As many of you faithful death/doom fans will recall, previous album Above the Weeping World largely dropped the flowing acoustic passages that made Since the Day It All Came Down such a haunting (and enduring) listen. It was actually a smart move, because there are more ways to communicate grace and introspection than by simply unplugging. Insomnium replaced those quiet sections with subtle, powerful orchestration that occasionally crested throughout the album. It was tasteful and restrained, and created a well-earned and genuine sense of grandeur. Despite that development, I think that Weeping World ultimately leaned away from death/doom and back towards the melodic death of the debut, In the Halls of Awaiting.
With the soft, chiming tones and swelling strings that open Across the Dark, Insomnium has found that balance again, and they’ve created their most mature and nuanced experience yet. The acoustic moments are back, the orchestration is back, the progressive flow and composition is back – and there’s a new surprise as well.
Rather than a blow-by-blow of each track, I’ll just jump ahead to the album’s most spectacular piece, “Lay of the Autumn.” It’s full of the gorgeous melodies that Insomnium has done so well in all of their albums, plenty of rugged, pounding crush and Niilo Sevänen’s cavernous roar. And of course, masterful transitions that flow between heavy and light, letting Insomnium bruise and caress with equal intensity.
After a brief mellow section a few minutes in, guest vocalist Jules Näveri glides in with clean, honeyed vocals. This is the one element I always thought was missing from Insomnium’s sound (the spoken word in Since the Day always felt too restrained), and it is wonderfully done here. Bravo. And another bravo to the songwriters, for crafting one of my favorite passages of 2009 with the twisty, glorious melody that kicks in during the track’s last few minutes. Gives me chills everytime I hear it.
As for the rest of the album, it’s another high-quality experience from beginning to end. There are some relentless, aggressive moments (“Against the Stream,” “Into the Woods,”) and more beautiful, hypnotic sections as well (the second half of album closer “Weighed Down with Sorrow”). Näveri’s clean vocals are only used sparingly, but they’re as welcome and effective as they were on “Lay of the Autumn.” They’re also subtly varied as well; the chorus on “The Harrowing Years” almost strikes a mournful country-music vibe (it’s a good thing, don’t freak), while the chorus on “Where the Last Wave Broke” sounds more contemporary and American. (That’s a nice way of saying that the song’s chorus veers a little too close to poppy emo/metalcore for my tastes, the one minor hiccup on an otherwise fantastic album.)
I recently moved to Colorado, and although I first played Across the Dark in bits and pieces during my short work commute, I got a chance to really let the album unfold during an hour-long sunset drive into the mountains. And it was fucking perfect. If the scenery here is anything like what these guys see in Finland, then it’s not surprising that they’d were inspired to create something so majestic.[Visit the band's website]