Can Insomnium do anything wrong? So far, the evidence shows that they cannot. Shadows of the Dying Sun takes the band’s existing sound, an already-excellent hybrid of doom and melodic death, and turns the epic factor up to 11 for the entirety of the album. If Katatonia and Dark Tranquillity combined their music and added a healthy dose of Iron Maiden’s bombast, you’d have Shadows of the Dying Sun as a result. Every composition is grandiose and intense, with an average song length of over six minutes. The album as a whole just grips your attention and doesn’t let go, because you’re always waiting anxiously for the next great musical climax to rise from a song. This album is worth experiencing uninterrupted, because it only adds to the profound nature of the music when it is heard in one sitting. If you haven’t heard this album yet, do yourself a favor, and set aside an hour to listen to it from start to finish. You’ll thank me later.
Key tracks: “Black Heart Rebellion”, “Ephemeral”
If ever there was a band that just came out of nowhere to kick my ass and leave me questioning everything, Fallujah would be it. The first time I listened to The Flesh Prevails, my jaw was hanging to the floor for most of the album. How could a band with the technical proficiency of Cynic create an album that not only showed off said technical proficiency, but also made room for the atmospheric beauty of Amorphis? It didn’t seem possible, and yet, here was a whole album that proved it to be real. I’m still utterly stunned by the fact that this album even exists. It’s a monumental achievement in the world of progressive death metal, and it serves to put the rest of the genre on notice – no longer will a band be praised for just cramming as many notes and styles into a song as they can justify. Technicality for its own sake is not good enough anymore. Because of Fallujah, now bands will have to show that they know when technicality is called for, and when a softer, more reserved approach is better. I would not be surprised if, ten years down the line, critics refer to The Flesh Prevails as a turning point in this genre.
Key tracks: “The Night Reveals”, “Levitation”
I will openly admit that I did not ever want to listen to Heritage because it lacked Opeth’s death metal roots, and when I finally did listen to it, I was disappointed. It wasn’t a bad album, it just wasn’t what I wanted. Now, though, I realize that Opeth doesn’t need to write death metal songs to be excellent, because everything they do is excellent in its own right. Pale Communion really cemented that understanding in me, as I heard its catchy, melodic prog rock that still carried a heavy side. The entire album is full of stellar writing, as Mikael Åkerfeldt again shows us just how incredible of a composer he is. Ranging from beautifully ambient interludes, to jazzy choruses, all the way to grooving, off-tempo hard rock sections, Pale Communion engages the brain just as much as it does the ears. Over time, I’ve found myself shifting away from recalling the brutal masterpieces on Deliverance or Ghost Reveries, and instead humming the equally-memorable melodies of Pale Communion to myself. It’s a surprising departure, but I’ve learned to welcome it.
Key tracks: “Eternal Rains Will Come”, “Voice of Treason”