REVIEW: INSOMNIUM – “Argent Moon” [EP]
At this stage in the game, it’s very easy to see Insomnium going down in the annals of melodic death metal history. As a consistent contributor over the past two decades, the Finnish quartet have transformed into a powerhouse of Finnish melancholy which has become synonymous with the genre. Despite the setbacks and the harsh global reality of the past two years which has derailed the band’s 2020–21 touring schedule, Insomnium has continued to remain active writing and recording new music which ultimately culminates with the release of their new EP Argent Moon.
From the very outset, Argent Moon wastes no time in establishing this EP as a melancholic affair. The balladesque aspects of the band’s sound are in full force across these tracks with softly interwoven acoustic interludes setting the tone for a majority of these songs. This isn’t new territory for the band, and is akin to previous tracks like One for Sorrow, but is used with great effect on this EP.
At only four songs in length, the EP does try to cram as much in musically as possible. Make no mistakes though, this isn’t a fleeting affair as the overall EP run time clocking in just shy of 25 minutes long. While The Conjurer and The Wanderer are both equally as impressive in their lengthy grandiosity, the shorter tracks The Reticent and The Antagonist also make explicitly quick emotional connections to enrapture the listener, leaving no empty space throughout the EP’s entire duration
Musically Argent Moon embraces the band’s history; however, there are also some really new and unique moments that stand out which show great promise for the future. Of particular note is the guitar solo on The Conjurer which while tonally fits the song, is very unique in the Insomnium catalogue and is one of the band’s better solos of recent memory. As expected, the triple-guitar team of Markus Vanhala, Ville Friman, and Jani Liimatainen brings deep melody to these four tracks, and this is only heightened by Niilo Sevänen on bass, and Markus Hirvonen on drums providing a very deep bass section to shine off.
Lyrically, the EP hits about where you would expect — striking the perfect balance between introspective reflection and melancholic existentialism. There is a very clear influence of Friman’s lyricism present here, and it feels like the band has channeled all of their frustration at not being able to tour and combined it with their trademark Finnish melancholy to cultivate these songs. The end result leaves you with lyrics that are genuinely thought-provoking and self-reflective.
Accompanying the lyrical delivery is the vocal performance, and it is important to point out the unique vocal delivery on this EP, with particular reference to Liimatainen’s clean vocals. While it may come as no surprise to fans that more and more clean vocals have started entering into Insomnium’s music over the past few releases, it is a surprise seeing Liimatainen get a large majority of lead time for his vocals on the EP, particularly on track The Reticent. That’s not to say that the familiar gutturals of Sevänen don’t envelope you like a warm and familiar blanket when they hit, but for some of these tracks Sevänen isn’t the focal lyrical delivery point—and it’s quite an interesting change as a result. The dichotomy between Limatainen and Sevänen’s vocal delivery is obviously quite stark, but the duality in their performance across these tracks really enhances the EP as a result.
Overall, the production for the EP is very clear, with no areas in which you feel like the mix clashes or overwhelms the other aspects of the music, but this isn’t very surprising if you look through Insomnium’s past releases as they have really ironed down this aspect of their music.
While it may only be four songs in length, Argent Moon is the perfect way to bridge the gap between 2019’s Heart Like a Grave and whatever comes next for Insomnium. While it doesn’t necessarily encroach on new territory, it is a solid release that embodies the musical and lyrical strength of the band and fuses it with the sentiments that we all feel towards the largely defining global situation of the past two years. The band has clearly thought about the best way to provide something for its fans, and for the band themselves to continue working while touring is restricted — and even if it is only four songs, it’s a bright light at the end of a dim tunnel for many. With the band openly promising that this was a chance for them to embrace their softer side and that the next album will be something different again, the future is looking very promising for Insomnium, and it will be interesting to see what they do next.