INSOMNIUM – Argent Moon

INSOMNIUM – Argent Moon

As the Finnish melodic death metal act is one of the major reasons why human beings have been furnished with ears I was pleasantly surprised when they released a new EP just 2 years after their last full length, "Heart Like A Grave". The album marked the addition of a second clean vocalist who was very influential on it and even more so on the new EP. "Argent Moon" is a work of exquisite beauty even if it treads a familiar territory in terms of band’s stylings and songwriting but it differs from their past by the fact that each of the four tracks has its own identity hopefully giving a taste of the new full length.

A happy medium between classic In Flames and Dark Tranquillity Insomnium (named after some unknown association with dreams NOT insomnia) have had an appeal even from their debut album, "In The Halls Of Awaiting" (2002) released 3 years after their inception. They still pretty much emulated their two biggest influences on the subsequent "Since It All Came Down" (2004) but took the metal world by surprise with fiercely unique masterpiece "Above The Weeping World" (2006) so, naturally, they went a slightly different path with the perfect melodeath collection of dirges, "Across The Dark" (2009) and it is that album, which is my favorite from them, which seems to be the biggest echo on "Argent Moon", as if the were going back to the source of their greatness and where they had first shown their individual stylings we today unmistakably recognize as Insomnium.

Never content to record the same album twice the Finns issued "One For Sorrow" (2011), in my view a fantastic record but one which seemed to have divided some fans and likely prompted founding guitarist, Ville Vänni to leave, but the good news was he was replaced by Omnium Gatherum’s founder Markus Vanhala, a man of incredible songwriting talent for the recording of "Shadows Of The Dying Sun" (2014). That album did show a little wear and tear in places while, at the same heavy black metal influence, which, it turned out, was the missing piece necessary for Insomnium to record what Edge Of Sanity did on "Crimson": a single song 40 minute album which became "Winter’s Gate" (2016). In my view they succeeded but many reviews begged to differ. In any case, the aforementioned "Heart Like A Grave" (2019) was a return to the early days on one hand, and was an occasion to introduce ex-Sonata Arctica guitarist and vocalist Jani Allan Kristian joined as an additional clean vocalist with his role now expanded on "Argent Moon".

The first thing which hits you right from the first cut is that the material is not as aggressive as that on "Heart…", with "The Antagonist" the only song with some rough riffing. Clearly the aim was to take a more nuanced, progressive approach with songwriting recalling more King Crimson or Pink Floyd (especially "The Wanderer ") than the usual suspects. That does not mean that these songs are bereft of power, au contraire. Rather we are treated to the very similar stylings as on "Across The Dark" with a decent pace but multiple melodic lines and consistently fantastic leads. Take the opener, "The Conjurer" which alternates between acoustic set up with appropriate clean vocals courtesy of Jani and founder Ville Friman and showers of luscious gorgeous melody from Ville and Vanhala, culminating in trimelody (as in three different melodies simultaneously), on the other, which feels like getting hit with pure serotonin, even atop founding bassist’s Niilo Sevänen’s usual growls. The favorite, the aforementioned "The Antagonist", is one which straddles "Above The Weeping…", "Across…" and "One For Sorrow", there’s so many twists and turns, Jani’s vocals very prominent to the point of leading the track. The closer "The Wanderer" is the one track that tries a totally different approach, recalling somewhat Opeth’s "Sorceress" (the song), Sevänen’s throbing bass wrapped tightly around founding drummer’s Markus Hirvonen’s groovy rhythm, but, eventually, the song also explodes in harmonious melodiscism, although more in a rock than metal fashion not unlike what Enslaved have been known for. The remaining track, "The Reticent" is somewhat disappointing but only in comparing with the rest and considering what Insomnium is capable of. Still, nothing here is worth less than 5/6 points, with two tracks easily deserving full sixes.

"Argent Moon" is another fantastic release from the Finnish masters who are both comfortable in their shoes and trying something deeper and more nuanced even if not as extreme as we’re used to hearing from them. It bodes very well for the next album and if this the taste, I can hardly wait.