I do like it when a band gives free rein to their epic, exploratory side and decides to write a really, really long song. Welcome to Winter’s Gate. This album consists of one track that lasts a full 40 minutes in length.
With a concept that’s based around a short story, the band weave this tale into the fabric of the music, taking the listener on a textured journey into unexplored lands.
Starting off softly, it’s not long before fast guitars and emotive blast beats enter the fray, with dark growls and upbeat melodies not far behind.
The band’s emotive brand of melodic death metal is in full flow, before the distortion starts to fade and things become more relaxed and atmospheric. A chilled out progressive feel, alongside some spoken word, is quickly replaced by a heavy riff and we’re back with the growling and double bass drum assault once more.
The band have a knack for creating energetic, distorted atmospheric metal, with resplendent melodies and relatively subtle keyboards that are included for extra depth.
At various times during this song the band become ferociously epic and impressively dramatic, all wrapped up in the melodic/atmospheric metal style.
Roughly half way through the song there’s an acoustic interlude that sounds particularly pleasing. This is the first time that clean vocals are used in a major way, (they briefly appear earlier in the track), and this marks another talented side of the band, displayed for all to see.
There’s a similar section about 25ish minutes in, where everything stops and soft piano plays for a short while. This is followed by some crushing doom-esque metal of the finest order, with bellowing growls echoing out over the top of the crushing attack. Colossal.
Winter’s Gate has a good balance between the heavier, more obvious parts of the delivery and the more progressive/atmospheric ones. All of the softer/lighter parts are followed relatively quickly by a heavier section; the band never let you forget that even when they’re being atmospheric, the emphasis is very much on the metal.
The guitar solos and leads sound like fluid emotion, pressed into service by the band and given form by maestros. Yes, I’m fond of a good solo, and Winter’s Gate has plenty of them.
The music ebbs, flows and gradually builds to apogee and crescendo, culminating in the last few minutes where the music becomes the most intense and extreme, and the band throw everything the have into their efforts to create a fitting and dramatic ending to their tale. It works.
Fading out with atmospheric acoustics and softer soundscapes, Winter’s Gate succeeds in being a horrendously impressive and enjoyable release, one that sticks in the mind long after the music has died. This is 40 minutes that blurs by quickly, and it’s so easy to just play the entire thing again; that’s how good it is.
Insomnium have been very ambitious with the music on Winter’s Gate, and it has paid off big-style. They clearly have a feel for this kind of thing and have obviously poured a lot of love and effort into this album.
Essential listening for any fan of atmospheric metal.