If Finnish melodic death metal band Insomnium can promise one thing, it's quality. Since the group's first major release in 2002, Insomnium have unleashed album after album of beautifully constructed metal, wooing hoards of fans along the way. The main question those fans have been pondering, however, is how 'Shadows of the Dying Sun' will stack up next to Insomnium's five prior full-length works.

From the first second 'Shadows of the Dying Sun' hits, you'll immediately recognize it as pure Insomnium. That sense refuses to break as the record continues into 'While We Sleep,' the first official single from 'Shadows of the Dying Sun.' Although safely within the melodic death metal realm, 'While We Sleep' further characterizes itself using beautiful vocal harmonies, near-pagan soundscapes and even a hint of metalcore riffing. Although anything resembling metalcore may be shunned by fans of Insomnium, don't stress, the band weaves the sensibility in with thoughtful balance.

The atmosphere created by Insomnium continues throughout 'Shadows of the Dying Sun' while spotlit nuances such as spoken word parts, acoustic interludes and powerful guitar solos allow each track to maintain an individual identity. 'Black Heart Rebellion' even showcases all three of these dynamics within its seven-minute run time without watering down the use of each characteristic as the album progresses.

Though each individual song truly does stand out, 'The River' is one of the album's essential tracks. Its balance of tightly-wound chaos mixed with gorgeous vocally-driven sections rises head-and-shoulders above Insomnium's contemporaries, displaying veteran songwriting ability and flawless execution.

An album such as 'Shadows of the Dying Sun' begs for a phenomenal ending, and after mesmerizing listeners with 'The Promethean Song,' Insomnium dive into the disc's title track. The record's conclusion offers a powerful sense of completion, adding the second bookend to its dynamic approach.

Overall, Insomnium's 'Shadows of the Dying Sun' is a masterfully crafted work that never allows a grain of boredom to fall from compositional cracks. Once Insomnium have sucked you in, good luck keeping any sort of plans, because you'll be stuck at home all day hitting replay approximately every 57 minutes.

4 Stars