Finland’s masters of Melodic Death Metal return with a bold and sinister new album, taking us back into the dark times of the witch prosecutions in Northern Europe.
Based on a short story by Niilo Sevänen (just like their 2016 album Winter’s Gate), Anno 1696, the ninth studio album by Finnish Melodic Death Metal institution Insomnium, takes the listeners back into the dark times of the witch prosecutions in Northern Europe, famine and superstition. Mixed by Jaime Gomez Arellano at Arda Recorders, mastered by Tony Lindgren at Fascination Street Recording Studios, displaying a classy artwork by Sami Makkonen, and featuring guest keyboards by Coen Janssen (Epica, Amahiru), the follow-up to their 2019 effort Heart like a Grave doesn’t disappoint at all, proving why this Joensuu, Pohjois-Karjala-based unity currently comprised of vocalist and bassist Niilo Sevänen, guitarists Ville Friman, Markus Vanhala and Jani Liimatainen, and drummer Markus Hirvonen has become one of the pillars of the genre in the entire Scandinavia, delivering first-class Melodic Death Metal album after album for our total delight.
Acoustic guitars and tribal beats ignite the opening tune 1696, being gradually joined by several other elements and evolving into a demolishing feast of their trademark Melodic Death Metal, with Niilo’s growls matching perfectly with their melodious guitar lines; followed by White Christ, presenting strong, classic lyrics flawlessly declaimed by the iconic Sakis Tolis of Rotting Christ together with Niilo (“In the name of our Saviour and Lord / In the name of our Monarch and the Crown / I’ve come to bring the law and justice to this land / I’ve come to bring the light and grace of the Christ”) in a lecture in Melodic Black and Death Metal. Then we have Godforsaken, featuring Johanna Kurkela (Altamullan Road, Auri, Eye of Melian) on vocals, adding a touch of finesse and melancholy to the overall result, accompanied by the massive beats by Markus Hirvonen and the piercing riffs by the band’s guitar triumvirate, flowing into the pure Insomnium tune Lilian, where a serene, delicate intro once again explodes into their unparalleled sound, showcasing an amazing job done by Ville, Markus Vanhala and Jani with their axes and, therefore, inviting us to headbang in pitch black darkness.
More of their poetic, bitterly cold lyrics is offered to us all in Starless Paths (“Cruel is the winter’s might / Dreadful the howl of wind / Beyond the pathless treks we roam / Where the church bells never toll”) while the music sounds extremely harmonious and dense from start to finish, and the band continues to distill their stylish Melodic Death Metal in The Witch Hunter, spearheaded by the classic beats by Markus Hirvonen while keeping the album as vibrant as it can be. The shortest of all tracks, titled The Unrest, begins in a similar acoustic way as the opening tune while Niilo darkly declaims the song’s words together with the clean vocals by Ville and Jani, and albeit being a good song it lacks the same energy from the others. Finally we’re treated to The Rapids, bringing forward a superb fusion of violence, melancholy, harmony and darkness by Insomnium, offering our avid ears almost eight minutes of their undisputed music. Moreover, Niilo roars deeply while his bandmates make sure the music remains imposing until the very last second, with their guitar solos piercing our souls majestically.
Perhaps the best way to fully understand everything Insomnium wanted to accomplish with Anno 1696 would be by watching this track by track video, and before or after you do so you can stream the album in its entirety on Youtube and on Spotify, being therefore properly immersed in the sinister world crafted by such important band from the Finnish scene. Also, don’t forget to start following them on Facebook and on Instagram, and above all that, to purchase the excellent Anno 1696 by clicking HERE or HERE. As already mentioned, the album is all about the witch prosecutions in Northern Europe, and there’s nothing better than the Stygian and melancholic music by Insomnium to guide us all through such dark and horrifying times.
Best moments of the album: White Christ, Lilian and The Rapids.
Worst moments of the album: The Unrest.
Released in 2023 Century Media
1. 1696 6:18
2. White Christ 6:03
3. Godforsaken 8:35
4. Lilian 4:29
5. Starless Paths 7:48
6. The Witch Hunter 5:43
7. The Unrest 3:52
8. The Rapids 7:38
Japanese Edition Disc 2 – Songs of the Dusk
9. Flowers of the Night 5:28
10. Stained in Red 6:50
11. Song of the Dusk 9:43
Niilo Sevänen – lead vocals, bass
Ville Friman – guitars, clean vocals
Markus Vanhala – guitars
Jani Liimatainen – guitars, clean vocals
Markus Hirvonen – drums
Sakis Tolis – vocals on “White Christ”
Johanna Kurkela – vocals on “Godforsaken”
Coen Janssen – keyboards