Album Review – Insomnium / Shadows Of The Dying Sun (2014)

Insomnium provide us high quality Melodic Death Metal just the way we like it, directly from the land of ice and snow.

Rating4

insomnium_sotdsAfter the huge disappointments from Ahola and Sonata Arctica this year, we’re finally able to enjoy some decent Finnish Heavy Metal with the album Shadows Of The Dying Sun, from Melodic Death Metal band Insomnium. Although this is the sixth full-length album from this Joensuu-based dark and gothic band formed in 1997, it’s only the first with guitarist Markus Vanhala (Omnium Gatherum), and the final result is so professional and enjoyable that it might soon be considered by fans the best so far in the band’s career.

Their lyrical themes may not be the happiest in the world, as Insomnium usually sings about pain, loss, darkness, and especially how we cannot beat time, which in the end is the main connector of all those elements, but that doesn’t make their music less exciting. Quite the contrary, when a band is capable of awakening inside us a feeling that time is passing by and that we should do something about our lives, in other words, when a band makes us THINK about our lives, that’s when their music deserves to be listened, shared and truly appreciated.

One of the most interesting characteristics in Shadows Of The Dying Sun is that it’s not only Melodic Death Metal, but a substantial mix of other genres such as Doom, Black and even Folk Metal, which can be noticed since the very beginning of The Primeval Dark, with its enticing atmospheric instrumental, heavy riffs and deep vocals, working like an “intro” to one of the highlights of the album, the 6-minute melodic masterpiece While We Sleep, an awesome track with clean and guttural vocals blending really well, intense lyrics (“When all you ever wish for is to go back once more / When all you ever wish is to open that cage and long / When all you feel is remorse, pain and regret / When you brought on curse unable to move on?”) and a stunning riff in the background that gives the song an even more melodic sonority. Not only that, the smooth passage together with a nice guitar solo after 4 minutes until the end of the song is great, and don’t forget to check its superb official music video at the end of this review.

insomniumAnd that was only the beginning of the album, which goes on with Revelation, a song that constantly varies from raw to more melodic Death Metal and back again, with the instrumental always being very clean despite the heaviness of the music; and Black Heart Rebellion, a very melancholic and brutal track where drummer Markus Hirvonen abuses his double bass. The guitar duo and riffs are also amazing, and add to that some thoughtful lyrics and Niilo Sevänen’s above-the-average performance, and you have another memorable moment in the album.

Lose To Night is a more gothic song with some Paradise Lost-ish elements, moving it closer to Doom Metal rather than the band’s traditional Death Metal, while Collapsing Words brings the album back to a heavier sonority, again with awesome vocals by Niilo. These two songs are followed by The River, which has many elements from Black Metal (especially drums and riffs), with highlights to the semi-acoustic and very melodic ending; and the more commercial (but not less pleasant) single Ephemeral, with its amazing lyrics (“Darkness is ignorance / Knowledge is light / Fight only with yourself / Or the shadows of the night”) and a totally catchy chorus. Unless you have a very good reason for hating Insomnium, there’s no way you won’t get addicted to this song.

Finally, in order to end the album in a high note, the band offers us the beautiful ballad The Promethean Song, where the guitar riff works perfectly with the acoustic guitar, and Shadows Of The Dying Sun, with a dark bass tune to start it in an excellent way, a great chorus, and more powerful bass lines by Niilo along the whole song. Furthermore, if you’re a fan of the band, don’t miss the special limited digipak edition of Shadows Of The Dying Sun, which includes a bonus CD with four bonus tracks.

And was the album art inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s classic The Birds, or by the zombie birds from Resident Evil? Anyway, although it can be relatively simple to our eyes, it’s darkly delightful and very effective in translating into images all the musicality in the album. In short, this is the high quality Heavy Metal we always expect from any band that comes from the cold and marvelous Finland, and as previously mentioned the intensity the band puts in their music and lyrics is commendable, elevating them to the status of one of the best active Finnish bands today.

Best moments of the album: While We Sleep, Black Heart Rebellion, Collapsing Words and Ephemeral.

Worst moments of the album: Revelation and The River.

