Even though Insomnium have been around for 22 years, have released 8 albums and I have watched them several times live, this is the first album of theirs that I’ve listened to in full. And I can quite happily say that I really enjoyed it. The line-up has been pretty consistent with founding members Markus Hirvonen (drums), Ville Friman (guitars and vocals) and Niilo Sevänen (vocals and bass) along with long time guitarist Markus Vanhala now joined by new guitarist and vocalist Jani Liimatainen, who has actually being playing live with them for nearly 5 years already and the main reason he has been chosen to step up to a permanent position.
The album opens with Aleksi Munter’s keyboards which gently introduce the guitars to “Wail of the North” before Niilo’s growling vocals join in with drums, ending with fading out keyboards as gentle as they began.
The excellent combination of clean vocals and melodic guitars with their heaviness accentuated by the death growls give “Valediction” a multifaceted texture as it tells its lamentable story, with the drums picking up the tempo towards the end to give it even more of a hit.
“Neverlast” on the other hand doesn’t bother with disguising the fact that melodies can actually be played rather fast and with a full drum attack being accompanied by guitars and keyboards, they slow things down a little for the guitar lead, then again for the keyboard bridge before breaking back into the thick of things.
Just shy of 9 minutes, “Pale Morning Star” is an impeccable journey though blast beats, over swelling guitar riffs and into cavernous roaring vocals, all the while twinned with a melodic undercurrent of keyboards and guitars keeping the song flowing between lead solos, showcasing the brutal beauty music is able to portray with such ease.
The unrushed guitars and clean vocals used for “And Bells They Toll” make the death vocals feel much faster, even though the drum pace remains unchanged until they speed up for the ultra-slow lead.
Immediately upping the ante, “The Offering” roars to life with energetic guitar riffs and angry vocals, then just keeps on building on that with layers of guitar melody added to the growls, to juxtapose the two.
When you think there’s no further ways to combine aggression and melody, they throw “Mute Is My Sorrow” at you with its exquisite death growls and grandiose riffs and soaring leads
The twiddly guitar riff that opens “Twilight Trails” is reminiscent of winter carols, and while the vocals put those thoughts soundly to bed, the guitars continue to work their magic as the song winds down to acoustic levels with whispered vocals.
The title song “Heart Like a Grave” is slow but heavy and while the guitars are never played fast they have moments when it feels like they keep getting faster as the intensity of riffing increases with the vocals but not their pace.
The melancholy “Karelia” reminds me over overcast days and wanting to just stay warm and relaxed with good company. It’s also a great way to end the album.
However I have 2 more songs, “The True Morning Star” and “Karelia 2049”, listed in the promo bio, but not in the material, so I’m guessing they are bonus tracks on a different version of the album. Hopefully I’m not missing out on too much, because to be fair I’d quite happily keep listening to the album for another 10 minutes.
(8/10 Marco Gaminara)