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Formulaic power metal - 53%

Charlo, June 18th, 2008

Insania's "Fantasy: A New Dimension" is an odd album. Technically, all the parts for a glorious power metal album are there. But in reality, this album comes off as formulaic, uninspired, and unoriginal.

The songwriting talent of this band is undeniable. They know how to right catchy, happy melodies, and that's what power metal is all about, right? So, these guys know how to right a good ol' rip-roaring power metal anthem. The problem is that they don't know how to write anything else. Everything on this album sounds generally the same, with double-bass drums, fast, simplistic riffs, soaring vocals, and predictable song structures. This band seems to only know how to play one style at one tempo. And that's what makes this album a real bore. Things start off alright with "Life After Life" and "Illusions", but after about the fourth track you just want to snap it off and put on something different.

The instrumental work on this album is all very well done, but it's not especially technical or emotive. The guitars play riffs solely for rhythm's sake; most of the time, chord changes happen only once or twice a measure. Sometimes the guitars have melody in the form of simple passages that almost qualify as solos, but not quite. And the real solos are completely unmemorable, although they are reasonably fast and melodic. At least the production emphasizes the heaviness of the guitars, so the end product at least has some balls.

Given that the rhythm aspect of the band is given mostly to the guitars, you wouldn't expect the bass guitar and drums to do anything interesting. You would be correct. The drums play predictable patterns like a metronome; even the fills are machine-like. Double-bass drum patterns are predominant, but at this tempo they don't work very well. If you're going to have a pattern with an excess of notes, it has to be played fast for it to have any effect. And since this band seemingly is incapable of playing fast (at times getting frustratingly close), the standard power metal beat is rendered useless. As for the bass, I can't name a single part of this album, in my repeated listens, where I even noticed that the bass existed at all. Listening closely, I could tell it was there—barely. The life of a metal bassist is a rough one.

The keyboard player is almost completely unheard on many of the song on this album. Some songs, such as "Master of My Mind", have dramatically increased keyboard usage, which alleviates the soul-crushing monotony of the album a little bit. There are never enough keyboards to call this album symphonic in any way, but sometimes that influence shows through a little. The keyboard solos are generally better than their guitar counterparts; they're uniformly fast and clean, with no messing around. However, in songs with no keyboard presence to speak of, the solos are unexpected and detrimental to the flow of the song. Despite this being a power metal album, not every song needs to have a keyboard solo.

One of the high points of this band is the talent of the vocalist. He has a powerful, melodic voice that is free from accent. Plus, he can hit the high notes without sounding too forced. The vocal melodies are catchy but they all kind of blend in with each other, so at the end of the album you might very well be humming one of these songs, but you won't have a clue which one you're humming. The lyrics are generally about earth and humanity, which isn't what the title and cover would lead you to believe…as a Rhapsody freak I was disappointed by this. Take a look at that cover! That's false advertisement at its worst. Despite the dragon on the cover, the word "dragon" is never once uttered during the course of this album. Blasphemy!

Overall this album is boring and repetitive. There are some truly epic parts, like the end of "Universe" and parts of "Fantasy" (with its overt neo-classical stylings), but in between there is a lot of generic power metal. This is exactly the kind of album I should love, and if this album had more variation, I would definitely love it. But by the end of this album, you're so tired of this style that there's no room to appreciate how much this band does correctly. I don't even recommend this for anybody except fans of mid-tempo, ultra-melodic power metal.

Someone get these songs out of my head - 97%

Empyreal, June 22nd, 2007

I swear, does power metal have to be so fucking catchy? Insania are just pure power metal to the core, with no outside influences in the least. Think Stratovarius, Edguy, and Sonata Arctica, and you have a pretty good idea of what this band sounds like. Although the thing is, Insania's Fantasy is far better than anything produced by any of the aforementioned bands, being more glorious, soaring, and epic than any of them have ever managed. This was their third album, and it might just be one of my favorite power metal albums ever. While Insania's music is extremely generic, one can't deny that their spirited approach to such a stale sound gives it a much needed life-giving shot in the arm, and it's all so exuberant and catchy that you don't even care how generic and deriative it gets.

Insania are such great songwriters, managing to be catchy and hooky without writing 3 minute pop ballads, and also putting some surprising power into their brand of glorious, uplifting power metal. The songs are quite long, usually ranigng from 5 to 9 minutes, and none of them ever truly get boring. Ola Halen is at the helm, and his voice is soaring, melodic, and powerful, remniscent of Michael Kiske or Timo Tolkki, somewhere in between those two very well known power metal vocalists. His voice has never been one of my favorites in the genre (more on that later), but his vocal lines here are extremely catchy, addictive, and hooky, and they'll remain lodged in your head for days after the first time you hear this album. The melodies are not very complex, veering to a more catchy, accessible direction still without being too poppy. It all comes together to form what's just about the catchiest album I've ever heard that's not annoying as fuck.

