Insomnium at The Music Room. Photo credits: The Music Room Photographer.

by Habib T

On the 15th of January, 2016, the frigid winds and frozen beauty of the Finnish wilderness were brought to Dubai’s Music Room by the melodic death metal giants Insomnium, supported by Bahrain’s extreme metal act Smouldering in Forgotten. The show was hosted by Metal East Records, who are bringing over Insomnium’s funeral doom brethren Swallow the Sun to Dubai on February 12th. How was the show, you say? Well, it was stellar and surreal, if you want the short answer.

However, if you want the long and more detailed answer, which I feel does the performing bands and the organizer more justice, I would tell you that, from the start, I knew it was going to be out of this world. Insomnium, a band on a musical journey more than 18 years in the making, have come a long a long way from their humble roots to become a band renowned in the worldwide metal scene. Smouldering in Forgotten, the Bahraini band that warmed up the stage for their Finnish counterparts, stood proud as one of the first and most recognized extreme metal groups in the region and have been around for more than 10 years.

Smouldering in Forgotten rocking the stage. Photo credits: Metal Bell Magazine.

Soon after the fans filled the Music Room’s relatively small albeit comfortable and welcoming space, Smouldering in Forgotten took to the stage to unleash musical chaos and darkness from their desert homeland, combining a variety of metal styles such as black, death, and thrash, along with their own touch. The band played some of their older tracks such as “Dread Messiah”, “Reincarnation of the Judgment Star” and “I, Devourer”, as well as unreleased ones from their upcoming album, which were  “Cult De Aur” and “Tartarus”. They also played their recently released single “Siren of Truth”. Their performance, especially in the last two songs, resulted in extreme moshing and headbanging, echoing memories of their show in last March’s Resurrection Metal Night. I was particularly glad I could hear their black metal elements well in their songs, allowing for an atmosphere of musical destruction and reconstruction with well-timed riffs. Their performance affirmed my assumptions that they are, quite indeed, an underrated band.

Markus Vanhala of Insomnium on stage. Photo Credits: The Music Room Photographer.

Insomnium on stage. Photo Credits: The Music Room Photographer. 

When it was time for Insomnium to ascend to the stage, the crowd fell silent as the opening for “While We Sleep” rang through the venue, but what followed next was beautiful chaos that echoed the deadly beauty of the Finnish winter, as the mesmerizing riffs tore through the audience, with all of the band’s members headbanging in unison. The choice of the next song they played surprised us, as the ever-magnificent and melancholic “Daughter of the Moon” was not played by the band in their last few shows. The brilliant riffs of that song as well as the song’s saturnine atmosphere put the crowd into a trance of surreal musical beauty. The Finnish quartet also played crowd favorites such as “Mortal Share” with its addictive introductory riff and headbang-incuding tunes. Songs such as “The Harrowing Years”, “Where the Last Wave Broke”, and “One for Sorrow” demonstrated the sheer beauty of blending Ville Friman’s cleans with Niilo Sevanen’s growls and the magnificent keyboard sounds that dominated “Down with the Sun”. Another powerful song they performed was “The Killjoy” that destroyed the crowd with its brutal, yet majestic sounds. “Unsung” gave me goosebumps as it, in my opinion, is a song that perfectly portrays Insomnium’s take on melodic death and doom metal. In addition, “Weather the Storm” was another wonderfully-performed song that would have been even more amazing if Dark Tranquillity’s Mikael Stanne was around to do his part of the song’s vocals, but Niilo’s vocals were equally as haunting and menacing in their own way. Among their relatively quieter songs, their performance of “The Promethean Song” takes the cake in its beautiful acoustic sounds and dark ambience. It was a beautiful yet haunting, a powerful yet dark, and brutal yet melancholic performance that transcended the meaning of music, and brought us into the heart of the Finnish woods and frozen lakes.

Insomnium thanking their fans after their set. Credits: The Music Room.

Finally, it is safe to say this was the best show I’ve witnessed so far in Dubai, and Insomnium’s promise of their return here as well as Swallow the Sun’s impending performance next month mean one thing: The Middle Eastern metal scene is alive, and both local and international bands are going to benefit from this, and the fans here will be happier than ever!

If you missed it for whatever reason, then I feel very sorry for you. It was an unforgettable experience.

Here’s to more awesome shows like this one! 

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