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The essence of wistful melancholy - 93%

Jophelerx, September 3rd, 2015

While the "melodic death metal" (read: in no way, shape or form, connected to actual death metal) Gothenburg sound is something I usually find moderately, superficially fun at best, though there are exceptions; in this case, I'd argue that the album (and band in general, I suppose) departs completely from what I would describe as Gothenburg-like. Insomnium seem to have taken a different path altogether, or at the very least warped and altered that original Gothernburg sound so much that it's become something else entirely. While there are strong early In Flames vibes (really early In Flames, as in Lunar Strain), the more somber atmosphere, power-metal like riffing style, and departure from typical melodeath vocal style sets them far enough apart in my mind to barely associate them with Gothenburg (and thus, "melodeath") at all. No, what we have here is, while not nearly so bizarre as to be labeled avant-garde or even really progressive, nonetheless doesn't seem to fit neatly in any existing categories. While a stickler might argue that it falls closer to melodic death metal to anything else, and honestly I might be tempted to agree with that statement, it sounds so far from both Gothenburg and any kind of death metal whatsoever, melodic or otherwise, that I can't really justify doing so. I don't have a problem with it being labeled as such, but what we really have here is some unusual amalgamation that seems to include The Black Halo-era Kamelot (although this does predate that album), Be Gone-era Pharaoh, melancholic doom/gothic metal along the lines of The Sins of Thy Beloved's song "Lake of Sorrow" (which I mention here in particular due to its rather nautical atmosphere, though there are other bands in that vein that aren't far departed from the sound), and yes, Lunar Strain-era In Flames, but as I've already said, I think the influences are so varied and incorporated in such in unusual way that no one else, unless they were influenced by Insomnium themselves, is really similar enough to pin them down definitely.

The vocals are deep growls, along the lines of old school death metal, although that is literally the only element of the album that relates to legitimate death metal in any way. The guitar work is strange but also catchy and fitting for the atmosphere; they use harmonies that typically consist of a sort of tremolo-sounding (forgive me if that's incorrect, I'm not an expert on music theory) riff that's slower than what you usually hear in black metal, alongside simple but evocative leads that sound more powerful than anything else, at times evoking either of the aforementioned Kamelot or Pharaoh more than the other. Of course, as I said, this predates either band playing the style to which this album sounds the most similar, so either they were mirroring a more obscure somber power metal act already playing that style (which is highly possible, though I can't think of any that would fit this description) or the similarity is coincidental. Or, of course, Kamelot and Pharaoh were in fact influenced by Insomnium, but I find that unlikely since both bands seemed to progress naturally towards those distinctive sounds from much more traditional power metal sounds. The slower tremolo/power metal riffing style is what makes me think most of In Flames, though - less aggressive and more somber than In Flames' riffing, but it does also retain the distinctive tendency to frequently switch to acoustic solos, which surely isn't coincidental. However, while with In Flames that style often feels awkward or at most decent, with Insomnium it feels like the perfect progression in a song, and many of such passages are some of my favorite parts of the album.

As I've been reiterating, the album is somber and melancholic, but I haven't described much of how exactly it is, yet. Niilo Sevanen's low growls have a distinctly sorrowful, grieving tinge to them, enhanced by the reflective, nautical atmosphere which the riffs somehow create. I would have no idea how to make a riff sound nautical, but somehow almost all of them do, the possible exception being the title track, which is more evocative of a forest. Of course, this is clearly intentional, given the album cover and song titles like "Song of the Storm" and "Black Waters." The lyrics also add a lot, adding another layer to the elegantly gloomy atmosphere. Usually about nature and/or depression, there are pretty brilliant lines (even more so in the context of the music) such as, from the title track,

Do you walking in mourning, still wear the grief/Raiment of sorrow, remembrance of me
Through the years of bleakness, winters of bitter cold/Will you not forget me, forsake my soul

Pretty impressive lyrics in any context, especially impressive for what are apparently four native Finnish speakers. I'm not exactly sure who did the bulk of the lyric writing, but considering all the band members seem to be native Finns, this is just damn respectable. In appropriate places, Sevanen also uses very low, almost monotone clean vocals that, along with the acoustic sections (with which they often coincide) provide a very poignant contrast between mind-numbing anger and confusion and the continual return to profound, inexorable despair. Insomnium are a band who clearly understood melancholy, intricate details of songwriting, and how to pioneer styles without sacrificing sonic superiority; while I consider this to be their best album by a significant margin, it certainly does still shine through on later albums, albeit not as strongly. However, if you find Insomnium at all interesting to you, at least give In the Halls of Awaiting a shot before you write them off for any other album.