The album kicks off with the high speed double-bass cooker "Life After Life", which is a perfect introduction to Insania's brand of melodic power metal. The chorus is belted out with power and conviction, and the melodies soar right to the heavens as the song gallops along for about exactly six minutes. The whole thing comes together as a collective whole, a bona fide power metal masterpiece of the new millenium. "Illusions" and "Carry On" both have infectious, sticky vocal hooks and are rather remniscent of Stratovarius, but far, far better and more glorious. The melodies are jumpy and catchy, reminding a lot of the Finnish brand of power metal, even though this is certainly a Swedish band. And next they veer in a different direction, with the very Edguy-esque "Master of My Mind", which is probably my favorite song here, with it's glorious, operatic ending chorus and very Theater of Salvation-esque melody lines and drum beats. You can tell that Insania certainly aren't an original band, but this stuff is just done so damn well. I'd rather not turn this into a track-by-track, but these first few songs are all excellent, and deserving of mention here.

The album takes a very, very slight dip after that, with two rather dull tracks ("Face the King" and "Vengeance"), and two 9 minute epics, "Universe" and "Mankind." The former is absolutely wonderful, with the best chorus on the entire disc, and a genuine epic "cathedral" type feeling to it. There's even some chanting in there for good measure, and Halen's range on the final chorus is absolutely awe-inspiring. "Mankind" is a bit lackluster, with a chorus that just doesn't work, but musically it's excellent. I don't get what the hell is up with that ridiculous spoken interlude in the middle, though, they should've just cut that out. The title track flows really well with one of the best choruses the band has ever done, very soaring and uplifting, with some excellently jumpy melodies splashed in. And the disc finishes in grandiose fashion with "Reflections of Mine", a very positive, upbeat song with another chorus that's catchier than the flu. One of my favorites here.

Lyrically, this album strays from the fantasy themes utilized in previous albums, focusing more on emotional, human issues and inspirational anthems that can uplift even the most depressed person. I was wrong about this starting on the follow up, Agony - Gift of Life, because that lyrical trend starts here. It's just done much better here than they did three years later, with "Master of My Mind" and "Universe" being standouts from a lyrical standpoint. This kind of thing may turn some people off, and it's certainly not the kind of thing I like in my lyrics, but it's done well here, so I won't complain.

Earlier I mentioned that Ola Halen's voice isn't exactly my favorite in the power metal genre. On their next release, his voice would be horribly off key and painful to listen to at some point, but here he was still in control of his voice overall. What I don't like is his singing style, really. Take the chorus of "Mankind"---the most prominent example. I don't know how it came out like it did, but Halen sings the chorus of this song in a rather irritating, slightly off-key bellow, with almost no melody at all. The song itself is great, but the chorus just brings things down, and I'd say that their previous singer, Daniel Henriksson, was much better in the aspect of vocal melodies. It's a minor complaint, though, because his vocal lines in the rest of the songs here are usually fine, and I like some of them quite a bit. His midrange is fantastic, and his high notes are definetly great when he gets them right, although there are certainly some points on the disc where he sounds a tad bit off. But this was definetly a signal that Halen's voice wasn't exactly as powerful a voice as Insania needed.

This is probably the pinnacle of Insania's career, and any power metal fan would do well to check it out. The lyrics may be cheesy, and the music generic, but rarely is power metal executed with such energy, power, and conviction, and rarely does such an unknown band create such a well balanced album. Insania hasn't topped this yet, but maybe someday. Highly recommended.

a HUGE step in the right direction!!! - 99%

dragons_secrets, May 21st, 2003

After not being able to decide between the first two..I am clearly able to declare this one their best to date. Its even much more virtoustic in places than their previous outputs, partly thanks to Mr. Roland Grapow, who plays some guest solos on this album.
This release also marks the departure of former vocalist David Henriksson, and makes way for new vocalist Ola Halen. After a long while of not being able to differenciate between the two singers I've finally decided that I liked David better. Ola Halen still handles the songs very well however, he just lacks a little depth with his singing.
Starting things off with the Introduction, yet another instrumental intro, which is on par with the other intros on the other two albums...other than that it does bring directly to mind the intro to 'Eagle Fly Free' on Helloween's 'Keeper 2' album.

After that we go directly into 'Life After Life', which is their best opening track to date. Its apparent from the beginning of this song that the new singer fits perfectly in the band. The chorus in this song is awesome and it sounds like they put alot into writing this one, the song ends just as well as it begins and it remains one of the more inspired songs on the album.

