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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.