Insomnium, a melodic death metal band from Joensuu, Finland, released their epic concept album ‘Winter’s Gate’ on the 23rd of September this year. The album breaks from Insomnium’s usual structure in the band’s desire to create what Markus Vanhala (guitars) describes as ‘one really long epic song’. And Winter’s Gate truly is just that.
Deep, dreary and melancholic, Winter’s Gate is based largely on a short story written by vocalist and bassist Niilo Sevänen. It tells the story of a group of Vikings who set out together on the very brink of winter to find a fabled island west of Ireland.
Overall the album is really well constructed. It flows perfectly with no breaks, and still manages to retain the listener’s interest and attention. As well as the melo-death aspects of Insomnium, the progressive and doom influences are clearly noticeable throughout the album. The band have successfully managed to make a huge step whilst maintaining their traditional identity and sound.
The tracks open with the sound of wind and a gentle, distant melody which gradually builds up before exploding into a heavy, fast paced riff. The vocals hit and I’ve got goosebumps. I have to say the album won me over very, very quickly. Heavier passages towards the beginning of the album, mixed with an atmospheric choir backing, convey a sense of wonder and learning. Towards the midsection of Part 2, the (gorgeous) clean vocals and the steady rhythm give a sense of a journey just started. Part 3 is a more gentle track, with great guitar-work and loads of atmosphere. Absolutely gorgeous. And it breaks into a mean riff – yes please.
I could listen to this album every single day of my life. I love that parts are narrated. I love that certain riffs are really catchy and dark. I love that the vocals give me shivers. I love the heavy bits and the softer bits and the every bits!
Part 4 really caught my attention, beginning with acoustic sounds topped with glorious group harmonies on the vocals. Stunning. I was all over the place. This section of the mammoth song contains some beautiful passages of catchy clean vocals and some delicate imagery via the lyrics. All this is balanced out with some harsher vocals and another great lead break! Definitely my favourite section of the album. Part 5 opens with some gentle, pensive piano and builds up with the sound of thunder. This track breaks through into a slow, heavy riff, reflecting some of Insomnium’s doom influences. In Part 6 the listener really gets a feel of the harshness of the journey, the determination and the endurance. Part 7 brings us to a climatic end with Insomnium showing their melo-death side in force and a more aggressive vocal. Some epic guitar parts over the top as well. We end our journey on whispers and the sound of the wind, taking us back cyclically to where we began.
In my opinion, Winter’s Gate is absolutely gorgeous from start to finish. I haven’t been this excited by a new album for a very long time.
I have to say I thought this was completely brilliant, and as an avid reader I am looking to get my hands on a copy of the ‘Talven Portti’ (Winter’s Gate) book asap. You can purchase the album and other merchandise here and you can visit Insomnium on their facebook page here.