Live Review: Insomnium and Dark Tranquility

Last Monday, melodic death metal bands Insomnium and Dark Tranquility made a stop at the Altar Bar in Pittsburgh, PA. So instead of sitting at home and watching the BCS National Championship game, I decided to be a human being and attend the show.

I showed up to the once-church converted venue with moments to spare before Insomnium started to go through their sound check (just as I had planned).

Insomium played a fairly balanced 10-song set. They got things started by playing Primeval Dark, While We Sleep, and Revelation, the first three songs off their 2014 full length album Shadows of the Dying Sun. Insomnium then turned the clock back six years, playing The Harrowing Years followed by Where The Last Wave Broke from their 2009 release Across the Dark.

The Finnish quartet kicked off the second half of their set by reverting back to present day, flipping back and forth between SOTDS and One for Sorrow (2011) with Ephermal, Unsung, and The Promethean Song. They ended their set by playing The Gale and Mortal Share, the first two tracks off of my personal favorite Insomnium album, Across the Dark (2006).

Overall, Insomnium was super tight live and Altar Bar’s sound system did not fail to do the band justice. The sound crew did a great job of emphasizing Insomnium‘s prog-melodeath elements in a scene where melodeath has become an afterthought to many people. Insomnium’s stage presence was very solid. They didn’t do anything flashy or have any crazy antics on stage because that’s not what Insomnium is about, which is honestly pretty refreshing to see with all of the bands showboating these days. They just stood tall and executed their music to perfection.

I had the pleasure of meeting two members of Insomnium. After the show, I bumped into frontman/bassist Nillo Sevanen and drummer Marcus Hirvonen back by the merch table. I told them they played a sick set and that it was a pleasure to finally see them live. They thanked me and signed a tour poster for me.

To be honest, I attended this show moreso to see Insomnium than the headliners in Dark Tranquility. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always enjoyed Dark Tranquility‘s music and understand their importance to the melodeath community. I just never really listened to them enough to call myself a fan. However after seeing them live, I can confidently say that I am now a fan of Dark Tranquility (took me long enough).

Dark Tranquility definitely provided the audience with a more energetic set than their supporting cast in Insomnium did. One of the perks of having a frontman who doesn’t also play an instrument is that they have a lot more free range on stage rather than having to remain stationary to perform their vocal duties. Mikael Stanne did just that. From the beginning of the set, it seemed that he had the pulse of the crowd.

Dark Tranquility opened up their set with The Science of Noise, the second track off of their 2013 full length Construct. Afterwards, they flashed back to 2002, playing White Noise/Black Silence and the title track of the album Damage Done.

After a quick visit to their 2007 release Fiction where Dark Tranquility performed The Lesser Faith, they played The Wonders at Your Feet from their fifth album Haven. Dark Tranquility reverted right back to Fiction, playing the final track of the record, The Mundane and The Magic.

At this point, the damage was nowhere near done. Dark Tranquility revisited the 2002 release with a performance of The Treason Wall. They then shifted gears and played Through Smudged Lenses off of Character (2005). The album carousel continued as they played State of Trust from Construct and then flipped the switch back to 1998, playing Therein off of Projector.

The roller coaster ride through Dark Tranquility‘s discography went on as they followed up Therein with two more tracks from Fiction: Terminus (Where Death is Most Alive) and Focus Shift. Then it was back to Construct when Dark Tranquility played Uniformity. They took a quick break from Construct to play Final Resistance from Damage Done and then went right back to 2013 with a performance of Endtime Hearts.

Dark Tranquility capped off the night on a fictional note with Misery’s Crown. Just like Insomnium, Dark Tranquility basically played a flawless set. As someone who isn’t totally familiar with their discography, I thoroughly enjoyed watching them play. Seeing them live definitely sparked my interest in actively listening to Dark Tranquility more often.

In an era of metal where the scene predominantly consists of djents, thalls, breakdowns and wannabe tough guys dancing in the pit, it was a breath of fresh air Monday night to see that melodeath is still very much alive and well in the metal community. There was push-moshing and circle-pitting galore and it was all in good fun. When somebody fell, everyone nearby would rush to help them up and make sure nobody got hurt.

If you’re on the west coast and have the chance to catch the back end of this tour, I’d highly recommend doing so. Dark Tranquility touring with Insomnium is a once in a blue moon lineup and it is difficult to predict when either Scandinavian act will be returning to the states.

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