insomniumwintersgatecdnewIt seems like Finnish band Insomnium have been going from strength to strength recently. The last couple of times I have seen them, they have pulled in a crowd that has had the venue bulging at the seams and received jubilant conquering applause for their shows. Now on album number seven they have decided to do something a bit different and go for an approach, a bit like Moonsorrow have in the past and deliver a whopping single and epic track spanning a 40 minute running time. Naturally you get an icy insight into this just looking at the album title and I was pleased to find a short story within my promo pack written by vocalist / bassist Niilo Sevänen putting things in context. I am assuming this will be provided with the disc for anyone buying to enjoy but basically it tells the tale of Viking plunderers looking for gold in Ireland just before winter sets in and biting off far more than they can chew!

For a track like this to work it has to, very much like a story, keep the listener captivated from the cold wind that opens it right through to the end, after all this is a saga that needs to be recanted through generations. Luckily Insomnium prove master song-writers and do so as the music moves through many different progressions, twisting and turning, thundering away and breaking things down with delicate acoustic moods. Once it breaks out and musically plunders with a massive swaggering bravado you are quickly in the swing of it all by the time the gruff vocals join in with hoary grit and determination behind them. Melody is strong and it’s impossible not to find yourself banging away anything that moves along to it all. The whole effect is suitably one that puts you in mind of a legendary odyssey. A chilly synth part underlies things with spoken word as things calm down and there’s a real air of mystery before chops are engaged once more and the music chugs away.

Rife with atmosphere the slower parts really help engage the listener and get the imagination running, especially once the story has been read. There are some clean harmonies vocally and some musical nuances that are reminiscent of a time that Opeth used to be a great band before they went all up their own arses. Sure it all has a certain progressiveness to it but the pagan furrow and might is never far behind. When the band meander it is done in a way that acts as an enjoyable diversion on the journey, a moment of calm to gather your thoughts and dream along, captivating in the way few bands can manage although reminiscent within the tale that is being told of music by the likes of Icelanders Solstafir.

All the composite parts are skilfully blended together and it’s obvious the band have taken a lot of time working on constructing a massive piece of music which never gets stale or loses control here. I must have listened to it almost ten times before daring to put the review together and this is a perfect soundtrack to the cold dark winter days and nights ahead. Writing more would be pointless although one thing that is a hopeful eventuality will be seeing the band perform the entire song live. Now are they going to do a Vivaldi and explore the other seasons, probably not from the country of everlasting darkness.

(8.5/10 Pete Woods)