Oct 242023

(Our writer DGR tends to wait until after records have been released before reviewing them, even when he’s had them in his clutches long in advance of the release date. Today, however, he’s gotten the jump on Insomnium‘s new EP, which won’t be out (on Century Media) until November 3rd.)

Earlier this year, Insomnium unleashed a great full-length album in the form of Anno 1696. We dove very deep into the album around the time of its release, exploring its concept, guest musicians, and overall execution. We had a pretty good time with it and found that the band do well when they have a concept to dedicate themselves to, after initially seeming a little adrift musically, content to do a standard Insomnium act that didn’t push the band.

Regular, straight-shooting Insomnium is still pretty good but there’s always the worry of diminishing returns. In some ways it seems like the band themselves are aware of the times when they do settle into a groove for too long. They’ve gotten pretty good at evolving in one form or another, and Anno 1696 did well lifting the band back up and recharging them.

If there was one feeling that hung in the air a bit with Anno, it was that the album was surprisingly concise – from a group that just prior had multiple songs stretching into the seven-minute range – and wrapped up rather neatly. If, however, you were able to wrap your grubby mitts around one of the limited editions of Anno 1696 then you had access to the three songs being presented here in an addendum EP, Songs Of The Dusk.

Photo Credit: Terhi Ylimäinen

Now fully unleashed on its own, Songs Of The Dusk presents another twenty-plus minutes of music across three songs. Much of it is recognizably Insomnium, but Songs Of The Dusk also provides an interesting look at different way Anno 1696 could’ve ended and also why the band may have chosen to include these three as an extra, outside of the initial release.

EPs like Songs Of The Dusk often break down into a few different categories, namely two of them, in the form of “pleasant additions to the overall catalog” and “the songs you’re here for”. In the case of Songs Of The Dusk, two songs are pleasant additions to Insomnium‘s overall catalog, slotting in perfectly with what the band have done overall.

You can hear within those two how the seeds of them being part of the Anno 1696 experience may have been planted but also by virtue of them being ‘pretty good Insomnium songs’ how they made it to the limited edition release of that album.

On the other hand, there is one song that is absolutely worth the price of admission and becomes the “song you’re here for”, and it won’t shock anyone to find out that it’s the title track of this EP.

“Song Of The Dusk” makes up a good chunk of the EP’s runtime yet also does a good job with its position within the EP. It closes out the whole affair and in some ways could be a new ending to the overall Insomnium 2023 song collective. It covers a wide swath of frozen ground and is an impressively cinematic track, including a surprisingly triumphant ending that could’ve been placed perfectly at the end of the actual CD.

There’s good reason why it was one of the first released from this EP because it is a hell of an attention grabber and transforms the Songs Of The Dusk EP into the “Song Of The Dusk” track and two other pretty enjoyable songs. Insomnium have long mastered the art of finding beauty within the frigid cold but it’s still exciting to hear that they can find life within that particular blueprint and surprise the listeners anyway. The closing moments of that song alone, wherein the band are truly in their element, come highly recommended.

Longtime Insomnium fans are going to recognize the bones that “Flowers Of The Night” is built out of. Deep into their career, Insomnium have developed a ‘classic’ approach to their style: big bass guitar driven mid-tempo, glorious guitar lead, and humongous send-out. Heart Like A Grave was built near-entirely out of songs like this, and in small doses it still works quite well. “Flowers Of The Night” sees fit to allow the guitars to do a ton of work, hence the glorious guitar-lead terminology, and it is an approach that carries through not just “Flowers Of The Night” but also into “Stained In Red” following.

At a certain point it feels like the Insomnium brigade figured out that any chance to get Ville Friman, Markus Vanhala, and now Jani Liimatainen into the spotlight to tear out some sort of glorious guitar solo – Markus especially – is a chance worth taking, and sometimes songs are starting to revolve entirely around reaching that particular climax. “Stained In Red” is the most immediately ‘heavy’ of the three, but again, we’re very well within the Insomnium wheelhouse by this point of the EP.

On top of that, the big, ascending to the heavens-esque double-bass roll is something that groups like Wolfheart have also made a hallmark of their sound, so weirdly enough, you do get a very brief flash of an alternate universe wherein the bands seem to have switched places. Yet once the band move into the acoustic-driven guitar segment that comprises the opening verse of the song it’s hard not to imagine a song like “Stained In Red” actually emerging from earlier on in the band’s career. Were it not for the quieter synth-keyboard that sparks up briefly, that opening lead-guitar gallop and all its assorted accoutrement would’ve found itself placed quite well on Across The Dark from back in 2008. Again, very familiar as an Insomnium song but also it is nice to get thrown back like that in the midst of an EP so frozen in winter lakes otherwise.

Like many of these EPs in recent years, it’s good to see these batches of songs reaching a wider audience. The desire to create some sort of limited edition is understandable but sometimes these songs are just a little too good to be kept as some sort of curio to be brought up in the future. If you’re a completionist then, Songs Of The Dusk is an almost instant recommend because these are three songs that are about as good as anything Insomnium have done. It’s been clear that the group’s standard operating throughline is strong already, so even when they’re sticking to the Insomnium blueprint as it has been drawn, there’s still some enjoyable music to be found.

Really, you’ll likely want this EP for the titular “Song Of The Dusk” on its own, with its small three-act scope and triumphant ending. But the other two tracks make the investment just as worthwhile. Again, it’s good to see the sort of ‘exclusivity window’ to the limited edition on songs like this be closed and this material get out there on a wider scale.


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