INSOMNIUM – Whisky A GoGo, West Hollywood, CA. 6 June, 2018
INSOMNIUM is a band I ran into on accident at Hellfest 2012. I arrived to the festival on the last day and walked by the Altar stage when I heard some amazing Nordic sounding music coming out of there. I had to do a double take and check them out. The rest is history! Since then, I’ve seen Insomnium countless times and they never once have disappointed. Their release, ‘Winter’s Gate’, is a concept album inspired by a short story written by the band’s frontman Niilo Sevänen. The grim story illustrates a series of tragedies that occurs to a group of Vikings who are on a journey with winter drawing near. The release itself consists of one epic 40 minute song, ‘Winter’s Gate’, which is broken up into 7 parts for digital and streaming purposes but actually plays continuously. If you haven’t checked out ‘Winter’s Gate’ yet, I highly recommend that you do!
The next best thing that Insomnium could do after releasing such an album was to tour for it, which of course they did! Throughout 2017, they did several ‘Winter’s Gate’ tours in Europe, which I happened to catch a few of, but the ‘Winter’s Gate’ had not been brought over across the pond until now. Even though I already knew roughly what to expect, that doesn’t mean that it was a predictable night, quite the contrary!
Most of us that are local to the area have been to The Whisky at one point or another. Or at least a thousand times. This helps us learn patterns and sometimes predict what the crowd will be like. This Wednesday night was not a usual one. At almost 11:30pm that the band took stage, a sea of headbangers, aching to experience a Finnish brutal winter in the form of metal, chanted for the band.
We knew the time was almost here, when ironically enough, the silly ‘Police Academy’ theme song was playing. This is the band’s intro? Indeed it was and without a second to waste, the band came down the stairs onto the stage, and immediately jumped right into “Winter’s Gate”. Just like that! If one is familiar with the band’s lineup, one might have noticed a different, but still familiar face on the right side of the stage. Nick Cordle (formerly of Arsis and Arch Enemy) is taking over the band’s guitarist, Ville Friman’s guitar duties for this tour, since he was not able to tour at this time.
The band played ‘Winter’s Gate’ in it’s entirety almost without saying a single word. This is what made the experience even more profound. It was played almost identical to the album, as a single song and without any breaks.
After ‘Winter’s Gate’, the band exited the stage as if they were done. We all knew there would be more though, and we weren’t wrong! After a short break, the band came back on stage to play some ‘Insomnium classics’. I’ve seen this set before and every time has had a different setlist, so even though I had a slight idea, I wasn’t sure exactly what would be coming. I really enjoyed the way that they managed to squeeze in material from three of their previous albums, in addition to ‘Winter’s Gate’.
The first song upon their return was a quite familiar one, as it’s the opening track of their latest full-length studio album ‘Shadows Of The Dying Sun’. Everyone knew the little intro for ‘The Primeval Dark’ and they played it exactly as it is in the album, going right into ‘While We Sleep’ continuously. They followed with the third track ‘Revelation’. Taking a break from ‘Shadows Of A Dying Sun’, they went back to their third album and performed ‘The Killjoy’. Even though this is an older song, the crowd seems to be familiar with the band’s catalogue!
After ‘The Killjoy’, the band’s frontman Niilo Sevänen brought up the fact that most bands bring up during a show. Los Angeles vs. San Francisco. They had played The Bay Area the night before and Niilo was wondering which crowd can scream the loudest. Of course L.A. always wins by a longshot (hehe :P) and no show at The Whisky is ever complete without a little reference to one of the Sunset Strip bands. This night it was the band’s guitarist Markus Vanhala very quickly sneaking in a bit of Mötley Crüe’s ‘Wild Side’ while Niilo was talking to the audience. The way only a pro can do it!
‘Weather The Storm’, off the bonus edition of ‘One For Sorrow’, was the next one. This song was also released as a digital single on its own. If live is the only way you’ve ever heard this song, you’d never know that the recording features Mikael Stanne of Dark Tranquility on vocals! Following this song, they go back to ‘Shadows Of The Dying Sun’ for another very known one – ‘The Promethean Song’. This was a great song to help the crowd wind down from a crazy night. In tonight’s performance Nick Cordle took over the clean vocals for this song. What a great addition! This is such a magical song with a big chorus, which Markus made extra epic tonight. I would have been happy with this as a closer, but if we know Insomnium, we know that they’ll always go above and beyond expectations. Shortly after the song’s melancholic ending, the band exited the stage, with a crowd that was screaming and begging for more.
After a bit of teasing with the guitars, they came back and were asking the crowd what song they should play. This would indeed be the last song! Although the set had been amazing already, there seemed to be one song that everyone was missing, and that song was ‘Ephemeral’, once again off the album ‘Shadows Of The Dying Sun’. This was actually a really good choice to end the night! Even though I’m a sucker for emotional, somber music, this song brings a special bright light of optimism with it. I felt like it was a reflection of the night’s good fortune and a valuable message to leave everyone with. At almost 1am on a now Thursday really early morning, the band said one last goodbye before leaving the stage for the final time tonight.
- Winter’s GateEncore:
1. The Primeval Dark
2. While We Sleep
4. The Killjoy
5. Weather The Storm
6. The Promethean Song