Losing a longstanding member of an established band is never easy but when the musician in question doubles as a chief songwriter, it’s a predicament that can be career ending. Luckily for Finnish gloom merchants Insomnium, the loss of Ville Vänni in 2011 proved only to be a minor inconvenience as a worthwhile replacement was soon found in Omnium Gatherum axeman Markus Vanhala, a man well-versed in sombre melodic death metal. It’s no surprise then that he’s a perfect addition to the band and makes his presence known on sixth album Shadows of the Dying Sun (Century Media).
Given that Insomnium do what they do so well, it’s a case of ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ and this maxim is strictly adhered to across the board, although there are some nods to the band’s early days such as the return of Niilo Sevänen’s darkly intoned spoken word utterances on a couple of tracks, lending the tracks an even more solemn air, if that were possible. But don’t for one second think they’re not enjoying themselves, as the avenues explored on Shadows of the Dying Sun are lengthy and inspired. It may be variations on a theme, but it’s a damn good theme.
The building thrill of opener ‘The Primeval Dark’ gets pulses racing with its clinical chugs and swirling keys while the mournful melodic-doom workout of ‘While We Sleep’ has a strong whiff of fellow Finns Amorphis with its sorrow-filled riffs and death roars. Elsewhere, the blistering attack of ‘Black Heart Rebellion’ shows that there’s still plenty of fire surging through the band members’ veins while the infectious ‘Ephemeral’ is a catchy modern metal song done to absolute perfection without a nuance of integrity sacrificed in the process.
Like a fine wine, Insomnium just get better with age and like anything of beauty, you never want to stop experiencing it. Make no mistake; Shadows of the Dying Sun hits the sweet spot.