Winter's Gate

Winter's Gate

Reviewed By Simon Crawley
Published 06 October, 2016
Link: Official Website

With a steady flow of studio album releases since 2002’s In the Halls of Awaiting, Finland’s Insomnium reveal its seventh in Winter’s Gate. Consisting of a single 40-minute track, this is a conceptual album inspired by the short story written by founding member and vocalist/bassist Niilo Sevänen. Written almost a decade prior to this, the short story and the album became a singular project – something the band had never done before.

2014’s Shadows of the Dying Sun is an impressive album and one that I really enjoy. It coincided with Markus Vanhala, also of Omnium Gatherum, replacing guitarist Ville Vänni and the two bands definitely share quite a lot in common stylistically. It’s that brand of melodic death metal that meets a progressive doom/black influence. Riffs bursting with melody that build and break like massive waves are built around death metal growls. There is something very distinct about this brand of metal: heavy, but delivered with proportionate amounts of melody and in a tempo that makes it impactful yet more easily digestible. Now you take Shadows of a Dying Sun and you then have one forty-minute song put in front of you and an almost instinctual feeling of unease settles in. I immediately questioned whether this was going to be something overambitious and an obvious attempt to shake things up, ultimately resulting in an anticlimax.

It’s bullshit to be so quick to pass judgement and I really enjoy moments like these when you are silenced by so much glorious noise – for 40 whole minutes. Winter’s Gate is Insomnium taking their musical creativity to another level and with what seems like a real sense of ease and comfort. There is a sense of fluidity to the entire track which speaks volumes. There is musical vision here that is so well executed and that isn’t burdened by filler. Stiller moments bridge the various parts that do contrast one another, but also compliment and substantiate them. Winter’s Gate has perhaps allowed for an added sense of licence to explore and the result is a range of intricacies to the band’s sound which tells a story and emphasises emotion. There could therefore be no better person to look after the mixing and mastering of the album than Dan Swanö. The Edge of Sanity and Witherscape musical mastermind understands musical storytelling and creative richness more than most in metal.

At a little over the halfway point, things take a slightly more melancholic turn and the power behind the sound is intense. The riffs are thickly cut and Sevänen’s vocals appear to go a few octaves lower. This passage is arguably the best from the duo guitar of Markus Vanhala and Ville Friman. The interchange between them is spectacular. The contribution from Markus Hirvonen on drums is significant, too; listen carefully at around the thirty-four minute mark as he really begins to kill it.

This is 40 minutes of metal that I could happily sit through - repeatedly.

Century Media Records/Sony Music Australia

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