Released through Century Media Records on 23 September 2016 and reviewed by Angie K
Here am I, staring at my laptop, wondering how on earth to get this review started. Perhaps the best opening line is my genuine reaction at having heard this album at first: “Holy shit! What is this?!”
Finish melodic metal band Insomnium wanted to do “something that hadn’t been done before” and this is exactly what they have conceived. The one-song CD called Winter Gate, their unique seventh studio project, can be described in one word: epic. To even try to look for flaws here would be mean and unjustified. They have created a masterpiece that deserves a place in the heavy metal Hall of Fame. This is unusual, deep, decadent, and so weirdly perfect! Plus, it makes me feel ashamed for not having heard of Insomnium before (a gap I, obviously, must fill as soon as possible now).
This is basically one song forged around a story written by the band’s vocalist and bass player Niilo Sevänen: chilling, grim, still beautiful, text, materialised in an elaborated opus following its arc. What makes it unique is, pretty much… everything. It’s structured in distinctively separate parts flowing into each other naturally, developing the story into a melancholic current of thoughts, emotions and atmospheres. What I absolutely fell in love with are the classical “patches” transpiring tranquillity, sadness and solitude.
The 40-minute long track is an amalgamation of melodic thrash metal, death metal, classical power metal, and progressive metal: a challenging combination that yields great results. There are abundant harmonies, background choruses, multi-level orchestrations, acoustic sections, weeping guitar solos – and somehow, strangely to me, amongst all this perfectness blend in the harsh vocals of the lead singer. This is not the type of singing I am a fan of at all (with all due respect to death metal supporters!). My gut reaction would be to reject any attempts to incorporate bellowing into melodic rock music, yet this album weirdly makes it sound addictively good and I cannot bring myself to say a word of criticism against it. Yes, I truly don’t like the singing, yet I love the music and in some unknown way it fits the canvas of the whole project perfectly. To me this sounds almost decadent, which is one of its many beauties.
From the epic intro you know what to expect: anything that you wouldn’t normally combine mixed into one blend. Even the typical power metal following the classically lyrical guitar solo somehow deviates from the norm. Power metal tends to be associated with clear soaring vocals, which is not what Insomnium have chosen to do. Yet, they do use myriads of classical melodies and angelic voices, including background church type female choruses. This is a multi-layered composition changing rhythm, theme and atmosphere each time when approaching a new section, with gentle guitars and male multi-tier choruses, as if to give us a break from the intensity of the gloomy death metal underlying the otherwise beautiful surface. It crosses territory with classical prog rock as well, delving into the heritage of bands like Genesis.
One word indeed: epic.