Insomnium - Winter's Gate
Century Media
Melodic Death Metal
1 songs (40:02)
Release year: 2016
Insomnium, Century Media
Reviewed by Goat

For me, Insomnium have hitherto existed in that same narrow space as Omnium Gatherum and other bands with lots of ‘ums’ in theirs names - the sort of melodic death metal that’s designed to appeal to people too cool to listen to Soilwork and Dark Tranquillity like the rest of us. It’s good, of course, but lacks the poppy ear-snagging hooks that other bands utilise well to make their bands stand out, and so never seems to last very long on my radar – especially when compared to the proggy-leaning likes of In Mourning. So they have to rely on other gimmicks to push their good but not incredible melodeath, and we get stuff like (the admittedly doomier-leaning) Swallow The Sun making triple albums and Insomnium making album-length songs. All my apologies to Swallow The Sun, but 2016’s various vagaries mean that I still haven’t listened to 2015’s Songs From the North in full, and unless 2017 magically grants me time travelling powers that’s unlikely to change (I see Alex has reviewed it for this week’s update, however, and kudos to him). Insomnium experimenting with song lengths, however, I can get behind, and it turns out that Winter’s Gate is a hell of an album.

In truth, the band may have cheated a little; depending on the format, Winter’s Gate may be divided up into palatable four-to-six-minute chunks. But they’re clearly marked as being parts of a whole, and at a trim forty minutes a calm editorial hand has been at play, because this is melodic death metal trimmed of fat and flab and given just enough progressive Bane juice to be interesting to the chin-stroking crowd as well as the ‘actually likes hooks in their metal’ crowd. This is the sort of thing Opeth would be making in a more perfect world, intelligent death metal with melody and a sense of prog that goes beyond aping obscure 70s relics, but incorporating imaginative songwriting and a sense of drama into modern death metal. It’s very easy to listen to, very melodic but not at all poppy; each segment doing its own little job. Nothing here is new, it’s just perfectly written and judged. Genuinely atmospheric and wintry, too, that icily minimalist artwork fitting in well for the current season, and the album itself opening with blowing wind and icy ambience.

This is, however, still very much melodic death metal, and you’re soon reminded of that with some nicely melodic galloping with Niilo Sevänen’s growls atop. There’s a real epic touch to it, especially once Part 2 is underway with its almost folky keyboards and growled spoken vocals, and there’s a melancholic atmosphere which grows with the introduction of clean vocals. Part 3 is where the prog really kicks in, Part 4 introduces a little more folky acoustic clean singing; each has its own little hook or individuality to make it distinct. And the effect overall is that of a varied but smoothly transitioning album that holds together well and rewards repeated listens. It’s certainly the best thing I’ve heard from Insomnium, and more than deserving of year-end praise. Definitely worth your time and ears.

Killing Songs :
… have you not been paying attention?
Goat quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Insomnium that we have reviewed:
Insomnium - Anno 1696 reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Insomnium - Heart Like a Grave reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Insomnium - One For Sorrow reviewed by Khelek and quoted 86 / 100
Insomnium - Across the Dark reviewed by Dan and quoted 87 / 100
Insomnium - Above the Weeping World reviewed by Alex and quoted 90 / 100
To see all 8 reviews click here
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