Album Review: Insomnium – Anno 1696 (Century Media)

On February 24th, 2023, Finnish metal melancholists Insomnium will release their ninth full-length, Anno 1696, via Century Media Records.

Anno 1696 is a gateway into another world. This time around, Insomnium tell us a tale based on a short story by Niilo Sevänen (bass/vocals). Welcome to 1696. Welcome to hell. This is an age of unrest. The age of great famine in the North. The witch hunt is in full swing all across Europe and the gruesome witch trials have even reached the remote and majestic landscapes of Finland and Sweden.

Explains Sevänen:

The Torsåker witch trials were a horrible source of nightmarish inspiration. All that talk about 70 women beheaded in this small Swedish parish? It’s real stuff from history! And as if that weren’t enough, there are also some very dark tales of cannibalism and child murder from the years of the great famine.

Masters of melancholic metal and exceptional storytellers, Insomnium transport the listener back to forsaken times with Anno 1696. Where the concept is realised in full, cold, and horrifying detail, but enhanced by the short story that every listener should read. While not necessary to enjoy the album overall, it certainly makes it more understandable and more important.

We’re not reviewing the short story though, we’re here to talk about the music and what brilliant music it is. Insomnium rarely put a foot wrong when it comes to delivering unforgettable experiences, but Anno 1696 is on another level. Eight tracks of heart-wrenching melancholy and intense metal. Experienced in all its grandeur with the opening track, 1696. Before Insomnium deliver one of the best tracks they have ever written in White Christ. A track that sounds immensely miserable and is unashamedly heavy. Enhanced by the guest vocals of Rotting Christ’s Sakis Tolis. Epic misery and Insomnium at their absolute best.

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Bold and brazen, Insomnium continue to tell a lengthy, but captivating tale with Godforsaken. The frosty guitar riffs, the earth-shattering drums, the guttural vocals, the passionate melodies… this is a larger-than-life experience. Dripping in deep atmosphere and emotion throughout, misery has never sounded so good.

A strong showcase of ‘classic’ Insomnium melo-death, Lilian features some stunning harmonies. Delivering a peppier pace but still having the ever-consistent sense of drama that makes this band such a delight to listen to. Before it’s back to epic melancholy with Starless Paths. The vocals are particular scathing here but balanced out by gorgeous guitar melodies and some of the deepest touches of ambience on the entire record. The pure power of this track will make the heart race with adrenaline.

It’s experimentation time though with The Witch Hunter, a wild ride of discombobulated rhythms and melodies. The chorus is an extraordinary part of the whole experience and it’s both fascinating and heartening to hear this band continue to push themselves in such an eccentric way.

Whereas The Unrest also sees Insomnium offer up something different, an acoustic song with poppier vocals, it serves to refresh the palate. Still heavy on misery and atmosphere though.

Finally, it’s The Rapids, another extremely engaging effort that starts off in cinematic style, before the tempo shifts and it becomes a more hyperactive and heavy listen. Across its seven-plus minute runtime, it twists and turns, like a body swinging from a noose in the freezing wind.

This far into their career, Insomnium are still capable of delivering unrivalled brilliance in a genre that they have made their own. Anno 1696 is a thrilling and interesting concept, but musically, it is simply phenomenal. An album of the year contender.

Insomnium – Anno 1696 Track Listing:

1. 1696
2. White Christ
3. Godforsaken
4. Lilian
5. Starless Paths
6. The Witch Hunter
7. The Unrest
8. The Rapids




  • Carl Fisher

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Insomnium - Anno 1696 (Century Media)
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