Sunday, June 9, 2013

Insomnium - Since the Day It All Came Down

From now on, there's an absence of smile

Insomnium is pretty close to the most overrated band ever.  I'm astonished at how high their average scores are at MA, and I know some people who just mercilessly ejaculate over everything they do, and it drives me up the fucking wall.  They're melodeath with no riffs and mainly just sad melodies, ooooooh!  The vocals are usually pretty great but when it comes to this particular little subniche of melodeath, I prefer the more triumphant side like Amon Amarth.

And yet, here I am, adding another high score onto the pile, and that has a lot to do with what makes Insomnium work in the first place, they're a mood music, and there really isn't much better when you're in the right mood.  And right now?  I'm damn sure in the right fucking mood.

What mood is that, you ask, dear reader?  Fucking soul crushing depression, that's what.  Since the Day It All Came Down is pretty much my soundtrack to wandering aimlessly around the forest for hours at night, silently praying that I step in a bear trap and get eaten by a fox instead of having to return to civilization and daylight again.  The title track is the song I hear in my head when I'm standing at the edge of the metaphorical cliff, just basking in the last moments of life before I finally reach the triumph of nothingness.  This is a paradoxically energetic take on the concepts of loss and loneliness, and it works in a way I would have never expected it to work.  It's just gloomy melodeath with a surprising amount of variety with an abundance of acoustic passages and a very, very heavy focus on melody.  This is just an overload of emotion and melancholy, painted over the canvas of generally mid paced melodeath.

This goes against everything I look for and appreciate in music, really.  I like my music to be fun, I like to enjoy fast and energetic stuff, it's why I pimp Slayer and Gamma Ray and Vader and Municipal Waste so much even though they're some of the most popular bands in the genre.  Insomnium is about as close as you can get to being completely opposite without turning into doom or sludge or some shit.  Most of Since the Day It All Came Down moves along at a very deliberate pace, with special care put into every note and every lyric, and it emphasizes the melancholic mood and atmosphere of the whole thing.  Quite a far cry from the rip roaring frenzy I normally prefer to listen to.  That's not to say there aren't high tempo moments, most notably the climaxes of the title track and "Under the Plaintive Sky", but the majority of the runtime is taken up by midpaced melodies and acoustic passages.  And I hate to be an artsy fartsy "why can't Cannibal Corpse write death metal as beautiful as Opeth?" tool... but goddammit Insomnium write some fucking gorgeous music.  At not one point in the record do I think the melodies fall flat, or that the pacing is off, or that the atmosphere isn't effective, none of that.  I'll admit to not being entirely familiar with all of Insomnium's work, but the biggest difference I can notice is that the vocals are slightly better on some later albums (being deeper and more full sounding than here), but otherwise the band clearly had their signature sound pegged down by now.  I don't know how you can make music, much less something based in metal, actually sound like the embodiment of despair and loneliness, but they manage to nail it here (yeah yeah I've never listened to Katatonia or My Dying Bride, sue me).

Since the Day It All Came Down is pitch dark, and slathered in moodiness.  The bright spots shine in the more overtly gorgeous moments, but for the most part the relatively clear lyrics and strong melodies carry you into a pit and then leave you there to rot.   Niilo's vocals are remarkably clear for having such a deep, booming growl, and it helps that the lyrics are surprisingly well written as well, expertly conveying the themes of loss and sorrow to the listener.  I do have a problem with the clean vocals that pop up from time to time though, as they pretty heartily fail to be emotional and instead just kind of sound like a deep voiced guy kind of rambling in the background.  That aside, the keys and acoustics of the album really probably add the most to the whole package, but the big climaxes that surface in places like "Song of the Forlorn Son", "Closing Words", "Under the Plaintive Sky", and especially the opening title track are the most memorable and powerful moments on the album.  Shit, singling out those four songs is a bit of an injustice to the other seven.  This is stunningly consistent in its songwriting and its quality.  If you like one song, you're probably going to like them all.  They're all big, ambitious melodeath songs with no real riffs to speak of, merely focusing on really basic rhythm patterns underneath deep Johan Hegg-esque growls with soaring melodies that manage to be both triumphant, beautiful, and sorrowful at the same time.  All this coupled with a perfectly crippling atmosphere makes for an album that, while not perfect, does enough right to make me not really care about the small flaws like the clean vocals/whispers.  When I'm not in the mood, I'll never put this on, but when I am, it's the best album ever.  The atmosphere is just nearly flawless in its scope and execution.

That's really what makes this work, the atmsophere, the mood.  The feeling of this album is impeccable, and the entire time it's on, I may physically be sitting on my laptop drinking tap water that tastes suspiciously like celery, but in my mind I'm sitting with my feet dangling idly over a cliff, above a beautiful scene, looking back on my life and friends and family and loves with teary eyed reverence.  Since the Day It All Came Down transports me to another world, where there is only me and endless wilderness.  Nothing else matters, I'm just about to return to the dirt, like we all do someday, and I'm looking back at the beauty of what my life once was, and lamenting the fact that all the beauty is gone from myself.  The world is a splendorous place, full of wonder and majesty, and yet in my own mind, it's monochrome and dry.  There's nothing left for me but to just ruminate on what I had before I lost it.  How I lost it doesn't matter, the point is that it's gone, my world is empty apart from myself, the lush landscape which taunts me with its vibrancy, and the overwhelming weight of sorrow and despair on my shoulders.  The soothing sound of the waters in the forest creek and the rustling of the leaves in the wind is what permeates my psyche and reminds me that there is beauty in the world, but it is no longer mine to coexist with.  With this final breath, I stand up at the edge of this cliff, close my eyes, and smile as I allow the gentle breeze to give me the subtle motivation to finally succeed at what I'd consistently failed at in life...

I put my best foot forward.

RATING - 90%

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