Words by Karl Lean

Finnish melodic death metalers Insomnium have returned to Australian shores, and the near capacity crowd Max Watt’s showed local fans were more than ready for a second helping. With an undercard of three local acts, it was always going to be a big night of metal.

First up is Myridian. Opening slots are never the easiest, and long songs with plenty of doom beats  means they have to work hard to get much vibe from the crowd.  It’s a short set and draws a pretty decent acknowledgement from the crowd when done – there’s plenty to like about the playing and the song structures here.

Next up is Naberus, and the contrast with Myridian is huge.  These guys attack their songs with the kind of enthusiasm Steve Irwin used to reserve for crocodiles.  Great songs with a terrific balance of power and melody, it has a feel that brings to mind acts like Soilwork.  The guitar playing of Dante Thomson and Dan Ralph is perfectly matched to the song constructions, and vocalist James Ash walks the stage with confidence.  A job well done and by the end of their set the audience is well and truly warmed up.

From the moment that Orpheus Omega take the stage it’s clear they have some solid support in the audience.  The sound and mix are a little off perhaps, the keys being overly prominent at times, but they push through and deliver their set to plenty of raised fists from the audience. Frontman Chris Themelco is in fine form, urging the crowd on bringing a mix of confidence, swagger and humour to the stage.  Orpheus Omega are an amazingly consistent band, and this night is no different.

With the stage darkly lit with just a few blue highlight spots, Insomnium finally take to the stage as the tape intro from their 2106 release Winter’s Gate plays.  For the next 40 minutes the audience is treated to a dimly lit stage shrouded in tendrils of smoke, the lighting focused heavily on purple and blues hues. The complete lack of any front lighting at all casts the band members as shadow figures, moving across the stage with hair flailing in time to the music as they play the entire 7-part Winter’s Gate opus.  “Suspension of belief” is a phrase often used in movies or other storytelling to encourage the watcher to put aside real world logic and ‘buy in’ to the tale being told.  And that’s exactly what happens as the band runs through their latest album.  The audience ‘buy in’ is solid, and the payoff is amazing.  No props, no flames, just the music – an audio landscape of bleak winter unfolds. The Wall from Game of Thrones seems to hang over the stage.  The drums played by Markus Hirvonen, driven by endless double kick beats, roll from the stage and across the fans like peels of thunder.  The bass and vocals of Niilo Sevanen feel like huge slices of ice cracking from a snow covered cliff and plunging to the ground below. The guitars just cut and grind through it all, adding the textures that bring the sound alive.  Jani Limatainen and Markus Vanhala work off each other so easily, and constantly move from side to side of that stage as they deliver. This isn’t prog, the riffs are simple enough (and the song structures ‘make sense’!) – but the cumulative effect of all these parts as a live audio experience is astounding.

All too soon the outro for Winter’s Gate is playing, and the band leave the stage for a few moments.  When they return, they change the feel up, the front lighting arrives and a collection of songs from across the years of the bands recording history are unleashed.  Limatainen and Vanhala often join in moments of twin guitar magic, and the playing is flawless.  The main set ends with “The Promethean Song” from 2014’s Shadows of the Dying Sun, and they round the night out with “While We Sleep” from the same album.  The final notes ring out, they offer their thanks, and they are gone.  The memories will remain though … a third Australian visit cannot come soon enough.