Heart Like A Grave, by Insomnium
Suggested by Morgan McGowan
There are a few themes running through the spine of this project.
For example, there’s my inability to appreciate modern rap. I entered with the notion that I had a fondness for it, but that was kicked out of me relatively early. Hopefully I’ll find a way back into the hip hop fold soon. Other concerns include my distaste for Bongos, my fixation with Snoop Dogg, or my virulent and passionate hatred of the ginger guff-puffin Mick Hucknall. But by far the most pernicious theme is my attitude towards the Death Metal Growl.
I have a word limit for these things, so I can’t possibly call back to all the times I’ve discarded an otherwise passable Heavy Metal offering based on the guttural grimace and gurn from a frankly fatuous frontman. It’s getting to the point at which I’m finding it more and more difficult to review these aural enemas in a fun and inventive way.
Of the growlathons thus far, only one has impressed me: the wonderful King of Everything, by Jinjer. When the odd song has shone, such as Nemecic by Rotting Christ, it’s because it has used the growl in an apt or interesting way, or maybe sparingly as a sour amuse-bouche in a more rounded and sweeter meal.
Heart Like a Grave, by Insomnium, is another growling miasma of eye rolling and head shaking, but there’s something that sets it slightly above its catarrh-infused brethren. This time, it’s not that the growl is new or ground-breaking. Nor is it that the growl is the accent to a wider ensemble piece: the buzzing muppet frontman is squarely front and centre, with other voices orbiting him rather than the opposite. No, this album stands alone for a different reason: I really like the music.
It took me a while to land on that reasoning, because there are some brutal heavy songs, such as Valediction or Neverlast, driven by a drilling drummer with an axe to grind and things to bludgeon. But even these songs have an expansive beauty, and a retro melodic metal feel. Such tracks are at the heavy end of the spectrum, while the more symphonic and exultant songs like the peak-and-troughing epic Pale Morning Star or the mournful and harrowing standout And Bells They Toll are genuinely moving in their scope.
I’d like to think my overindulgence in the genre has dulled my senses to the point that the growl no longer holds sway over my reactions, tarnishing everything it touches like an oil spill near Pelican Bay, but that’s not quite my current position. The three instrumentals at the foot of the album, Karelia and two bonus tracks, were an absolute joy thanks to the absence of a vocal, and the business-as-usual track Mute Is My Sorrow only made me think “if only that were true.”
Heart Like A Grave has been the first growling album that’s made me feel genuinely upset that the band didn’t try something more vanilla in the vocal. Consequently, while the music likely merits more, I can’t stretch higher than 6/10. Some might conclude that I’m softening to the form, but I don’t think that’s the case. It’s more that I’m immersed in it, treading water with tired legs, grasping at anything to keep me afloat.