Insomnium - 02/11/2011

INSOMNIUM is a Finnish melodic death metal band. Over the last decade Insomnium has slowly but surely become a household name in the melodic death metal scene. Formed in 1997 in the somnolent town of Joensuu, in eastern Finland, these stern men have ever since redefined the boundaries of the genre. Two highly acclaimed demos already set the standard and in 2001 the band signed to UK label Candlelight Records. Their debut album "In The Halls Of Awaiting" (2002) introduced a young and fierce band that combined aggression and violent riffing with a melancholic atmosphere. Their sound can be described as a marriage between Scandinavian death metal and traditional Finnish tunes, catchy but progressive, melodic but brutal - these have been the Insomnium trademarks ever since. Their debut was praised all over the metal world but the band still remained Finland's best kept secret.

Insomniums’s upcoming album ‘One For Sorrow’ has just been released. The album was recorded in Gothenburg, Sweden with sound engineer Daniel Antonsson (also bassist in Dark Tranquillity and guitarist in Dimension Zero) and at Fantom studios in Tempere, Finland, where the album was mixed by Samu Oittisen. Insomnium will embark on a European headlining tour in November with support from fellow Finns Before The Dawn and Mygrain.

In order to get to know all about Insomnium’s latest album we tracked down drummer Markus Hirvonen to answer some questions. Here you can read what he had to say to the readers of

First of all, how are you doing? And congratulations on your new album ‘One For Sorrow’ which was recently released, of course we’d like to ask you a couple of questions about it.


Markus: Thanks for asking I am feeling good although it has been crazy busy under the release of our new album, with lots of interviews and things to be sorted out. We all go to normal day jobs during the day, so needless to say we do not have the problem of excessive free time. We are not complaining, ‘cause we love what we are doing.


I’m not very familiar with Insomnium, so can you start this interview off with a short introduction of the band and give us a little update of what’s been happening since your previous release ‘Across the Dark’?  


Markus: Insomnium is a Finnish death metal orchestra that plays melodic death metal with a twist of melancholy and progressive elements in the mix. ‘One for sorrow’ is our fifth full length album and takes off where it’s highly acclaimed predecessor ‘Across the Dark’ left us. We have done three European tours, played at cool summer festivals, won a few respected metal awards, met lots of great fans etc.


Which approach did you choose to create ‘One For Sorrow’, did you go for a more raw exposition.. or something more reminiscent of your previous other works, or something altogether different?


Markus: the biggest mistake you could ever make when writing new songs is to think too carefully about the outcome of the whole album. Albums tend to shape up during the songwriting process and during the band rehearsals. Our songwriting and song arranging has always evolved and this is now where we’re at with our band. So our aim was not to create something totally different from ‘Across the Dark’ but it just went briefly to that direction on its own terms.


What was the songwriting process like for ‘One For Sorrow’? For instance, does someone come in with just a riff, or complete songs?


Markus: This album was a prime example of what you can do with remote connections. We had only three practice sessions with all four of us together and 90% of the actual work happened via email. Ville F. and Niilo wrote the actual riffs for the songs and they were arranged by all four of us. We never do actual composing in the rehearsals because it is simply not time efficient enough. We all live in different cities across Finland and Ville F. lives in the UK so we were forced to work like this and it turned out to be the perfect working method for us.


What were the goals you had in mind when you started to record ‘One For Sorrow’, any elements you definitely wanted to include on the album?


Markus: With ‘One for Sorrow’ there were no special elements we wanted to include and it was more a natural evolution of our musical and lyrical expression. Ville does the clean vocals himself on this album and this was something that we wanted to emphasize.


Could you describe the implications of the title ‘One For Sorrow’, what does it stand for and is there a special meaning behind it?


Markus: ‘One for Sorrow’ originated from an old English nursery rhyme called “One for Sorrow” which is about telling your fortune by counting the crows on a tree. Although the “One for Sorrow” album is not based on the rhyme entirely, some lyrics follow the theme loosely.


Can you tell me a little more about the lyrics, did anything in particular inspire you? Where do you get your inspiration from?


