Insomnium Albums – Ranked! (From Worst to Best)

Insomnium are a melodic death metal band from Finland formed in 1997. In their over twenty year career, they have made a name for themselves carving out their own identity in the genre by blending rich atmospheres, melodies and folk influence in a way that makes them stand out amongst their peers.

The three founding members are: bassist and vocalist Niilo Sevänen, drummer Markus Hirvonen and guitarist Ville Friman. The lineup has expanded since 2011 when the band recruited Markus Vanhala (Omnium Gatherum) and most recently, Jani Liimatainen (Cain’s Offering) for guitar duties in 2019.

With Insomnium’s world tour about to commence following the release and success of their newest album, Heart Like a Grave late last year, the time has never been better to take a look back at the band’s extensive back catalogue as tonight we rank all of Insomnium’s core releases.

Insom ATD

#8 – Across The Dark (2009)

I need to preface this entire article by saying that I genuinely do love every Insomnium record and that the ranking order really is down to a few small preferences and nothing outlying. Across The Dark is a fantastic album that features some of the bands best songs including: Weighed Down with Sorrow and Down With The Sun. However, this album came out a time where Insomnium had a very well established sound. It did not break as much new ground as what came before it, nor did it innovate in the ways of the latter records that would succeed this one.

In the halls

#7 – In The Halls of Awaiting (2002)

I know it may be seen as sacrilege to place a band’s debut so far down the list, especially when they are as revolutionary as this, but if anything I believe that it just establishes just how high the bar was set and then surpassed by in future. In The Halls of Awaiting is one of the strongest first records in metal music history and perfectly conveys the poetic melancholy in the songwriting, combined with a strong use of acoustic/folk guitar and darkly beautiful medleys throughout.

It is no more evident than in songs such as The Elder and Deeper Shades of Green that this was a band doing something completely unheard of at the time. In The Halls of Awaiting truly does have this timeless quality that transcends orthodox trends and trappings that other bands in the genre would have fallen into. Despite being released in the early 2000s, this record could have came out in the early 1990s or the late 2010s and still retain its own prevalence in a league of its own. There is no conforming to trends, there is no overblown production or heavy use of electronic elements. It is a straightforward folk-inspired melodic death album through and through that cemented the band as something truly special.

one for sorrow

#6 – One For Sorrow (2011)

Always one for sorrow, never one for love. One For Sorrow serves as perhaps their first major exposure to the mainstream market, as well as acting as a swansong for longtime guitarist and songwriter Ville Vänni, who left the band after the release of the record for personal reasons pertaining to his career as a general surgeon and family matters.

This is where ranking their records starts to become an incredibly difficult task and there really is nothing in it as to why one album is any higher or lower than another. One For Sorrow is a masterclass in powerful and emotionally charged melodic death metal that has an excellent sense of pace and flow for the entirety of the runtime. Every track here feels deliberately placed and not a second is wasted from beginning to end. Standout tracks from the album are: Unsung, Regain The Fire and Lay The Ghost to Rest.

shadows of

#5 – Shadows of the Dying Sun (2014)

This record was my first exposure to the band and I am certain many others as songs such as the now iconic While We Sleep and Ephemeral dominated playlists and fronted many press websites back in 2014. This album is a little more accessible than some of the others on this list and was the first time that the band had utilised ballads and clean vocals more heavily as a tool in their songwriting arsenal, mostly found on slower tracks such as: The Promethean Song and The River.

The album still retained the aggression and bite of prior records with tracks like Black Heart Rebellion and The Primeval Dark, but the lighter elements mixed in made it stand out amongst the rest of their discography. It may be softer in places but it is no less emotionally resonant.

Shadows of the Dying Sun is not only one of my favourite albums ever released but has also gotten me through a lot of dark times with its morose yet inspiring and uplifting lyrics. It was also around this time that I saw Insomnium for the first time, with a setlist that made up large in part with killer tracks executed beautifully from this release.

insomnium-heart-like-a-grave

#4 – Heart Like a Grave (2019)

To some this album seemed like a grand return to form for a band that had become very comfortable in releasing consistent but safe albums. To the less cynical (myself included), Heart Like a Grave is a prodigious demonstration that shows exactly why the band have such the stellar reputation that they do.

With that said, Heart Like a Grave does innovate in a number of crucial ways that sets the record apart. The most noteworthy addition to the core lineup, newcomer Jani Liimatainen, injected new vibrance and brightness to the songwriting resulting in tracks like Valediction that borrowed in small part from Cain’s Offering with the focus on euro metal clean singing throughout most of the song from himself and Ville Friman. It is a really cool touch that adds a little colour to a very dark record.

Pale Mourning Star was a gorgeous callback to the band’s In Halls of Awaiting sound, with its extended runtime, heavy use of acoustic guitars and swelling piano accompaniment paired with perhaps Niilo’s greatest vocal delivery on the album, and even a little black metal flare too.

This album does not reinvent the wheel but it has enough new ideas and benefits from some new blood to do something different enough to make those who may have lost interest in the band’s last few albums, to pay strict attention once more.

Winters gate

#3 – Winter’s Gate (2016)

What does a band do when faced with the idea that they may be getting too comfortable in their own sound? Well, in this case they release one long fourty-minute epic of a song. Winter’s Gate is a transcendental journey of epic proportions that takes the listener through a myriad of rich frozen landscapes and refuses to ever lessen its grip.

This entry into the band’s discography also demonstrated their first foray into implementing black metal staples into their core sound and it made for an unexpected but sharply effective addition that moulds Winter’s Gate into something that blends the barriers between genres in the best way possible. Thick tremolo riffs and backing choir vocals permeate this album and accent the quitier portions along with the always stunning guitar lead that screams at just the right times.

Winter’s Gate may have been a risk but it was an incredibly bold move on the band’s part and smashed any doubt to pieces that this was a band that could never stagger or slow down.

weeping world

#2 – Above The Weeping World (2006)

Without question this is an album that is utterly flawless in almost every single respect. It is perhaps too the band’s heaviest record yet with Niilo’s growl a little deeper and the dual guitar riffing leaning a little harder into that death metal grove just enough to not betray their folk melodic influence.

It is difficult to talk about the sum of its parts when you have an album that is so consistently strong and carries itself so effectively and effortlessly as this one does. One listen of Drawn To Black, The Killjoy or Change of Heart is all you need for this record to infect your ear and stay with you for potentially the rest of your life. It really is that quintessential.

Day it all

#1 – Since The Day It All Came Down (2004)

This album is immaculate. Insomnium’s sophomore record took all of their unique and interesting concepts and dialled them up to 11 with steadfast conviction. Take one listen to any of the exceptional tracks and it is easy to see exactly why this, out of them all, tops my list as the greatest Insomnium album yet.

Be it the wistful and winding Daughter of the Moon, the immense crushing power of Death Walked The Earth or the sheer striking sadness of Closing Words, Since The Day It All Came Down is one of the finest metal records ever put to tape. Try as I might I feel that I lack the words to do this record justice, the album truly does speak for itself as a high point of exactly why we love this genre of music in the first place.

Ultimately you could listen to any of these albums and rank them completely differently and it would be entirely valid, they are all special and mean different things to different people. It was incredibly close to call but we made it. I look forward to many more years of their reign as the undisputed kings of melodic death metal.

The Best Metal Albums of 2019

Rounding out the end of the 2010s in style, 2019 was a monumental year for metal music of all genres and persusations. As such, here at Pit of Plagues, we’ve found that limiting ourselves to ten mere records this year was just too difficult. Without further delay, here’s our extended list totally our picks for the top fifteen metal albums of the year, list is ranked in no particular order. 

Hath – Of Rot and Ruin

An open that will no doubt be heavily featured in many other end of year lists, Of Rot and Ruin is a landmark victory in death metal music and the album stands head and shoulders above a lot of its competition for countless reasons. Taking the lyrics of FromSoftware’s Dark Souls and running with it in the darkest and most sincere fashion possible, Hath combined their love of the series with their unrivalled technical ability and truly a second is not wasted here on a fantastic atmospheric record that will stand the test of time for years to come. 

rot

Gaahl’s Wyrd – Gastir – Ghosts Invited 

Gaahl is a man that certainly needs no introduction if you’re at all familiar with the black metal scene in recent years. Gaahl’s Wyrd sees the ex-Gorgoroth singer and former Trelldom spearhead use his unique vocal range and creativity to utilise a more matured and slower dark metal album than what he has been traditionally known for in the past. The result is a very cold, moody and artistic expression of possession that gets in your head and refuses to let go. Getting to see many of the songs present on the album, including standout for me, ‘Carving the Voices’ was one of the most intense live performances I have ever seen, and a true testament to the band’s commitment to their pioneering craft.  

ghosts

Darkthrone – Old Star

Good old Darkthrone. Heavy, old school and unrelenting in their approach against modern conventions. The duo’s latest effort is a slightly faster and punchier 80s inspired effort consisting of six songs and heavily inspired by the likes of Motorhead, Venom and the like. It may be short but Old Star is certainly sweet, tracks like ‘I Muffle Your Inner Choir’ and ‘The Key is Inside the Wall’ will make any self respecting metalhead want to shred away on their axe to the catchy riffs, and bang their heads until they develop brain damage. In short, It’s Darkthrone. You know exactly what to expect from these guys, they don’t disappoint. 

darkthrone

Green Lung – Woodland Rites

One of the freshest things to happen to the metal genre in a very long time, Green Lung’s debut record Woodland Rites set the world alight with their ritualistic 70s acid rock/doom metal hybrid that’s as infectiously catchy and addictive as the substances available at Woodstock in 1969. Out of everything on this list, Woodland Rites is one of the most listened to albums here. I personally just couldn’t get enough out of tracks like ‘Let the Devil In’ or ‘Templar Dawn’. It’s clear that these guys are inspired by all manor of acid rock and stoner music and the Londoners take full advantage of modern production with that proto metal flair to create something very special here. 

greens

Insomnium – Heart Like a Grave

Insomnium have been one of my favourite bands of all time for well over five years now. Heart Like a Grave is another solid jewel in the crown of melodic death metal and continues that steady stream of atmospheric, folkish and melancholic melodic death metal that the Finnish rockers are well established for. Heart Like a Grave borrows and adapts from the band’s lengthy back catalogue in the best ways, it’s easy to hear something on this album and get that nostalgic feeling from The Day it All Came Down or One For Sorrow. That’s not to say that plenty of new and exciting things aren’t brought to the table here, because they are. Namely, the addition of Jani Liimatainen (Cain’s Offering) who brings an aura of bright and youthful energy to the guitar work which really works in the band’s favour, most notable on songs such as ‘Valediction’ as well as ‘And Bells They Toll’. Without question, Heart Like a Grave is not only one of Insomnium’s best albums, but also one of melodic death metal’s finest hours also. 

heart like a

Mgla – Age of Excuse

The ultimate criticism of humanity, a depraved and misanthropic account that humanity is a plague that needs to be rid from the earth. True nihilism, true darkness. Age of Excuse is a black hole, a vortex that sinks forever never letting the listener catch a breath or see sunlight again. Powerful atmosphere and technical pounding drums permiate every facet of this modern black metal masterpiece from start to finish. Mgla very much are leading the charge in showcasing the best of atmospheric black metal with their own identity and polish to boot and Age of Excuse may be their best album of their career yet. 

mgla

1349 – The Infernal Pathway

1349 are a band that I feel have never really got their day in the sun alongside their genre contempories. All that has changed with the release of the bleak and blackened The Infernal Pathway with strips back black metal to its raw essentials, relying only on old school blackened shredding and thrash technique and catchiness to spread their message. This record doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but what it does it take you back to the times of the first wave (Bathory especially) and remind us all why we fell in love with black metal in the first place. 

1349

Embrional – Evil Dead

Evil Dead wears its black and dried up heart on its sleeve and is unashamedly primal in execution. It’s a record that isn’t afraid to slow down and let a knuckle-dragging caveman riff or tremolo bridge ride on for a few minutes and let the listener soak in the heavy and overbearing punishing nature of the music before unleashing on songs such as ‘Day of Damnation’. In a year with so many phenomenal death metal records, Evil Dead is one that fans of the genre should not pass up on. 

evil dead

Pissgrave – Posthumous Humiliation

Pissgrave are a band that don’t give a fuck about anything! If that isn’t already self-evident by the album cover or the raw and eerie approach to their simplisitic song writing prowess then I’m not sure honestly how else to convince you. On Posthumous Humiliation, the band boil down death metal to the bone and deliver a wretched abortion of grinding guitars, putrid drums and demented vocals in such a fashion that only they themselves could pull off without it all going to shit. A lesser band with the same parameters would crumble under the circumstances but Pissgrave rise above their unique soundscape and put out one of 2019’s most punishing records without breaking a sweat. 

poss

Absentation – The Intellectual Darkness

One of the most surprising albums of the year for me, Syria’s very own Absentation floored me with their catchy, punchy songwriting and melodic guitar playing. What was especially impressive, I found, was that Absentation is the work of one man, and you would be damned if you knew that from your first few listens. Without a doubt, The Intellectual Darkness has been one of my most spun death metal albums of the year and it’s mostly because I just can’t get enough of the thrashy and in-your-face attitude or catchy death metal riffs that can be found on tracks like ‘Thoughtless Thoughts’ and ‘Endless Insanity’. The man behind the band has promised that 2020 will yield an even bigger and more technically impressive album in the near future so stay tuned to the page people, you never know, this might not be the last time we see Absentation on an end of year list. 

absen

Blood Incantation – Hidden History of the Human Race

I’ve used the term old school a lot in this list so far and no more is it fitting than when describing Blood Incantation’s latest effort, History of the Human Race. Bands like Immolation come to mind in the latter portions of the record and it’s inspiring to see a death metal band in the late 2010s have the guts to throw a near-20 minute epic of a song as a finale to an album. There’s little more that I can add that hasn’t already been said, so I’ll keep it brief. Fearlessly blending psychotic death metal with trippy space-like atmospherics, Hidden History of the Human Race sounds and feels like an album that could have been released thirty years ago, giving it a a timeless feature in the halls of metal history. It’s something brave and exciting that definitely should not be glossed over. 

hidden

Negator – Vnitas Pvritas Existentia

Without question Negator have pumped what is the standout black metal record of the year. Combining the likes of modern Dark Funeral with the straight up and uncomprimising approach of bands like early Behemoth, Negator’s newest album is as fast and as dark as the best that Norway has to offer whilst grinding away at fearsome speeds at times. It might not be the most wholely original effort on the list but Vnitas Pvritas Existentia takes the best of black metal’s recent years and polishes it to a mirror shine.

negat

Deadspace – The Grand Disillusionment 

Is it any surprise to anyone that this record would show up here? I’ll keep this review short as I’ve already written a lengthy review on this very site, link below. However, The Grand Disillusionment is a groundbreaking, bold and modern depressive black metal album that encapsulates the human condition, self-loathing and hatred for all of mankind in a way never done before. Its brazen and unforgiving approach is uncomprimising and the way the album never really slows down in its intensity makes it especially scarring. 

deads

Батюшка – Панихида (Batushka – Panihida) 

Forget the controversies, forget the in-fighting and the meme of a million bands all using the Batushka name and let’s focus on the original and the best for a moment. Derph’s true follow-up to 2015’s Litourgia hits every note that the debut did and more with an album that is darker, edgier and more chaotic in every way. Panihida stands head and shoulders above anything done by Bart’s poor imitation, (If you can call the trainwreck that is Hospodi an imitation and not a complete fucking failure to music) and shows all unequvically that the true king is here to reign forever more. Everything is more developed and more concentrated here than on the debut, such as the chanting and clean vocal passages and the thick blackened tremolo audio assaults. It’s more of something you love.

pani

Inferi – The End of an Era | Rebirth 

It’s hard to exactly pinpoint just what makes Inferi so special on a record such as The End of an Era but any speculation going into the album are quickly washed away by some of the most captivating and spellbounding technical guitar playing to ever grace modern melodic death metal, or modern metal generally speaking. A very tightly focused and incredibly sharply executed release, End of an Era encapsulates the many amazing developments in the way we perceive metal music and how the genre can transcend the boundaries of our known understanding and evolve into something greater of almost indescribable energy and passion. It’s a true marvel to relish in and yet another example of just how talented this band are and how earned their rise through the ranks in recent years has been. 

inferi

Honourable Mentions:

‘I, The Mask’ – In Flames
‘The Heretics’ – Rotting Christ
‘Vale’ – Burden of Sight
‘Entity’ – Nucleas
‘I: Voice’ – Warforged
‘Sulphur English’ – Inter Arma
‘Violently Expunged’ – Disgruntled Anthropophagi
‘Steeping Corporeal Mess’ – Fetid