June 12, 2018 Insomnium Rip Through Malone’s In Santa Ana, CA 6-8-18
What is extra enticing about a Melodic Death Metal touring package coming to a local town? Well, when they are mashed-up with a multitude of some of the finest Metal local acts around it turns into quite the night of action-packed entertainment. That in mind, on Friday, June 8, 2018, in Santa Ana, California, at Malone’s concert venue, headliners Insomnium shared the two-stage set-up with eight other bands for an evening full of headbanging, hair-whipping, and an abundance of intense music.
With a start time of 7 PM and an end time of around 1:30 AM, contemplating how to fit nine bands into that time slot is a challenge, but with the convenience of the two-stage set-up in one large room lag-time between bands can be cut down to five minutes maximum, giving all bands fair airplay. The bands on this night consisted of seven local acts – Valkyrium, Anshelm, Tower Guard, Nyctophile, Lazarus Casket, Voices Of Ruin, and Hvile I Kaos – and one main supporting touring act, Oceans Of Slumber.
While the theme of the evening was Melodic Death Metal, there was also some Black and Thrash elements mixed in for good measure. Taking up residence on the side at the smaller-stage, local act Lazarus Casket is led by Vocalist Jason Tyler, who happened to be the promoter for the show as well. Their style has some very significant elements of Thrash put into play that, for comparison sake, can relate to the stylings of Testament. Between Tyler tearing up the stage with his energetic stage presence and the guitars cranking out some powerful riffs, the end result was a riled up but satisfied audience.
Moving on to a definite highlight of the night, as well as the perfect fit for an Insomnium show, Costa Mesa-based band Voices Of Ruin graced the main stage with a fantastic set, including a sneak peek into their upcoming album’s sound. The key element for this band is in their unique guitar melodies that are meticulously played and crafted. From their style of dress to their style of musical equipment, this band has achieved high success and cohesion.
This quintet full of the best kind of heshers led their followers into a great frenzy that included some moshing. Even though, in terms of structure, they rank similar to Dark Tranquility, they also carry their own style where they switch gear from more catchy and generalized riffs to intricate, cleanly melodic riffs, all the while with lead vocalist Dave Barrett shelling out the fiery death growls in the appropriate timing. Having just won a battle of the bands competing to play a spot at Germany’s Wacken festival later this year, this band is on the right track on all levels with no shortage of talent or hair to be found amongst them.
As the most uniquely-styled and newest formed band of the night, next up was Hvile I Kaos, which is a project started by stage named Kakophonix where he created all elements and then brought in musicians to play them live. They are best described as very avant-garde, heavily driven by a cello and accompanied by two backing violins, an acoustic guitar, and a bass. Their beautiful, somber string instruments enchanted the crowd and the dark, faster-paced blackened moments layered in acted as the chaser to the tequila. In the vein of Apocalyptica meets moments of Zeal & Ardor and Wolves in the Throne Room, this uniquely-styled hybrid creates a definite heavily engaged audience left in awe of its essence.
As the interesting twists and turns of the night kept coming, Houston, Texas-based Progressive Death Metal band Oceans of Slumber shocked the crowd with indulgence. This six-piece team of players has quite the varied mix of genres shaken together into a smooth blend of progress. Having only been in existence since 2011, they have only four albums worth of material and with their latest album, The Banished Heart, released this year, they excel at modernizing the Heavy Metal world on all accounts.
Oceans of Slumber has two vocalists with the lead by Cammie Gilbert who sings clean, serene, strong yet feminine melodic vocals against the harsher male vocals that appear from time-to-time throughout their songs. Other members include progressive, heavy Guitarists Sean Gary and Anthony Contreras, with eclectic Drummer Dobber Beverly, and skilled Bassist Keegan Kelly.
On this tour they dipped their primal roots heavily into the latest album, playing almost all songs off that collection such as “The Decay of Disregard,” “Fleeting Vigilance,” “At Dawn,” and “A Path to Broken Stars.” They also included the title-track off their 2016 album, Winter, which is an epic, anthemic masterpiece of pure driven innocence splashed into a solid backbone of Death Metal; and the dynamic results of the contradiction are impressive. The fact that they can go from Doom to Death to Progressive Metal as well as Psychedelic Rock in a heartbeat is definitely an acquired skill that takes just the right touch to pull off. With the aid of a live keyboardist, they added another subtle layer to their already deeply progressive stylings. Overall, this band has a very broad spectrum of appeal that should serve them well in the years to come.
On to the feature attraction, Finland’s own Insomnium took to the main stage like a hurricane destroying a house. Returning to North America to further bend the minds of their audience, for those unaware, their latest effort, 2016’s Winter’s Gate, was a concept album embodied in one forty-five-minute-long track depicting the story of a viking’s treacherous journey. Definitely one of those special albums that must be listened to from start to finish, even though it is broken down into parts, it was compelling to hear pieces of it live.
Surprisingly, on this tour the album is split into its seven parts and is quite the noble feat to witness and accomplish in a live setting. It is masterful, beautiful, and elegantly-written, expressing some of the best quality Melodic Death Metal in existence. From the serene to the wild, it captures and accelerates the audience into quite the frenzy from a trance state into hair-whipping madness. The only downside to playing the whole album is that it is not a constant, chaotic energy for the audience to mosh to due to its ebb and flow of the musical storyline.
With that in mind, it also breaks up the constant, giving the audience a chance to get their bearings again that were lost in said chaos. Basically, both sides of the coin are relevant here, but because Insomnium excels at playing long sets they didn’t stop at “Winter’s Gate,” as they then plummeted into older works such as “The Primeval Dark,” “While We Sleep,” “Revelation,” and the ever popular, “The Promethean Song.” This brought down the house with its deathly fun, and some of the most careful, respectful, and clean mosh pit action witnessed to date.
As has been the case with this band in the past, for their American tours they use a hired gun or two because not all members are always able to get across the border. Current permanent members are Niilo Sevänen on lead vocals and bass, Ville Friman on guitars and clean vocals, Markus Hirvonen on drums, and Markus Vanhala also on guitars. For this tour, familiar face and hired gun Nick Cordle (formerly of Arch Enemy) took over on guitar, and, as usual, fit right in as one of their own, blaring out the killer riffs left and right.
Insomnium is one of the few European bands that does make it over to the States fairly often, in one form or another, as they are clearly dedicated to their American fanbase, which continues to grow visit after visit, and they are always welcomed by their longtime fans with warm hearts. The sheer energy, intelligence, and creativity involved with Insomnium, on the whole, is all the more reason for any fan of heavy yet irresistibly melodic music not miss a chance to see them in a live setting.
Photo credit: Karina Diane Concert Photography