Markus: The lyrical themes are pretty much the same as always with us. Poetic and emotional lyrics have always been our strong points and one of our trademarks. Topics usually deal with love, death, loneliness, heartbreak, regret, longing, etc. This time Niilo was inspired by poet Christian Morgenstern and Kaarlo Sarkia among others and Ville got into older English rhymes. Basic inspiration still comes from life in general and from our own experiences.


How important is it to you that people pay attention to the lyrics apart from listening to the music?


Markus: It is very important! To really thoroughly understand what Insomnium is about you, really have to dig into the lyrics. Each song is like a small tale lyrically and has its own meaning. Like I said before, lyrics are definitely one of the strong points among others.

Can you give us a little background information on the songs, is there a story behind them?


Markus: ‘One for Sorrow’ is really not a concept album but still one can find some connection between the songs, and some themes fit the one for sorrow rhyme quite well. That being said, there wasn’t any plan to bond the lyrics together like any kind of concept album. We are happy if some people find them to be connected to a degree because it means that they have carefully thought of the content and the meaning of the lyrics in general.



If someone was only going to read the lyrics and not listen to the music, what would you hope they would take from them?


Markus: One would have to dig deep and interpret the ryhmes and choruses and find a meaning of the lyrics that fits your situation. I feel that the lyrics are so powerful and emotional that they would act as a miniature poetry compilation on their own. Although the lyrics might seem depressing and highly melancholic at first glance, there are many of elements there which most people consider empowering and hopeful.


What is the utmost important ingredient for a song according to you?


Markus: A good song has a killer melody- and storyline, a good rhythm section to keep the flow and a fresh and interesting song arrangement. Really it doesn’t take much more than that.


How would you describe this album to someone that has never listened to the band before?


Markus: ‘One for Sorrow’ is aggressive and mellow, straight and complex, clean and distorted. Insomnium delivers carefully arranged and compact songs with multi-layered melodylines and in our opinion it is the way that semi-progressive melodic death metal should be done.


‘One For Sorrow’ was recorded in Gothenburg, Sweden and in the Fantom studios in Tempere. Why did you choose to record the album in two different studios?


Markus: Samu Oittinen from the Fantom studios recorded ‘Above the weeping world’ and ‘Across the Dark’, so he was also a natural choice for us for the latest album. Daniel Antonsson came in the picture when we were touring with Dark Tranquillity last fall and became friends with Daniel and the rest of the DT crew. We wanted to incorporate his passion for guitars and studiowork so we ended up recording the guitars in Gothenburg.


How did the recording process proceed, did you work differently this time than you did with your previous works? How much time did you spend in the studio?


Markus: This session was a bit different compared to the previous ones in a few aspects. First of all I was alone for the whole drum recording session so there were no distractions at all. The second major difference is that the guitars were recorded in Sweden. The third major difference would be the mixing session, because none of us were present in the studio so comments about premixes had to be done via email.


The album was recorded with sound engineer Daniel Antonsson, can you tell us a little about working with him?


Markus: Daniel is an amazing guitar player and a super nice guy. Anton’s superb playing skills were utilized in our song called “Only One Who Waits” where Daniel plays a small solo part. In general, Daniel being a excellent guitarist, he also has good ears for searching the best possible guitar sound.


In which elements/songs on the new album can one clearly hear Daniel’s vision and ideas?


Markus: Daniel’s main contribution on ‘One for Sorrow’ is in the guitar sound and the small superb solo section in “Only One Who Waits”. We didn’t excpect Daniel to bring any new elements or visions to our music because the songs were naturally already well-planned and prepared.


You’ve released five albums so far, what do you think are the main differences between your debut album ‘In the Halls of Awaiting’ and your latest effort?


Markus: In a way they are really far apart but in another they are quite close to each other. Strong melodies have always been our strong point and through the different albums melodies have just gotten stronger and deeper. Regarding our playing we have evolved a lot mainly by playing a lot of shows around the world so the playing has became much more tight and controlled. I feel that our first album was more of a mixture between folkish melody lines combined with traditional melodeath riffs and that our musical expression has evolved to our own niche that could be characterized as being Insomnium sound. Insomnium sound contains more dynamic song arrangements, a bit more riff oriented songs and even more refined lyrical content.


