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Now, I don't claim to be some sort of power metal almanac, but I've heard enough to get the gist of it, to know how things generally work in the genre of swords, sorcery, and Malmsteen fan clubs. I preface this review with that little blurb to cover my own ass if I make some statement too sweeping, or give credit to the wrong artist for inspiring the album at hand.
Insania, the Stockholm version to differentiate from the harsh German act with whom they share the moniker, is basically your mean median average virtuosic power metal band, a definite smell of Helloween, a touch of Rhapsody (albeit very toned down). The majority of these songs are very same-y, but the quick fingers of the three guitarists and a supply of nice riffs balance out the mediocrity.
On vocals is David Henrikson, a talented but unremarkable singer who has the advantage of a fairly flexible set of pipes. Towards the beginning of the album he comes off as somewhat limited, one of those melodic but less than forceful frontmen you get on occasion, but he gradually develops into a good, if not top flight, singer through the middle of the record. He capably apes Dickinson's high notes on the later portions of "Forever Alone" and shows considerable strength and vigour on songs like "Paradisia" and "World of Ice", on the former even showing some rare (for power metal) edge with a nice raw shriek. He has an accent, but it only comes out on the more melodic tracks like the aforementioned "Forever Alone" and "Private Sexmachine".
Songwriting rise it's generic as hell, save for perhaps a little more melancholy here and there. There's the obligatory historical song, "With Courage and Pride" which is about William Wallace, and covers the same territory as Iron Maiden's "The Clansman" but with more energy and less scope. "Forever is a Long Time" is a really generic power ballad, the keyboard soaked intro provoking memories of the 80's and more specifically Bryan Adams. Thankfully it gets to the metallic territory quickly with suitably overdone solos and whatnot. "World of Ice" is a good enough song, but the lame ice/isolation metaphore is blatantly ripped off of Metallica's "Trapped Under Ice". "Private Sex Machine" on the other hand, is just bizarre, proof positive that power metal is not suitable to songs about fucking. The euphemisms regarding snow are just laughable (lots of melting), and any eroticism these lyrics had were excised in translation:
"This is a game I'll never spoil
Play with my engine and taste my oil
If you have the guts"
Furthermore the drumming on this album is for the most part horribly lame, either tapping out a lazy half-thrash rhythm or battering on the double bass for no good reason. Really, if you've heard any power metal at all this is a sin you'll be more than familiar with, so this album can't be blamed specifically. The instrumental "Insaniation" intro is pure classical cheese though, a Rhapsody me-too that doesn't add anything except bad memories of Aesma Daeva. Furthermore the keyboards insists on breaking out the Bach early in the record, the tinkling baroque piano giving it a funny renaissance fair feel.
However, this is a pretty good album. Even the wretched "Private Sexmachine" has a pretty wicked break, and every song is filled to the brim with mad solos and guitar duels, particularly with three guitars and a keyboard player getting in on the action. An avoidance of traditional booming backing vocals give a huge boost as well as even the anthemic choruses come across as possessing a little subtlety. From a riffing stand-point roughly half of this stuff is really inoffensive and patently unrocking power metal, but when the band tightens up and puts a little bite on these compressed and sped up thrash riffs it really makes a huge improvement. "Furious Seas" is an intense shred-fest that grows more and more frantic as it goes on, eventually even pulling some jumpy Metallica-style (particularly the more busy Justice-era stuff) riffing for a brief time on the outro. The verses on songs like "Fire" and "Forever is a Long Time" share this characteristic although both degenerate into saccharine silliness soon enough.
The best songs on here are really the more slowed down numbers, in particular the crunchy "Paradisia" being the spiritual twin to Dissection (!) classic "Where Dead Angels Lie", the same crisp riff, a definite similarity in the melody and cadence, "Paradisia" also being blessed with restrained and extremely strong performances from all the players. It definitely breathes, and you get a power and force that is found nowhere else on the album, drums locked down, singer aggressive, guitars afire with hot solos.
Power metal is often a bitter pill because it often lacks heart and strength despite the focus of its lyrics, but Insania's debut is a solid spin that is certainly worth a look if you see it for a reasonable price. It won't change the world, or even impact it, but this is a release where the good definitely outweighs the bad.
Stand Outs: "Paradisia", "Furious Seas", "World of Ice"