Friday, May 16, 2014

Insomnium - Shadows of the Dying Sun

Back in the '90s, melodic death metal belonged to its founders in Gothenburg, Sweden. There are still plenty of good melodeath releases from Sweden these days, but over the past decade or so the throne of the subgenre has arguably moved next door to Finland, where the brilliant Insomnium reign supreme. Last month, these melodic metal masters released their 6th full-length album, Shadows of the Dying Sun.

This review is going to feel like a little bit of a repeat for me, but not of any previous remarks about Insomnium. Rather, it feels like I'm about to review an album by Amon Amarth. At least half of you already know where this is going now, but I'll press on anyway.

If you've perfected the formula, is there a reason to change it?

There are a few bands for whom that question is pretty central. Amon Amarth, Skeletonwitch, and Incantation all spring readily to mind. With this release, I think Insomnium may be preparing to join them. It's a strong album, with all the right ingredients to make for an excellent melodeath release. The vocals are good, the instrumentation is flawless, the songwriting is tight, and the production is perfect. Yet if you're a fan of the band, it sounds like something you've already heard many times before. It's a filler album, full of strong but essentially unremarkable material that will quickly fade into Insomnium's already exemplary catalog, stashed away on a storage shelf in a cardboard box labelled "more songs".

Taken on its own, this is a very good album. I've heard too much from the band to take this on its own, though, and in the broader context of their entire discography, it's more than a bit redundant. I understand that the band is doing everything right, and when everything sounds great you have to ask "Why mess with it?" However, if a band is unwilling to experiment and grow, they run the risk of stagnating. I love Amon Amarth, but every time they release a new record I hesitate to go out and buy it, because I already know that I have half a dozen copies of the same album on my shelf at home. It's too early to say whether Insomnium are about to fall into that same category, but it feels like they've taken a big step in that direction.

If you like the band and you want more of the same, go ahead and buy this. If you're new to Insomnium it's worth checking out, but I'd recommend buying their wonderful 2006 release Above the Weeping World  instead. It's the same album as this, only even better.

(Sorry for spending half of the review talking about Amon Amarth, but I really wanted to drive home that point.)

Grade: B+

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