Insomnium – Argent Moon (EP Review)

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Four tales are told by a dreaming, wayward bard.

Melodic death metal has a wide variety of potential expressions in spite of its supposedly rigid parameters, with some of its elder progenitors continuing to explore its more abstract possibilities. In the particular case of the Finnish scene, a trifecta of sorts has held up this more nuanced and largely atmospheric take on things, consisting of Eternal Tears Of Sorrow, Omnium Gatherum and Insomnium. But in contrast to the former two, the Joensuu-based quintet under consideration has taken the least impact-based approach, often blurring the lines between the dense, keyboard-rich niche pioneered by Dark Tranquillity and a folksy, heavily acoustic sense of quasi-balladry that has come to typify their sound in recent years. Over the past few months they have been dripping out a series of individual mini-epic compositions via online streaming sites and the music video format that would seem to be going somewhere, though the resulting musical novella that is “Argent Moon” turns out to be far more focused upon the going part rather than the somewhere that rests at its end.

Consisting of four songs that function as chapters in a short story, three of them having already been released at varying date throughout 2021, this EP proves to be fairly enigmatic in spite of its relative simplicity. Having retained the services of guitarist and clean singer Jani Liimatainen, formerly of Sonata Arctica, there is a sense of cohesion that has been carried over from the generally dreamy and consonant drive of 2019’s “Heart Like A Grave,” but it’s a tad more stylized and streamlined. The tension between the chanting quality of Liimatainen’s vocal passages and the heavy, grizzly growl of Niilo Sevanen is a tad more pronounced than what Eternal Tears Of Sorrow was bringing to the table back in the early 2010s, but that’s about the closest analogy as to how these dueling vocal personalities mesh within a musical context. By contrast, the sounds brought forth by the surrounding instrumentation is largely an exercise in sorrowful, almost Gothic-like balladry with some occasional hints of symphonic splendor, but a bit more subdued and reliant upon a droning keyboard backdrop and a fairly minimalist assortment of acoustic guitar lines and biting distorted riffs.

Though each song has a distinct character, they all have a tendency to meld together into a single 23 minute long song divided into parts, not all that dissimilar to what was done on a larger scale with 2016’s “Winter’s Gate.” The opening lullaby with an occasional jagged edge “The Conjurer” is both the most ambitious and also the slowest and most gradually progressing of the lot, building up from a shimmering mixture of droning acoustic guitars and hazy keyboards to a slightly driving yet still somber stride. “The Reticent” takes on more of an ambient and almost shoegaze-like quality, focusing a bit more on Jani’s ultra smooth croons, but ultimately proves something of a banger once it hits the chorus hook and Niilo’s beastly groan commences. “The Antagonist” leans even further into hook-driven territory, this time featuring a brilliant chorus bit by Jani that could almost pass for a newer offering out of Katatonia. The closer and lone newer entry “The Wanderer” proves to be more of a grower after the mold of the opening song, though a bit looser in feel due to a less conventional beat set put forth by Markus Hirvonen’s kit work.

It’s generally stipulated that the average Insomnium fan won’t find too many surprises here, particularly those that have followed closely since 2014’s “Shadows Of The Dying Sun,” but these songs function more as expansions upon an existing formula rather than outright retreads. It works best when approach as a continuous, cohesive whole rather than a series of disparate songs strung together, with each song becoming a more developed and slightly quicker progression upon the last. It’s more focused upon building a dense atmosphere to draw the listener into a daydream than any high-impact or technical showmanship, and apart from a fairly impressive guitar solo slot on “The Conjurer” provided by Liimatainen, shies away from getting flashy. It’s a slight step down from “Heart Like A Grave” and can almost be treated like a shorter addendum to the same basic sound that dominated said album. It walks a thin line between being meditative and a raging lament, but at the end of it all is a highly infectious set of songs that happen to have a wider than usual dynamic range.

Released by: Century Media Records
Released Date: September 17th, 2021
Genre: Melodic Death Metal

Musicians:

  • Markus Hirvonen / Drums
  • Ville Friman / Guitars
  • Niilo Sevänen / Vocals, bass)
  • Markus Vanhala / Guitars
  • Jani Liimatainen / Guitars, vocals

“Argent Moon” EP tracklisting:

  1. The Conjurer
  2. The Reticent
  3. The Antagonist
  4. The Wanderer

8.5 Excellent

Continuing their excursion into the hazy realm of the unconscious, one the more nuanced sons of the Finnish melodic death metal scene delivers a sorrowful novella to complement their expansive library of dreamy musical musings

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 8.5
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 8.5
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