Introducing A Standard - 77%

OzzyApu, April 5th, 2013

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.

Not your run-of-the-mill Finnish melodeath. . . - 98%

MalignantTyrant, June 26th, 2012

Fucking Insomnium. . . what's not to say about them? They are one of the best melodic death metal acts to come out of Finland in recent years. They've managed to go beyond the traditional Finnish melodic death metal blueprint laid out by bands like Kalmah or Children of Bodom, and they've done a damn good job of doing it, too. This is their debut album, and it certainly surprised me in many ways when I first heard it. I did not expect the superior songwriting that floors me still to this day nor did I expect it to be as good as it was all around.

The production is quite inferior to their later albums, but it is still salvageable. The bass and rhythm guitars are both very well present throughout this album and the mixing is just right. The vocals I will get to later, but they're also mixed in perfectly as opposed to their next album in which it's mixed in a bit too damn loud. I forget who exactly the producer was on this album, but if I was to record a melodic death metal album, I'd go to that person.

The music itself is brilliantly crafted. It is atmospheric while still maintaining the sweeping and prominent melodies of the guitars. I hardly doubt that these guys picked up a Norther or a Kalmah album and said 'These guys really influenced me, maybe I should copy them', no I think that they took up their own banner and made their own music from scratch. There is a tinge of Gothenburg influence, but it isn't as apparent here as it is on One For Sorrow.

The vocals are truly excellent and they stand out in every way. This guy isn't the greatest vocalist, but he damn sure gets the job done. His voice isn't a guttural, deep Glen Benton bellow nor is it a high pitched Thomas Lindberg wail, it's about in between. He enunciates his words while still retaining brutality as well. His vocal performance here is better than The Day It All Came Down for sure. I don't think that he could replicate his performance here ever again, either.

The drumming is varied and well-done. It utilizes a very rhythmic style and it is quite unique for sure. I think that the drummer tried to keep it toned down but still make sure that he left a lasting impact, and he most certainly did.

I'd say that this is probably one of Insomnium's best and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in melodeath that doesn't stick to the standards.

Eternity resides within these halls. - 95%

hells_unicorn, May 21st, 2012

One enduring requirement of any melodeath band, regardless of their year of origin, is an ability to turn what is largely a predictable and formulaic style into an interesting group of songs by tinkering with a few specific details. It’s a foregone conclusion that said music must be sorrowful, but whether it be a frostbitten sorrow along the lines of a slightly blackened approach, or just a dark yet unfrozen approach akin to the haunting feel of an autumn evening as the leaves begin to die or the lonely halls of a long abandoned palace. Finland’s own Insomnium tends more towards the latter character, and their sound was generally at its best the closer to its origins one goes, though they’ve been among the more consistent players in this sub-genre.

Insomnium arrived on the scene just a few years too late to provide a time appropriate Finnish answer to the Gothenburg trio that kicked off the well known melodic variant on death metal, but timing isn’t everything. Indeed, had they started at around the same time as many of the 90s bands in this style had, they might well have been possessed to recruit a singer with a higher pitched growl in the mold of Tomas Lindberg and one of the unique aspects of their sound would not have come to be. One of the hallmarks of post 1999 melodeath has been a much deeper, darker, more guttural death bark along the lines of the early American pioneers, and it meshes quite well with a style that is a bit closer harmonically to the power metal genre. Bassist and growler Niilo Sevänen is somewhat reminiscent of David Vincent, with maybe a touch of Corpsegrinder, and comes off as sort of an overgrown orc shouting semi-intelligible ravings at the pitch black of his cavern abode.