Released in 2014 Century Media Records

Track listing
1. The Primeval Dark 3:16
2. While We Sleep 6:20
3. Revelation 5:15
4. Black Heart Rebellion 7:03
5. Lose To Night 4:56
6. Collapsing Words 4:38
7. The River 7:57
8. Ephemeral 4:01
9. The Promethean Song 6:41
10. Shadows Of The Dying Sun 6:32

Limited Digipak bonus tracks
11. Out to the Sea 5:17
12. The Emergence 1:46
13. The Swarm 2:54
14. The Descent 3:11

Band members
Niilo Sevänen − vocals, bass
Ville Friman − backing vocals, guitar
Markus Vanhala − guitar
Markus Hirvonen − drums

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Album Review – Tarja / Colours in the Dark (2013)

While Nightwish unfortunately perishes day after day without a decent singer, Tarja keeps providing us some excellent heavy music with her strong solo career.

Rating4

Tarja_Colours-In-The-Dark_StandardWhen Tarja Turunen (the prettiest female singer in the world!) left Nightwish a few years ago, everybody thought she was over in the world of heavy music (she even said so in some interviews). Tuomas Holopainen is a very talented and creative musician, and without him nobody knew how she would be able to survive. Well, today I guess it’s the exact opposite: Tarja has a very solid solo career, while Tuomas is completely lost with his band due to his gigantic ego. And now once again Tarja releases a very good album full of melody, consolidating her as one of the most important female voices in Heavy Metal of all time.

Victim of Ritual, the opening track, is a kind of “Metal Opera” that joins Tarja’s beautiful voice, a nice rhythm, and an interesting mix of different sounds. I love the chorus when she sings victim of rrrrrrrrrritual! Then comes 500 Letters, a regular song from Tarja with nothing new to show us. The next song, Lucid Dreamer, is a good example of what she can do with her voice, while in Never Enough she gives her special Nordic ingredient to it by starting with the words y, ka, ko, ne! This is our famous one, two, three, four, but in Finnish, and I must say a nice start to one of the best songs of the album, followed by a track called Mystique Voyage, a good ballad totally focused on her unique voice.

Tarja_Colours-In-The-DarkThe next track is a cover song: I listened to the original version from Peter Gabriel for the song Darkness, and I think Tarja’s version is very similar to it. It’s good, but not even close to the quality of her version for Alice Cooper’s Poison. Anyway, I would really enjoy seeing Peter and Tarja doing a duet for Darkness live someday! Deliverance is just another one of Tarja’s typical ballads, while Neverlight has that type of heavy riff I was expecting to find more in the rest of the songs. The album ends with another nice ballad, Until Silence, and the song Medusa, which in my opinion is the most beautiful song from Colours in the Dark.

Regarding the musicians, it’s always good to listen to Mike Terrana. He is amazing on drums even when he’s not playing at full speed. The other band members do a good job too: nothing extraordinary, though, but enough for what Tarja needs. The front cover is beautiful, of course, as it has Tarja on it! and not only that, it has a psychedelic touch that makes it very interesting for album art lovers.

To sum up, Colours in the Dark is not as original as My Winter Storm, which is my favorite Tarja album, but it’s a good work worth buying if you enjoy heavy music with a female voice, just not so heavy as Arch Enemy or The Agonist. And did anybody notice how Tarja is getting more and more beautiful year after year? I hope she comes to Canada for a full tour soon.

Best moments of the album: The songs Victim of Ritual, Never Enough, Neverlight and Medusa.

Worst moments of the album: The keyboards and piano seem to be more important than the guitar, which is not that bad, but I feel there’s a lack of good riffs and solos in the whole album that could have given more punch to it.

Released in 2013 earMUSIC

Track listing
1. Victim of Ritual 5:54
2. 500 Letters 4:22
3. Lucid Dreamer 7:28
4. Never Enough 5:20
5. Mystique Voyage 7:14
6. Darkness 5:38
7. Deliverance 7:27
8. Neverlight 4:33
9. Until Silence 5:03
10. Medusa (feat. Justin Furstenfeld) 8:12

iTunes edition bonus tracks
11. Neverlight (Full Orchestral Version)
12. Until Silence (Orchestral Version)

Band members
Tarja Turunen – Lead vocals and piano
Alex Scholpp, Julian Barrett – Guitar
Kevin Chown, Doug Wimbish – Bass guitar
Christian Kretschmar – Keyboards
Mike Terrana – Drums
Max Lilja – Cello