'Illusions' goes even beyond its predecessor. This song isn't quite structured the same but its chorus just as effective. Other than that it has very effective uses of the words 'shit' and 'fuck', which is rare for 'happy' power metal. The lyrics are also easy to identify with but anyway all joking aside, this remains one of my favorites from this album. It even has an awesome keyboard solo!

'Carry On' is wonderful and its just amazing how each the album keeps getting better with each track. This song is akin to 'Lost In Time' from their Sunrise in Riverland album because its also very Stratovarius sounding except for more compliated drums and singing that never can get annoying. This is one catchy as hell song..and all that topped off with a great keyboard and guitar solo makes this one even better and yet another excellent track.

'Master of My Mind' starts off with a cool keyboard intro that is soon met with heavy guitars before it blasts right into a perfect piece of classical harmony. This song would make Bach himself proud. After the classical intro the song remains just as catchy with a nice verse that goes into a Helloween like bridge and then *wammo* another GREAT chours. Ola Halen does some excellent singing on this one. If David would've done it better who knows..all I know is this is one awesome song and it again has some excellent keyboard/guitar interplay that has to be heard to be believed! The solo is awesome as well.

Track 6 marks 'Universe', which in my opinion is the weakest song on the album. And after saying that its funny how the weakest song is still so great! This one begins with a killer riff reminding us all what power metal riffage should sound like. This song is filled with some nice hooks, with a pretty effective chorus..just not as effective as usual. The song is pretty lengthy though and has some amazing passages of virtuosity all the way to the end. To break that down, this song even has a middle section that sounds like it was written by a band like Moonspell!! The solo the slower middle section is so inspired that it cannot be put into words!! And whats this?!? After that we have yet another piece of classical perfection where the keyboards and the drums seemingly dual it out. Weakest song on the album? yes I would say. Still better than most other power metal songs I've heard!

Track 7 is 'Face the King'. Ok its hard to believe, but if you thought the album was kicking ass up to this point you haven't heard anything yet!! This song is where the album starts to get even more intense!!! This song comes complete with a ballsy riff and epic overtones. Once again, even though I slightly prefer David Henriksson over the new singer, Ola Halen is still so good here that he's just about capable of making you forget they had a different singer. The rest of this song is no less great in splendor and it even has a cool bass section before its solo that sounds like thunder and lightening having it out!!

'Fantasy' is the obligitory title track that far surpasses Insania title tracks from the other albums. This song is really neck moving with its perfect gallopping verses and whats more is the chorus is even better!! This song has it all. Cool drumming, great singing, the works. And yes, this one has yet another middle section of classical virtuosity.

'Vengeance' ...?!? how in the hell does this album keep getting more bad ass as it goes along?! I think this album has one of the most perfect track placements ever. Vengeance is the heaviest song here but still doesn't slack off on the catchy hooks..if anything this song is pretty intense in that department. Once again theres a great melodic guitar solo to be found that is exectued with so much virtuosity. There is even some progressive overtones to be found on this song as well as few other songs. Could Insania be hinting at becoming more progressive? I think so.

'Mankind'..holy hell!! This is as good as it gets. Remember how I said the album keeps getting more intense how it goes along? Well this one is the culimation of all the virtuosity and melody found on the entire album..and I would go as far to say..even Insania's entire career..Thats right..best Insania song. ever! Not even the mighty Stratovarius is this consistent with writing such great epic songs. Mankind is so great its hard to describe...great verses..perfect emotional bridge...and then the best chorus Insania has ever done!! This one is so beautiful, its like the magnficance of dusk, dawn, and falling in love all rolled into one. At about 3 and a half mintues in is slow melodic guitarwork beautiful enough to make the biggest metal elitist have shivers run down their spine. It almost sounds like crying listening to it! And you'd think that they wouldn't be able to write another part after that to match the one before it..but nope..it keeps getting better and better till the song returns back to the chorus, even having the best keyboard spot on the album followed by some spoken words of wisdom dealing with nature and peace, that goes into a nice melodic break before returning back to the main riff and then the chorus. TOTAL PERFECTION.

'Reflections of Mine' is the tenth and final track and it a perfect closer. Its an instant classic with an inspired keyboard intro. Great lyrics to be found here with a chilling chorus that I'm sure will appeal to all metalheads..."I live my life my own way, don't care what other people say"...just excellent!! This song even ends with more virtousitic soloing that would make Timo Tolkki or Yngwie Malmsteen themselves nervous. Just chilling!

Overall, the only possible thing that anyone could complain about is the slight lack of depth in Ola Halen's voice. I say this album is so good that it really doesn't matter seriously!! This is the best Insania album and I dont think they could've released a better album!! As far as Im concerned this album is "Keeper 3"! Thats right, its up there..maybe better!