With several albums under your belt, how far has Insomnium surpassed your original dreams and what would you say is the most rewarding part of being in the band?


Markus: Once you start a band the only purpose is to have fun with friends and play the music you love the most. We have never set any goals regarding success or the amount of shows we get to play. We all had a different kind of dream of what it could be in the best case scenario but I think not one of us could have dreamt that we would achieve this level of recognition with our music. The most rewarding part is to really sit down and think back how much we have experienced together and what we have achieved by playing the music we love the most. In the end it is all about friendship and having a great time playing together so the core essence of why we are playing metal hasn’t changed at all.


Which song is your favorite one to play live? And which song do you find the most challenging one to play live?


Markus: I love to play a song called “Lay the Ghost to Rest” from our new album. It has a really nice flow to it, that is why I love to play it. The most challenging one to play live must be “One for Sorrow”, the last track of the new album, since it is really sensitive to the tempo and you really have to have good dynamic control and timing to get through it without major fuck ups. With drums it is always harder to play slower than faster.


What have been the highlights and low points throughout your career?


Markus: the highlights must be being able to see the world and getting a few respected awards in Finland. The low points are something you don’t even remember or don’t want to remember. After the second album we had a short period of doubt regarding the band’s future and the direction we were going in.


Could you respond to the following terms in just one word or sentence:


Metal: Fierce, aggressive and yet so beautiful form of music                    

Underground: Counterforce to over-commercialized popmusic  

Internet: Freedom of speech and endless source of information         

Religion: Freedom of your own faith and destiny                       

Politics: Necessary in democracy                   

The Netherlands: Land of cycling and classic cycling races              

Finland: Land of a thousand lakes


Can you tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of things that motivate you in your writing, your poetry, and your lyrics? What are you personally into?


Markus: I personally don’t write any of the lyrics but I know something about the way Ville and Niilo write theirs. Usually they get their inspiration from reading books and poetry, watching and experiencing good movies and just observing the surroundings.  Most of the creative force is still lurking in you so you just have to find the proper medium to channel you creativity to harness its full potential.


What is your opinion on the metal scene these days? What do you think of the overload of bands at the moment and is there anything missing in the scene?


Markus: Melodic death metal has evolved a lot during the past years. Indeed there is a certain overload of bands and it seems also that the lifespan of the bands is much shorter than before. It is a shame that quantity seldom comes with quality but it makes that handful of great bands even more valuable than before. It’s funny you asked whether there is something missing in the metal scene, since in most cases you actually don’t notice the missing links in the sea of death metal before you find a new band that completely screws your head. From time to time you come up with new bands that are doing something you have never thought before. It doesn’t have to be anything radically different but just that that different that the idea is stuck in your head.


What makes Insomnium different from the other melodic death metal bands?


Markus: We feel that we have the most attractive lyrics and strongest melodies combined with riff-oriented playing. Insomnium is all about balancing between doomish dark airy parts and faster, more punchy parts. If you don’t believe us, give One for Sorrow a few spins and you will be sold.



What does the future hold for Insomnium?


Markus: Hopefully we’ll get some great tours and get to meet some awesome fans from the Netherlands and all over the world!


Anything left to say to our readers, here is your chance?


Markus: Make sure you grab a copy of ‘One for Sorrow’ from a record store near you and come to see our shows and perhaps join us for a beer or five after the show. Take care and stay metal!


Thanks for your time,

Eugene Straver



Current members:

Niilo Sevänen − Vocals, Bass (1997−present)

Ville Friman − Guitar  (1997−present)

Ville Vänni − Guitar  (2001−present)

Marcus Hirvonen − Drums (1997−present)


Former members:

Tapani Pesonen − Drums, Guitar (1997−1998)

Timo Partanen − Guitar (1998−2001)



(2002) In the Halls of Awaiting

(2004) Since the Day it All Came Down

(2006) Above the Weeping World

(2009) Across the Dark

(2011) One for Sorrow