“Winter’s Gate” is the seventh record by melodic death metal gods Insomnium, and takes a considerably different form from any of their previous work. This album is simply one 40-minute song. It is composed of 7 different parts, but as they form one track, it is more difficult to tell them apart. There are clear beginnings and endings to each of the 7 parts, but you’re much more likely to recognize this album as a single song. Though this is a bit of a strange tactic, it makes sense for Insomnium. Their albums have always had songs that blend into one another, so having one song simply increases the cohesion of the record.
Musically, “Winter’s Gate” is exactly what you’d expect from the band. They still are far better than any other band at writing music that is both depressing and uplifting at the same time, catching a variety of seasons, moods, and atmospheres. This record has crushing riffs abound, blasting, catchy melodies, and introspective instrumental passages. It manages to succinctly summarize everything the band has done in their previous work. The only real problem is… it’s just one song. Though this album is filled with memorable sections, there’s nothing to latch onto. You can’t say “that one riff in the bridge of this song is awesome” because instead you’ll have to say “the part at 16:49 is really cool”. Except nobody does that because nobody watches the clock while an album is on. That doesn’t devalue what Insomnium has done with this record; it just means that you can’t reach for parts of the record, and will end up listening to it less as a result.
One slight change on “Winter’s Gate” is that it feels like the clean vocals are slightly less prominent than they were on “Shadows of the Dying Sun”. They still show up on this album, but don’t really dominate the record that much. This is both good and bad: on the one hand, Insomnium’s clean vocalist isn’t all that technically skilled, but his approach works for a band that is based on creating intense emotions. At the end of the day, however, Niilo Sevänen’s growls are potent enough to do this as well, so it’s not a major loss.
The fact that Insomnium is not bound to conventional song structures on this album works for the band. It might not be as effective for the listener to follow along, but every second of this album is enjoyable, and it never feels like the band is retreading another chorus in order to write a song in a particular way. As a one-off experiment, “Winter’s Gate” was a good way to generate some discussion about a new Insomnium record. Overall, I prefer a more song-based approach, but this record is a nice change of pace too.
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All of it
4.2/5 or 84%.
Written by Scott