Never stops being impressive

The Finnish just seem to do metal so much better than anybody.

Whatever the genre, there’s probably four or five bands from Finland among the best of the field, and with this release Insomnium have indelibly marked themselves as one of the greatest.

Not since Edge of Sanity’s Crimson has there been a single album-length track as well-conceived as Winter’s Gate, a sweeping musical tale wrought from the pages of vocalist Niilo Sevänen’s short story Tavlen Portii. From the haunting notes of the beginning to the quiet fade forty minutes later, Winter’s Gate never stops being impressive as it winds through its many movements. The opening chapter is rousing melodic death metal gallop, laden with symphonic flourishes, high-speed triplets and tremolo picking, adding choral vocals and towering solos ebb to sombre melancholy, the dark guitars churn toward a false crescendo that explodes into heaviness again somewhere around the 17-minute mark, but Winter’s Gate is so immersive the time span is barely noticed.

While heavily stamped with Insomnium’s trademark approach, the nature of the track sees them touching base with an array of styles – early on they border on a mournful drone; much later there’s the cold ferocity of black metal riddled by blastbeats and more tremolo work and there are progressive flashes, dreamlike Floydian noodlings and some sumptuous acoustics into the final passages as Winter’s Gate winds into silence.

This may be difficult to listen to as a complete work but to be fully appreciated it has to be heard that way. Winter’s Gate is a masterpiece.

  1. Winter’s Gate