Apart from a deviation in vocal style, debut album “In The Halls Of Awaiting” is largely an exercise in quality detailing rather than outright innovation. The melodic contour of most of these songs conform to the Iron Maiden-like repetition typical to a 90s In Flames album, and the virtuosic shredding solos typical to Arch Enemy are largely avoided for a more solemn and nostalgic mixture of melodies, as can be particularly heard in the several acoustic breaks of “Shades Of Deep Green”. Similarly, the band is not wholly shy about utilizing keyboard ambiances normally reserved to Children Of Bodom, as heard on the intro of “The Bitter End”, but it is used much more sparingly and always makes way for the layered lead guitar lines that dominate most of the songs.

The songs tend to be of moderate length, but layered with a fair amount of melodic variations that seem to stretch their length out. The longer songs, by contrast, tend to indulge more in acoustic interlude work, with an eye towards a somber and bleak sound comparable to the fonder memories of a man whose present is built completely out of regret. The epic closer “In The Halls Of Awaiting” provides the most concentrated dose of this sense of eternal longing, reaching out for a reward that will be forever unreachable, and shifts through a series of formulaic chord structures that channel the spirit of early In Flames (specifically “The Jester Race”) but with a stronger studio production and a more introspective approach to lyrical content. This is among the more beautiful and ingeniously crafted epics in the Gothenburg mode, and it’s somehow fitting that a band not from that locale created it.

As noted before, it’s difficult to go wrong with this band if the mid 90s Gothenburg sound is the desired one. In fact, one could argue that Insomnium is more Gothenburg than most of the bands that hail from there, distilling the most poignant elements of the style and forging something a bit more compelling and also just a tiny bit more accessible. They are a band that hit the ground running with this album, and have had very few slow down points since, none of them of any particular note. They are worthy of all the praise heaped upon them, and like a grand elm tree, are strongest right at their roots and base, ergo their masterwork of a debut.

Brilliant Songwriting - 95%

RussianMetalHead, December 19th, 2009

Insomnium plays a melodic death with tendencies of the Swedish metal (that is production values (slightly), somewhat similar to early In Flames, and a bit Dismember)

The main quality of the music is its wonderful songwriting. The music is wonderfully and carefully crafted. The melodies are simply brilliant. From melodic death metal perspective this is an important to have interesting melodies. And they are consistent; every song has an interesting hook, acoustic guitars and keyboards to enhance already dense sound. The other instruments are very nicely done too. Vocals are brutal, yet clear, and very emotional. Plus, the lyrics are thoughtful and poetic. Rhythm section tends to be not very complicated but not uninteresting enough. Check out the double base work in the 'Black Waters', or very powerful drumming in the 'Dying Chant'. It seems that songwriting is done by the guitarists, and that helps to understand their songwriting techniques. As far as not being original (oh they copied from In Flames and suchlike), there are some similar work (the cute little guitar lead in ‘Journey Uknown’ sound quite similar to In Flames earlier material)

Yet in general, Insomnium are quite original. The combination of heavy production, thick guitar wall of sound, melanholic melodies,interesting changes, plus the atmosphere. The song on which they made a video characterizes their unique approach. And there are no fillers. The last title track is so amazing, such as beautiful song with such an emotional impact (the last 4 minutes of it are orgasmic – million stars out of ten)

Last bits:

I give it 95/100 there are some repetitive moments in few songs, (Journey Uknown lead comes back few times, it is a nice little thing, but gets repeated a bit too much) but it is pretty damn close to perfection. Additional respect for the artist to avoid trends. They have no metalcore influences, and no modern pop sampling and suchlike, which means they are not really commercial project, and writev songs from their hearts, plus it is nice to avoid the fucking trends, and stick to the roots which, from a listener perspective, is very enjoable. On of the amazing original artists in the overcrowded genre.

Insomnium - In The Halls Of Awaiting - 94%

WilliamAcerfeltd, January 27th, 2008

Well, this is a good album. I first heard about this band late last year. Something that suprises me a lot is that the band is quite accessible, just as accessible as Wintersun. Yet this band is relatively unknown, check the amount of reviews. Also, in my opinion this band is much better than Wintersun.

Let's start with the vocals. The guy handling vocals here cannot sing so there are no clean vocals to be found on the album. There some spoken/whispered parts though. Also unlike the usual high-pitched vocals that you have in most melo death bands which are similar to black metal, we have to deep death growl. I personally think this is a good thing.

