In the world of music, a concept album is nothing new. Most artists have some sort of binding thread for their music, they just might not all follow a particular story line. In progressive, rock, or metal music this a fairly common theme. Making one long continuous piece of music is also not unique. Classical artists have been doing it for ages, and many progressive bands have done it as well. As I’ve written before, the album that introduced me to Fates Warning, No Exit, contains “The Ivory Gate of Dreams,” a 22 minute, 8-part song. This brings me to Finland’s Insomnium. On September 23rd, 2016, they released their seventh studio album, Winter’s Gate, which consists of one epic 40-minute song that is based on an award-winning short story written by the band’s vocalist & bassist Niilo Sevänen.
The “Winter’s Gate” short story was inspired by Scandinavian history and mythology. The story revolves around a group of Vikings who set out to find a fabled island northwest from Ireland – even though the winter is already drawing near. Three narrators tell their side of the story from different perspectives. If you think this sounds like a harrowing and bleak story, you would be correct, so what other band would be better to tell it than Insomnium. This band has been one of my favorite melodic death metal bands since I heard their 2012 album One for Sorrow. Winter’s Gate takes everything Insomnium has done before, pushes it the Nth degree, and adds other elements to their already dense soundscape. Layers upon layers of Markus Vanhala and Ville Friman’s guitars crash against the listener like the waves of the harsh sea against the side of the Viking’s ship. Swallow the Sun’s Aleksi Munter’s keyboards permeate the piece like spray from the ocean, ever present in the air. Insomnium may have been some sprinklings of black metal throughout their catalog previously, but here it is much more pronounced. The opening and closing parts with Markus Hirvonen’s blasting drums are great examples of this. There is also a heavy dose of doom injected into this piece. After a beautiful piano section, a slow crushing beat takes over, bludgeoning you into submission.
Winter’s Gate is an epic tale, and Insomnium have created the perfect soundtrack to accompany it. This the kind of album other bands can only dream of making. Not only is this their best album to date, but they may have created their Blackwater Park. The progression of Insomnium has never been more evident than on Winter’s Gate, which means the sky’s the limit for whatever comes next.
Track List: Winter’s Gate
Playing Time: 40:02
Release date: September 23, 2016
Label: Century Media