the band still manages to intersperse their trademark melancholy sound throughout the song. By contrast, “Ephemeral” ditches the speed in favour of pure catchiness. This is the one song that after a single listen will remain in your head for hours. Nevertheless, every song is ultimately very true to Insomnium’s core sound. While a track like “Black Heart Rebellion” uses blast beats to mix things up, for example, it never strays from being an epic, sorrow-filled journey. The band primarily achieves this through lingering melodic lines atop pounding, mid-paced double bass work. When Sevänen isn’t growling, he often uses some whispering vocals, but this again just adds to the feel of the music.
My one criticism of “Shadows of the Dying Sun” is that it is too long. Forget the fact that albums nearing an hour already tend to be excessive; Insomnium’s music is genuinely draining to listen to in lengthy bursts. By the end of the record, there is definitely a feeling of sameness from each song, even though most tracks do have something unique about them. Nevertheless, nobody does this style better than Insomnium, so if you need another fix of killer melodeath, “Shadows of the Dying Sun” will be a favourite.
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"While We Sleep"
4.25/5 or 85%.
Written by Scott