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Insomnium’s debut’s melodic death style is tame and plain, with not so much edge as there is melody and atmosphere. It worked in a fundamental way here, but it turned into melancholic bliss on the subsequent albums. The band’s strengths are in the flow of their music and their ability to incorporate heaviness and melody in a compatible, pleasing way. For this debut, things were a little rough around the edges in more ways than one. This has more to do with the full package than the compositional complaints, although that is also something I feel doesn’t stand up to the more ardent songs the band created later.
First and foremost, the production on this album is unfortunately dry. It’s solid in that there’s clarity and proper mixing, but there’s not a lot of crispiness with the guitars and bass, or exuberant atmosphere of the same effect like on later releases. From the rounded drumming to the spitfire solos, everything feels compact and without any expansive scope. Whereas Since The Day It All Came Down was inspired by the doomy, Opeth-like atmosphere to bring out its (romanticized) forlorn character, this debut doesn’t attain anything like that. In The Halls Of Awaiting is simpler in that the songs themselves are the producers of their own ends. For example, a great song like “Medeia,” with its acoustic rhythm support, coarse riffing, and very Gothenburg inspired leads (think The Jester Race-era In Flames and you’re right on the mark) is able to bring forth all the positive qualities of Gothenburg-esque melodic death – antiquated tone, some gloom in the leads, and a dash of classical inspiration – for its own benefit.
On the other hand, there are other songs that aren’t able to pull this off as well. The magnitude of quality varies, and although a less-than-great Insomnium song is generally better than something their peers could produce of the same status, it doesn’t help the album’s flow. From the hooks to the pretty standard drumming, the band didn’t aim to exceed with their already dramatic writing while considering how that impacted cohesion. Songwriting generally stays the same – some mid-to-fast, aggressive riffing alongside a precisely executed (sometimes twin) harmony and Sevänen‘s sullen whispers or coherent, pugnacious growling – so it comes down to each song’s strength as compositions. Overall, the bar just isn’t as high as the following albums, even with this album’s distinctive, lengthy title track. What are missing across the board are intensity and atmosphere, as well as the gripping nature behind the songs.
I’m not here to discredit this as a bad album, just one whose potential wasn’t fully realized. It set the groundwork for Insomnium’s later albums, which expanded greatly on the band’s core ethos of captivating leads, riffs and melancholic atmosphere. In The Halls Of Awaiting is very simple, but very potent for what it is – Finnish melodic death metal with class and direction.