In the interest of fairness, let’s establish something right away:
I think Insomnium is overrated.
They’re a Good Band, for sure. “The Day it All Came Down” (that chorus!), “The Killjoy,” and the majority of the tracks on Above the Weeping World qualify as elite melodeath. They do their thing and do it well.
But any Insomnium recommendation since roughly 2009 has left something to be desired.
They’re certainly very talented and have never released a straight-up bad album. But like many of the arguably overcelebrated acts still banging out thrash and crossover [veterans and youngbloods alike; don’t tell me that Overkill and Kreator still have something to say while scoffing at Power Trip, gramps], they’re awarded bonus points for carrying the torch of craftsmanship amongst the ruins of a largely dead genre. Mors Principum Est, Omnium Gatherum, and Insomnium go from “solid” to “exceptional” in the eyes of the publics when the talent pool has all but evaporated.
See? Look at this shit:
I can see why you might’ve glossed over The Duskfall, but come on, y’all. Yyrkoon and Detonation fucking wreck shit. WE COULD HAVE HAD RIFFS TOGETHER.
Instead, you’ve saddled me with Even More Tales From The Thousand Lakes.
Or at least that was always how I viewed this thing. But it’s been 10 years since I fired up Insomnium’s debut, let’s see if something has been in these halls all along.
[A]waiting for me.
This record marks a turning point for the genre. In a couple of years, lesser (yet still quite accomplished) acts like Noumena and Be’lakor would look to the somber, deliberate gait of these earlier Insomnium works for inspiration. This is where melodeath got serious, leaning more towards…well, Finland.
So, while unquestionably melodeath, Insomnium’s work on In the Halls of Awaiting has just as much in common with the Gothenburg sound as it does the early-aughts output Novembers Doom, Daylight Dies, or Swallow the Sun, despite being significantly more uptempo.
And in the first few tracks here, you can tell they were trying to find their footing, using pickslide superglue to patch disparate passages together, each one with carrying a flavor culled from a specific influence. It’s not terribly cohesive.
‘Til you get to “Dying Chant,” anyway, and it peels a whole slab off the 1000 Lakes hog:
Holy shit y’all HAVE I MENTIONED HOW MUCH THIS SOUNDS LIKE AMORPHIS’ ACCLAIMED 1994 ALBUM TALES FROM THE THOUSAND LAKES YET
But it’s great! Until about three minutes pass and you notice (again) that Insomnium still didn’t know how to construct a song in 2002.
Dark Tranquillity’s Euro-gangster vibe on Projector must’ve made a hell of an impression, because they’ve got that turn-of-the-century “this is also a shirt” leather jacket look on lock:
These are sad, serious young men that could also sell you a great pair of Rockports.
Artistic Badness: 2
The album title really doesn’t make sense. Setting that aside, by melodeath standards, this is a classy-ass album cover:
That a band is getting praise for just throwing some fuckin blue trees on the cover should tell you all you need to know about the state of heavy metal graphic design at the turn of the century. Again, though, Insomnium established a turning point here. The era of the Niklas Sundin knockoff was coming to a close, and they were one of the first to leave it behind.
In the Halls of Awaiting sounds exactly the same in 2018 as it did in 2002: Like a solid debut from a promising young band.
“Dying Chant” is fun as hell (by stone-faced Insomnium standards, anyway), and there’s some fast, burly shit on “Black Waters” and “The Bitter End” that really showcase vocalist Niilo Sevänen’s standout growl. But there’s nothing here they didn’t do better on their next two albums.
If you like Insomnium a lot, you’ll like this Insomnium record. If you’ve never heard Insomnium, go fire up Above The Weeping World.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, there are Yyrkoon and Detonation records that need some attention.