Insomnium- In the Halls of Awaiting (Album Review)
Album: In the Halls of Awaiting
Melodic death metal just might be the least experimental genre of metal music to ever exist. Ninety percent of the bands sound the same, that is, most are all based on the template set by bands like In Flames and At the Gates and they do nothing to further the sound that originally defined the genre. Although this might work in some cases, it does get tedious to listen to melodeath repeatedly. That’s why it’s great that we have a band like Insomnium.
The fantastic "Ill-Starred Son".
In terms of instrumentation, the album isn’t the most technical thing out there. However, the instrumentation is excellent for what the band is trying to convey. The guitars have that elusive attribute of being perfectly melodic whilst still retaining the viciousness of typical death metal riffing. The acoustic guitar work is also great. While there is not as much variation in the approach to acoustic guitar work, it does not really matter because of the great placement of softer sections within heavier songs. The bass is done surprisingly well considering the type of album that In the Halls of Awaiting is. There are many places throughout the album where the bass stands out, and it’s completely audible during the whole album. The drums are also done well, though they are probably the least impressive instrument. Still notable are the vocals; they are rather understandable to be so gritty and low in pitch.
The overall sound of In the Halls of Awaiting is bleak and melancholic, which stands quite in contrast to the familiar Gothenburg style of melodic death metal. The riffs, while often tremolo picked, are very slow in tempo. This gives the album many sounds that are not unlike doom metal. The album is also surprisingly dynamic, seamlessly moving between straightforward pieces and progressive songs laced with acoustic guitars. These transitions between acoustic and electric guitars are incredibly smooth and never jarring nor unnatural. I’m also very fond of the way that the acoustic, lead, and rhythm guitars are often layered on top of one another. This gives the band a very thick and heavy sound, which suits the songwriting really well. Even though I’ve mentioned that In the Halls of Awaiting is not in the style of common Gothenburg melodic death metal, it still has traits from that genre. Some of the riffs are a bit happier, not unlike In Flames or Dark Tranquillity. This mix of influences is another contributing factor in the greatness of Insomnium’s debut album.
The Songs (Part 1)
The album opens in peak form with the brilliant “Ill-Starred Son”; this song is easily one of the best on the album and one of the best album openers I’ve ever heard. It is followed by the less progressive (but no less good) “Song of the Storm”. This song packs on the aggression, and lets back a bit on the melancholic vibes of the first song. “Medeia” is almost like a blend of the first two songs, featuring the aggression of “Song of the Storm” but with tasteful acoustic guitars similar to “Ill-Starred Son”. “Dying Chant” is one of the greatest Insomnium songs ever made, as it includes some of the best riffs that the band has ever written. “The Elder” is another dynamic song filled with emotive acoustic passages and chilling death metal portions.
"Shades of Deep Green"- my favorite.
The Songs (Part 2)
“Black Waters” opens the second half of the album, and it’s the catchiest song on the entire release. This one manages to be melancholic, yet brutal at the same time. “Shades of Deep Green” may just be my favorite piece from the whole album. It’s one of the most progressive songs on the album, which is what makes it so distinctive from the other songs. “The Bitter End” is like “Black Waters”, although it’s a little weaker and one of the tracks I listen to less. “Journey Unknown” falls into a similar trap, but it’s far more melodic than the song that came before it. The title track is a truly beautiful closer that really encompasses everything that the album is about. It contains everything from brutally emotive tremolo picking riffs to oddly soothing piano lines. Being nearly eleven minutes long, it is a fitting end to an incredible album.
Which Insomnium album is your favorite?
In the Halls of Awaiting is definitely a solid listen for anyone into melodic death metal. It’s a great album, and one of my personal favorites within the genre. Anyone into metal should give this band a listen, because their discography is pretty much flawless just like this album. There’s a reason why Insomnium is so highly regarded, and In the Halls of Awaiting displays everything that makes metalheads love Insomnium.
Best songs: “Ill-Starred Son”, “Song of the Storm”, “Dying Chant”, “The Elder”, “Black Waters”, “Shades of Deep Green”, and “In the Halls of Awaiting”.