Album Title: Argent Moon EP
Label: Century Media Records
Date of Release: 17 September 2021
I find it quite amusing that neither of my favourite two melodic death metal bands at the current time hail from Sweden. After all, it was the Swedes that invented the genre. But no. Both Omnium Gatherum and Insomnium are Finnish. And, for my money, they are the best two proponents of melodic death metal in the here and now. Others push them close – I’m thinking Dark Tranquillity and At The Gates – but there’s something about the two Finnish bands that draws me in more than any others.
In 2019, Insomnium released the exquisite ‘Heart Like A Grave’, the follow-up to the highly acclaimed ‘Winter’s Gate’. Suddenly, the world at large woke up to the quintet’s charms and looked forward to hearing the band in the live arena in support of such a powerful record. But then the pandemic came along to scupper everyone’s plans. Not wishing to waste their time, Insomnium, like many other bands out there in the same predicament, instead turned their attention to creating some new music. The result is a four-track EP entitled ‘Argent Moon’, containing 23 minutes of brand-new material to help soften the blow of cancelled tours the world over.
And guess what? It has worked. I was a little underwhelmed at first, but I can put that down to fatigue, or simply not listening properly because when you let yourself really listen, you get swept up in the beautifully heavy soundtrack on offer.
The EP begins with ‘The Conjurer’ and with it, the soft, soothing sounds of acoustic guitar melodies bathe the ears in a warm, comforting glow. Subtle piano notes accompany the guitars, whilst a firm drum beat pushes it’s way into the mix. You can sense the song wanting to blossom and so it does. The acoustic guitars still strum pleasantly whilst an electric guitar sings mournfully and so beautifully, soaring into the sky with elegance. I love the gruff vocals; so powerful, so full of menace, yet perfectly in keeping with more punchy, resonant riffing. The song extends to over seven minutes, but it feels like two, as it is such a captivating experience. The track ebbs and flows effortlessly, from brutal passages to serene interludes where the acoustic guitars once again take centre stage.
Next up is ‘The Reticent’, a much shorter composition than its predecessor, but no less impactful for it. Again, it’s a quiet opening, allowing the track to build slowly but purposefully. The drums act like a heartbeat alongside the rumbling bass. And then in comes a clean vocal to offer something a little different. The buzz word for this review is ‘elegant’, because that’s exactly what Insomnium have delivered here – elegance. The flow from soft to heavy adds a palpable sense of drama to the overwhelming sense of sorrow that oozes from every melodic pore so beautifully.
The remaining two tracks, by and large, follow the same kind of blueprint – mind you, when the blueprint is this good, why change it eh? If anything, ‘The Antagonist’ lives up to its name very cleverly by being a more relaxed track for much of the time, only to explode at points to really hammer home the heaviness that Insomnium are capable of creating. The juxtaposition just serves to accentuate each side of the band more clearly, and of all the songs, this was the one that had to grow on me the most.
The final composition, ‘The Wanderer’ is a very poignant affair, once again beginning with some vibrant acoustic guitars atop a pulsing bass and bold drum beat. More clean vocals emerge, whilst there are a few spoken-word sections too. As the song progresses, the band make much more use of orchestration to add even more sophistication to proceedings, if such a thing was even possible. As well as adding sophistication, the sound of gentle strings in the mix help to ratchet up the emotional side of the song, leaving the listener with a bittersweet experience that just makes me want to press play and listen again, so I can discover it all over again.
You wanted evidence to back up my statement that Insomnium are one of the two best melodic death metal bands currently in operation? Well, ladies and gentlemen, doubters the lot of you, I present to you Markus Hirvonen (drums), Ville Friman (guitars), Niilo Sevänen (vocals, bass), Markus Vanhala (guitars) and Jani Liimatainen (guitars, vocals), collectively Insomnium, alongside their latest creation, ‘Argent Moon’. It’s the third recording in a row to deliver a truly scintillating performance from a band at the very top of their game. And on this evidence, it’s hard to imagine what wonders will come next.
The Score of Much Metal: 90%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: