Dark Tranquillity & Insomnium Melodic Metal bliss in NYC 1-4-15

Dark Tranquillity & Insomnium Melodic Metal bliss in NYC 1-4-15

Nothing spices up a Sunday night like some vintage Melodic Death Metal, and only four days into 2015, that is just what fans had in store for them at the Gramercy Theater, one of Manhattan’s finer concert destinations. The marquee at the corner of E 23rd St and Lexington Ave has had some wonderful names written across it. On this cool winter evening, with a misty drizzle moistening the air, the band names fit the aura as Dark Tranquillity and Insomnium prepared to kick off their month long tour of the United States and Canada.

Rumors of an impending sellout were on many a set of lips as the black-clad minions filed in to pay homage to their Metal gods. The floor of the venue was already seething with eager humanity as local opening act Winter Nights took the stage to kick things off. Sometimes the warm-up acts accomplish little more than to give fans a chance to hit the merch stands or catch up with friends, but the creative vision of Jeremy and Efrain Farfan demanded attention with their tight, more brutal take on Melodic Death Metal. Harsh vocals combined with technical playing and some ultra-melodic guitar leads kept fans engaged and cheering after each song. Winter Nights has been around since 2007, having recently released full-length album An Endless Apocalypse in July of last year. Something like Grave and Amon Amarth meets mid ’90’s Carcass with some mosh-inducing breakdowns defines their sound, with the highlight of the set being the killer “Doomsday Code” and “Deceptive Dreams.”

Insomnium last graced these shores only a little over two years ago, but judging by the crowd reaction one would think it more like a dozen. Touring their 2014 masterpiece Shadows of the Dying Sun, the four-piece from Joensuu, Finland took the stage beneath a massive eponymous banner featuring the artwork from said album. Immediately making the stage and the hall their own, imposing front-man Niilo Sevänen softened his mean looking persona with many a smile through a killer set that began with the opening trio of songs “The Primeval Dark,” “While We Sleep,” and “Revelations” from their already-celebrated new album. Following these three anthems, Sevänen bellowed a hearty “NEW YORK!” to heaps of adulation from the gathered hordes. Insomnium blends so much emotion into the template of their sound, and this was already coming through strongly when they played “The Harrowing Years” off of the stunning Across the Dark (2009). As they played, many in the crowd could be seen screaming along to Sevänen’s blustery growl and guitarist Ville Friman’s mellow clean vocals. The counterpoint added to the atmosphere created by the band, and the crowd at Gramercy ate up every single moment like food in the hands of a starving man. The pit was small but intense as songs like “Ephemeral” and “Where the Last Wave Broke” took catchy melodies and jackhammer riffs and crashed them together into a gorgeous, irresistible cohesion of sound. Markus Vanhala, the second guitarist, headbanged along with his band mates, clearly pleased by the rabid reaction of the fans to the band’s every note. The crowd remained spellbound on this dreary metropolitan night, as crowd surfers abounded and just about all of the songs were sung word for word. The band exited but not without surprising the audience with renditions of “The Gale” and “Mortal Share” off of Across the Weeping World (2006), stoking them up even more and ensuring that Insomnium felt the love from the New York City faithful as they exited stage.

The crowd now restlessly awaited the night’s headliners. The natives of Gothenburg, Sweden helped trademark the entire genre of Melodic Death Metal, from their beginnings in 1989 up to their tenth and most recent studio album Construct (2013). Not far removed from their last visit to New York, Dark Tranquillity took the stage below a large projector displaying an ever changing tapestry of song titles, futuristic artwork and song lyrics. This might be a bit different from how most Metal bands do it, but it wound up being cool and refreshing as a result. Vocalist Mikael Stanne, guitarists Martin Hennrikson and Niklas Sundin, and keyboardist Martin Brändstrom were illuminated in dancing shades of light as they launched into “Science of Noise” off of their most recent album, flowing into crowd favorite “Damage Done” and then hitting the excited crowd with two more from Construct, “Silence in Between” and “What Only You Know.” Songs like “The Lesser Faith” showed off Brändstrom’s playing while getting the crowd moving and churning to new heights of delirium. “The Wonders At Your Feet” with its distinctive keyboard intro, from way back in 2000, sounded clear and powerful, the drums of Anders Jivarp faithfully keeping the beat as they have since the band’s inception way back in ’89. “Mundane and the Magic” slowed things down and brought them to a melodic high, with the guitar solo mid-track hypnotizing the faithful.

The band then launched into the heavier, faster “The Treason Wall.” Each twist and turn through the band’s illustrious discography was met with equal rapture by the crowd, who most certainly was getting their money’s worth out of the night’s entertainment. The breakdown in this song had a massive pit erupting and bodies flying about, as befits music of the caliber played by veterans such as Dark Tranquillity. Keeping things mostly post-millennial, Stanne and company aired out the ’90’s era In Flames sounding “Through Smudged Lenses,” the killer Swedish riffing in “White Noise/Black Silence,” and the excellent “State of Trust.” Featuring harsh vocals and clean vocals, the band pulled this song off nicely, much to the delight of the crowd. Leaning heavily on albums Construct (2013), Damage Done (2002), and Fiction (2007), the oldest song they played was “Therein” off of Projector (1999).

When the night was over, the fans who decided to end their weekend at Gramercy Theater left glowing and sated. Dark Tranquillity may not shift as many units as some of their more commercial countrymen like Soilwork and In Flames, but damned if it was not completely obvious to all those gathered that the Gothenburg six-piece has never, and at this stage of their careers, most likely will never lose the script. Their ability to make melodies fit with razor-sharp riffs and electro-sounding keys in a most pleasing and timeless manner is second to none. Meanwhile, those morose Finns Insomnium also did their part in keeping the night captivating. Their aggression and atmospheric songs had both hearts and mosh pits astir with restless emotion. It was clear that for those in attendance, this show was money and time well spent.

Read an in-depth interview with Nillo Sevanen of Insomnium:

insomnium new slide

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Nicholas Franco
[email protected]

Nick has been writing for CrypticRock.com since October of 2013, covering mainly artists and albums from slightly more obscure corners of the musical realm. From interviews and live event reviews to retrospective analyses and album reviews for new releases, Nick enjoys sharing a fresh perspective from a fan's point of view. He is also counted on as an occasional editor and proofreader. In addition to his work with CrypticRock.com, Nick is a contributing writer at Metalinjection.net and SeaofTranquility.org.

  • Stephen keeler
    Posted at 20:04h, 12 January Reply

    Very nice article

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