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Disappointing... - 50%

TrooperOfSteel, July 7th, 2011

The power metal band Insania (of Stockholm) are back with their 4th CD called ‘Agony/Gift of life’. These guys from Sweden haven’t had a new CD since 2003, so 4 years between drinks is quite a while these days. Since the release of their 3rd CD ‘Fantasy (A new dimension)’, a few things have happened; the band left No Fashion Records and were unsigned for quite a while, before being picked up by Black Lodge Records. 3 members of the band left, including both guitarists and the keyboardist. So the 6-piece band is now just a 5-piece band. Joining the band is guitarist Peter Ostros and keyboardist Dimitri Keiski. Returning for his 2nd CD with Insania is vocalist Ola Halen, plus drummer Mikko Korsback and bassist Tomas Stolt. Insania released 2 demos while unsigned in 2003/04, showcasing their new line-up. As I mentioned before, eventually they were signed and now we have Insania’s 4th CD.

A couple of things I first noticed while listening to the CD, was that the band have moved away from their normal fantasy lyrical content, which was in abundance on all of their previous CDs. Instead, the lyrical content is more personal, more emotional, and because of that, the majority of the songs on ‘Agony/Gift of life’ don’t have that kick anymore. They feel less inspired to me. The other issue would be the noticeable decline of Ola Halen’s vocal abilities. In the majority of the tracks, Halen’s voice sounds strained and forced. His high notes are the most affected and you really cringe at times when he does hit those high notes. Sounding off-key at times also, it’s just his mid-range vocals that are the only times when Halen does sound quite good. The song most affected by his terrible falsetto vocals is “Valley of sunlight”. He really puts this song through the wringer with his bad vocals, which is a shame, as musically the song is pretty good.

Musically for Insania on this CD, it is basically what you’d expect from past releases. In fact, their formula hasn’t changed at all, except for a double dose of keyboards, which does add a nice element to the tracks. Speedy soaring tracks, your typical European power metal style with automatic double-bass pummelling, and nice solos thrown around here and there. A bit of creativity would have been nice on this CD, but instead most of the tracks sound the same, something Insania have been found guilty of before. The band is also known for throwing in some ballads in their works and on ‘Agony/Gift of life’, they have continued that trend.

I found it quite difficult to find some real standout tracks on this CD, especially when Ola Halen has basically ruined most of them with his disappointing vocals. But amongst the tracks, I would say that 2 of the better ones would be “Gift of life” and “One day”. Probably the best song on the CD, vocally, would be “To live another day”. There are quite a few ordinary tracks on this CD, which is disappointing but also possibly expected.

Fans of Insania would be most disappointed of ‘Agony/Gift of life’ because they had to wait 4 years for the 4th CD, and now that it is here, it is their most lacklustre effort. Insania really need to go back to the drawing board before starting their next CD. Ola Halen needs to improve a hell of a lot with his vocal abilities, while the band needs to write more inspirational tracks and get back to the fantasy lyrical content, for which they have excelled at in the past. Unfortunately, this CD just doesn’t cut it and is strictly for Insania fans only.

Originally written for www.metalcdratings.com

Those falsettos are painful - 71%

Empyreal, May 23rd, 2007

I hope the quality of this is only because of the fact that I have a promo release. I've been into Insania on-and-off for about a year now, and this is the first full length album I've obtained by them (as opposed to just hearing single tracks). I expected generic, but glorious and uplifting power metal, because that's what I've come to know this band for, and I got...well, something like that, but not exactly. Insania fans have been waiting for about four years for this album, and I have to say it's disappointing.

The real problem here is Ola Halen's voice. What happened? Perhaps the years are catching up to him? His voice sounds strained, like singing doesn't come as easily to him anymore. His falsettos are the worst offender here. Not Stratovarius, nor Sonata Arctica, Freedom Call, Angra, nor Helloween have ever had such painfully exaggerated and over the top falsettos. Insania takes the cake here. Listen to the excruciating verses of "Valley of Sunlight" and the chorus of "Hope." The man is barely on key anymore, and it sounds terrible. He really sounds like he's straining to hit those high notes, when compared with how easily he hit them on the previous two albums. It's a shame, he was a great vocalist. His midranges are fine, though, as demonstrated on the fantastic "To Live Another Day", but even those pale in comparison to his previous works with the band.

Musically, this is still Insania, although the songs just don't seem to pack the same energetic, hooky punch that the band used to have. The guitars are good, and songs like "Facing My Destiny" have soaring, loopy, and complex solos to boost them into the upper ranks of the band's catalogue. The keyboards add some eloquent symphonic touches that are welcome, and the drums are your basic double bass mania. "Fight For Life" is musically a very good song, until Halen ruins it, as is "Valley of Sunlight." And it really gains some momentum toward the end with the masterful duo of "Times of Glory" and "Dreams" (the former having a few old song clips at the beginning, showing how much the vocals have changed, and assuring me that this album is indeed a step down. It's still a good song though). The latter has some cool keyboard work reminiscent of a harmonica during the song. "Time Passes By" is a nice little ballad, too, so at least the band isn't completely lost. But none of these songs even hold a candle to catchy, powerful songs like "Illusions" or "Universe."

Overall I don't think this is the best the band can do, but it's not bad, and power metal fans will find many qualities here that they appreciate. Insania just needs to tone down the out of control falsettos and write some catchier songs, and then they'll be back in business. They just slightly missed the mark with this one. Recommended to Insania fans and fans of upbeat power metal in general.