Insomnium’s “Anno 1696” Sees Witch Hunts & Bloodlust Inspire Their Darkest & Heaviest Release to Date

Ryan Murray | Co-Owner | Chief Editor | Contributor

📸 – Terhi Ylimäinen

Insomnium, Finland’s melodic death metal melancholists, have once again opened the gate into a world of incredible darkness and despair. With their upcoming release “Anno 1696”, Insomnium expertly weaves a tale of the incredibly dark history in Northern Europe, where the blood-shedding, gruesome witch trials that were responsible for much death found their way to Finland, with 30% of their population being killed between 1696-1697.

“Anno 1696” sees everything the band is known for, but also sees the band going out of their way to go darker than ever before, and understandably so. Weaving a tale of great sorrow and death, the band ambitiously goes bigger than ever before, with great power and tremendous story telling. 

In addition to the dark history of Northern Europe, the album also sees tribute being paid to the legendary Finnish novel “Sudenmorsian” by Aino Kallas. “It’s probably the single best novel ever to come from Finland,” states Sevänen. “It has this very dark and tragic tone that I wanted to capture when writing my story.” 

From start to finish, the album is filled with great juxtaposition – going from light acoustic segments with clean vocals one moment, to aggressive, outright sonic assaults the next – from blast beats with full on death metal growls, to incredible string arrangements and insanely catchy melodic hooks – the band has created an achingly beautiful masterpiece that draws every emotion possible out of every part of your being.

Having read the short story “Anno 1696”, written by vocalist Niilo Sevänen, it’s incredible to see how it pulls the album together. The album alone is great, but it’s so much more than just the sum of its parts. “Anno 1696” elevates the album by its resonating story. Sevänen has said of the album and story – “The story makes the album whole. It’s one entity. One big arch. A strong story can bring extra layers to the music. Deeper meaning. For me personally, writing prose is as important as making music.” 

Acoustic guitars open the album on “1696”, which sees a slow, yet haunting, intro with some tribal drums that continue to build. Some spoken harsh vocals come in before an all out sonic assault punches you in the gut at 2:40 along with full on growls and organ-rattling blast beats.

“White Christ” sees one of the darkest, and possibly best tracks that Insomnium has put out to date, really showcasing the growth the band has seen over the years. The song writing on this track is some of the best of I’ve heard in quite sometime. The harsh vocals, which are spoken-like at times, have a really great syncopation to them, only adding to the intrigue this track delivers. I dare you not to play this song on repeat. 

One of the most standout tracks for me has to be “Godforsaken”! This sees the most epic track on the entire album for me. Johanna Kurkela joins on this track, masterfully and beautifully creating an achingly beautiful masterpiece; her vocals of which lend themselves incredibly well here. There are parts of the spoken vocals and atmospheres throughout this track that remind me of Cradle of Filth’s “Her Ghost in the Fog”, and the clean vocals add an even more melancholic, yet beautiful sound to the track. This is also the first ever Insomnium track to have a female vocalist! 

“Lillian” sees the more iconic sound Insomnium is known for, but with a refreshed and palpable energy! With some straight up rock/metal guitar riffs throughout this track, the vocals sound even more powerful while instrumental harmonies add incredible layering. 

“Starless Paths” sees an incredible track in 6/8 time, with incredible guitars, both melodic leads and in your face riffing, while “The Witch Hunter” sees an acoustic opening into melodic riffing which leads its way to harsh spoken word. The guitars really stand out on this track, as they weave an intricate web of melodies throughout.

With an absolutely hauntingly beautiful string arrangement and acoustic guitar throughout, “The Unrest” displays an absolutely breathtaking ballad and hears the cries of the bitter cold wind blowing. 

Closing out this masterpiece is probably the most aggressive track on the album! “The Rapids” eerily opens with just keys that continue to grow more and more hauntingly as light textures come in before crescendoing into pure aggression and blast beats.  While this track sees some less aggressive parts with more textured lead guitars playing over it, the aggression always finds its way back. There are even some prog-like synths that find their way scattered throughout this track.

As if this 8-track masterpiece wasn’t enough, Insomnium had eleven songs prepared, but ended up cutting three from the album. They decided instead to create an addendum EP called “Songs of the Dusk”, which sees three more stories of darkness. Of these three tracks, Sevänen says “We simply had eleven great songs, and we thought that this material is too good to be ‘just’ bonus tracks. They are part of the big story, so you can think of them as the director’s cut material that tells a little extra. For those who want to have more.” While the tracks weren’t included in the press promo, the lyrics were, and I’m definitely intrigued to hear these tracks! Will add my thoughts to this if I receive them prior to release.

If you haven’t already, there’s still time to pre-order your copy HERE!

Verdict: 4.75/5

This album is everything I had hoped for, but then so much more! Insomnium walked a very tight line on this album, and you can tell they put themselves into some painful moments to go as deep and as dark as they did. The band masterfully and poetically sifts their way through incredible darkness to find a subtle glimmer of hope glistening in the light. While the first quarter of the year hasn’t even passed yet, there’s no denying that “Anno 1696” has lined itself up as being a solid contender for album of the year!

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