Insomnium – Anno 1696

Insomnium doesn’t often get the attention they deserve, even from me.  They have released many great albums through the years, one of my favorites being 2019’s Heart Like a Grave, but there is something about their new one that feels right to me.  The album is called Anno 1696, and it releases on February 24th through Century Media Records.

Insomnium hail from Finland.  They have been active for quite a long time, since 1997.  I find it admirable that they, and other bands of that age, can manage to create art at this level so far into their careers.  The current lineup includes Niilo Sevänen on bass and vocals, Jani Liimatainen on guitars and clean vocals, Markus Hirvonen on drums, Ville Friman on guitars, and Markus Vanhala on guitars and clean vocals  Guitars, guitars, guitars, right?  You’ll also hear Johanna Kurkela of Auri, Eye of Melian, and Altamullan Road, and Sakis Tolis of Rotting Christ.

Here’s the thing about Insomnium for those of you who might not know them or might be interested because of the concept album nature of this record: Insomnium are melodic death metal with elements of doom and prog metal, and also lots of harsh vox.  On this album, I would say they bring in a potent Gothic dark folk sound, too, at times.  The sound they have created here feels complete and full of storytelling and deep, tormented emotions.  And, as I said, they use a ton of harsh vocals with a lesser amount of clean vox added on some songs.  I say this because I know some are turned off by harsh vocals, but, like I always say, you just have to find your album where they make sense to you—this very well could be the album that unleashes a whole new world of expression to you.

The story here is very important.  In 1696-1697, there was a famine in Finland that killed thirty percent of the population.  Also at this time, Christians sought witches to execute, I assume because they blamed them for their woes.  Furthermore, the album takes elements from Sudenmorsian by Aino Kallas, a legendary werewolf novel.  As you can see, there are many layers here, and so you’ll hear plenty of rage against religion and superstition, as well as dark whispers of tragedy, transformation, and terror.  It is a beautifully wrought story, and the band has penned plenty of words to go along with the album.  They are serious about this work of art.

Anno 1696 is an album of blackened auras and Gothic vistas, yes, but it is also an album of gorgeous melodies, hypnotic rhythms, razor-sharp riffs, emotional peaks, and gloomy breathes.  It feels like every song belongs; the band refused to add filler or lesser ideas.  This is explicitly seen in the three singles, “White Christ”, “Lilian”, and “The Witch Hunter”, all of which are absolutely stunning.  “White Christ” excels in its lumbering, breathy style with superb harsh vox and a haunting atmosphere.  “Lilian” is heavy and quick, and flows effortlessly.  “The Witch Hunter” is my favorite of the three with its deep story, evocative imagery, and addictive chorus.

The other five tracks are all fantastic, too.  The title track opener has such an exotic, Gothic visage that I couldn’t help but love it immediately; it builds a metallic crescendo of guitars and blast beats that is such a beautiful contrast to its grey first few minutes.  “Godforsaken” is perhaps my favorite on the album.  Johanna’s vocals add such a lovely serenity to the scene, and the song as whole is softer and more emotional.  It is sure to be loved by fans, and I think it is a great place for new listeners to start.

The other three songs fall in the second half of the album.  “Starless Paths” is both muscular in tone and delicate in spirit; it has a deep sense of fable and eternity within its veins.  “The Unrest” is another favorite of mine with its terrific clean vocals, folk rhythms, and shadowy lyrics.  It sets up the closer, “The Rapids”, a heavier piece with classic piano sounds (which remind me of Evergrey), and cinematic scale as it shifts between various dense textures and lovely layers.  It has so much character and it ends the album well.

Insomnium continue to impress me.  Anno 1696 is a rich, mysterious, and passionate work of art that expresses so many sides of the human experience while also telling its story in detailed, human fashion.  As I listen, I can feel myself burning inwardly, soaring in the skies in other moments, or searching, ever searching, for that peace and that release.  This is certainly destined to be one of the best metal albums of the year.


Find Insomnium online:



Century Media Records


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One response to “Insomnium – Anno 1696

  1. I can’t say I was blown away by the singles, but perhaps they will make more sense once I listen to the album as a whole. I had similar impressions with the early Heart Like a Grave singles but I was so very wrong.


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