The metal on this album is pretty heavy. There also some very soft easy listening parts on this album, for instance the album starts off with a cool accoustic intro with whispered vocals then swings into the heavy part of the album. The riffs are usually pretty technical and enjoyable.

If you're after solos then you might be a bit dissapointed with the album because there is only 1 solo on the entire album which can be found on the last song. It's unfortunately a little too short, despite this it is still an enjoyable peice of ear candy.

So there you have it, a short but effective summary of this album. This album has sparked my interest in the band and I am interested to see what their other albums sound like. It is suprising that you have bands which are just as good, if not better than Wintersun around but aren't given the same amount of credit.

Excellent Start for an Excellent Band... - 95%

ict1523, May 6th, 2005

Insomnium is one of my favorite bands, and for many reasons. They have a very unique and thick sound despite some saying this album sounds a lot like In Flames, they have melodic yet heavy and very sad but atmospheric music, and they have excellent vocals. This album not only has awesome sounding songs, but the lyrics are very deep, well thought out, and have meaning. They sound very sincere. This is a good album to listen to when you have nothing to do. Just sit down, listen to it, and it will almost make you reflect on your own life. It is that powerful. I can picture myself sitting in the woods in the middle of Finland and just listening to this album. The art in the CD booklet also helps if I am following the lyrics.

I said before that Insomnium has a very thick sound. I don't know how to quite explain it, but it must be something in the production. It almost seems like like all the instruments and vocals blend together very well to create a very powerful sound.The music on this album may not be too complicated most of the time, but I could care less as long as it sounds awesome. The melodies are all different ranging from sad and almost depressing to pretty fast but still sad. The acoustic transitions are also very well done and flow well with the song. I also love the transitions of melody from verses to choruses in some songs, like in "Medeia". They can change quite a bit from a slower paced and sad chorus to a wildly catchy fast speed chorus. Gives the album lots of variety, which there definitely is in this album.

There are no throwout tracks, however there are some highlights. "Ill Starred Son" is a more melodic and a fairly fast paced song, but the melodies here are very catchy, the melody isn't really high pitched for the most part, but it is also heavy at the same time and with the deep growling vocals it provides a nice effect. "Medeia" is definitely more of a sad song. It is still rather fast paced, but heavy with even harsher growls from Niilo Sevanen than what we usually get, this of course not including the parts where he whispers. There are some acoustic transitions here which feature Niilo whispering and it almost makes you feel the lyrics of the song even more. The acoustic parts on this song however are short lasting and not boring at all.

"The Elder" is another great song that is slower paced and features a lot of acoustic breaks. The acoustic melody sounds pretty interesting and gives me an image of a cloudy day in an empty town...very peaceful, that is until the song erupts with heavy guitars and loud growls. Lastly, "The Bitter End" is simply awesome. It starts out as almost something you'd expect from Nightwish with a very upbeat almost heavenly-like melody, but then it explodes with a loud and harsh growl from Niilo. The song is fast paced and melodic and I love the lyrics as well. There is one particular verse that is just awesome, not only because of the content of the lyrics, but because of the melody and how powerfully Niilo growls the words.

""Now it's the time of grieving
Reign of sorrow in my heart
All i have ever wanted
Is today forever gone
Bitter is the nightly silence
Bitter till the end of time
The sky grown ever darker
Through now she'll always be mine "

This album is very unique and I would not equate it with In Flames or any other melodic death metal bands at all. This is NOT Gothenburg crap, this is truly melodic death metal that owns. The songs on here are powerful, the production is great, the sound is thick, the vocals are not your typical death metal style, Insomnium is truly in another league with bands like Wintersun when compared to with other melodic death bands such as Dark Tranquility. If you are looking into Insomnium, this is a great album to start with as you will be able to hear Insomnium evolve in future albums.

Great and Overlooked - 93%

Drunken, April 27th, 2005

I think it’s sad that this band didn’t really start getting much recognition until their sophomore release “Since the Day it All Came Down”. Like “Since the Day” this is a really good CD. Most of the reviews you hear about this CD say something like “Okay, but not as good as “Since the Day”” or “Good, but better the second time around”. I agree. “Since the Day it All Came Down” is better than this one, but do not, and I repeat, DO NOT let that stop you from picking this one up. This is a great CD that has to live in its predecessor’s shadow.

