Review: Insomnium – Winter’s Gate
Written by Ides Bergen
Concept albums are often a dicey prospect. Far too often they end up just being a collection of loosely related ideas strung together in some convoluted fashion. But, when the album draws from an existing, fully fleshed out piece of literature the results can be somewhat more cohesive.
Such is the case with Winter’s Gate, the stunning new concept album from Finnish melodic death metal unit Insomnium. The record consists of a single, forty minute long track that tells the story of a group of Vikings who set out in search of a fabled island somewhere west of Ireland despite the looming, harsh winter. The story is inspired by a short story called “Talven Portti“ (Finnish for Winter’s Gate) that was previously published by Insomnium bassist/vocalist/songwriter Niilo Sevänen. It seems that the man is also a celebrated author in his native land.
As for the music accompanying the tale, it’s pretty much what anyone familiar with Viking metal and melodic death metal would expect from the marriage of the two styles. Quiet, contemplative acoustic passages ebb and flow into a raging sea of blast beats, deft guitar work and majestic symphonic orchestrations. There is one particularly memorable instrumental section in the middle that rollicks along in what I believe is 7/8 time. This section was, to me, the most memorable part of the song/album. Vocally, the listener is treated to both strong guttural and immaculate clean singing.
Winter’s Gate is quite an emotional tempest, leaving the listener weary but blown away in the end. If there is any criticism to be leveled at the record it is that (much like many of these epic one-track opuses… I’m looking at you “Dopesmoker”) I wish they would have broken up the movements into separate tracks with their own identities to make them more easily memorable. I understand why they do it, to force the listener to digest the piece as a whole as it was intended to be heard. It’s just that I have a really bad short term memory and it’s hard for me to recall everything that has happened by the end without some way to differentiate between the myriad different sections.
Anyway, that’s a minor complaint and really in no way detracts from the fact that Insomnium have succeeding in creating an epic, engaging and beautiful work of art. I highly recommend picking up a physical copy of the album as The full version of the story will be released together with the album as a book with translations in English, Finnish and German, and illustrated by the artist Teemu Tähkänen. 8.5/10
Winter’s Gate will be released worldwide on September 23, 2016 via Century Media Records.