The musicianship in this CD is done very well. The riffs aren’t necessarily hard to play, but is that really what matters? I think not. The vocals are done wonderfully, with very full growls that on some songs shift to almost whispers that remind me of something Anders Friden would have done back in the day. Niilo Sevanon(vocalist) has a great, unique voice which is rare in any kind of death metal (I’m not by any means saying that ALL death vocals sound the same, so don’t stone me!). The drumming is done very precisely with both double bass and standard drumming. This comes with great pleasure, for I get a little bored with double bass blasting through an entire song, I mean, that’s often physically impressive, but can also get extremely boring.

They have a wide spectrum of speed levels in the disk. They will go from power/speed-ish to doomy to acoustic passages, sometimes all in one song. Often times when bands attempt this, it becomes overwhelming and sounds like the band is trying too hard, but Insomnium seem to pull it off perfectly. The songs are all well written and there isn’t a bad song on the album. I’ll admit, some are a little better than others (Some standout tracks including “Song of the Storm”, “Media” and “The Elder”), but they are all worth listening to.

So, summing things up, this is all in all a great release. No, it isn’t as good as what will come, but a very good album nonetheless. Definitely gets an “A” form me.

Thoroughly enjoyable - 85%

Spawn_of_Cthulhu, March 10th, 2004

Insomnium’s In the Halls of Awaiting is a prime example of merely average musicians creating something that’s much more than the sum of its parts.

The music is nothing special on its own. The lead and rhythm guitars are very solid-sounding with lots of nice dual harmonies. The drumming is nothing to write home about, the fastest song on the album could be described as mid-paced at best. The vocals are a kind of gruff-sounding death growl and are actually understandable most of the time. Overall, the playing is very average.

Where this album really shines is its atmosphere. All that average musicianship I mentioned is combined with exceptional songwriting skills and beautiful lyrics to create a wonderfully melancholy listening experience. Each song is refreshingly evocative and emotional. For some reason everything clicks perfectly and makes what should to all intents and purposes be a mediocre melo-death album into a near-masterpiece. Wholeheartedly recommended.

An amazing album! - 90%

Deathmachine, January 17th, 2004

This has to be one of my favourite albums of all time, it has everything, it has melodic riffs, heavy riffs, riffs made better with keyboards on top, acoustic bits, and the vocals are amazingly powerful, but at the same time can do sombre as well. This album has great lead guitar, and although it only has one real solo, right at the end, it’s an amazing one, and the lead is strong on most the songs. I think to put them down as an In Flames clone would be hugely underrating them, they have a lot of other elements that In Flames don’t have, they have a bit of Emperor and Children of Bodom mixed in as well, they have a much more sombre sound at times, and are a lot heavier at others. They are similar, but not the same!

They also have a progressive side, the way they constantly change rhyme and riffs, they have a much grander sound then In Flames at times. The vocals are also very different too, a lot more Death metal and deeper. This also comes from the lyrics, which are one of my favourite things about this album, they beautifully written, mostly about lost love, in a sombre, strong and brooding way. In Flames have a very modern sound, a very urban sound, but Insomnium seem to be harking back to the old days somehow, making it sound like their jamming under a star lit sky, but with excellent production. The production couldn’t be better, everything sounds smooth and nothing out of place, and you can hear everything. Brilliant. I also love, probably my favourite off the album, the epic last song, the title track, it reminds more of “With Strength I Burn” by Emperor, its long as has some amazing riffs, and then keyboards come in, and it all just builds up over 10 minutes to this amazing climax, an amazing solo, as I said earlier, the only one on the album!

But, a few things I would changes, perhaps more solos, but that’s only because I know they can do amazing ones and I'm a solo fan. Also maybe a better intro, I don’t really like the first song, it could have been a lot more dramatic. But this album is just great, if you like the bands I mentioned, Emperor, Children of Bodom, or In Flames, you would probably really like this album. I just can’t wait till their next album and when they come on tour to the UK!