Insomnium – Anno 1696 (Album Review)

Insomnium – Anno 1696 (Album Review)

As the world surrounding us grows slowly darker, creative expression seems to reflect these perilous times… even when they are focused on the past. Always masters of such emotions, Finland’s Melodic Death Metal masters Insomnium have done it again with their most blackened album to date, Anno 1696.

A concept album, it is only eight songs, but tells a full story of the history of Finland in its darkest days; adding along with it some werewolves and witchcraft for that extra hefty punch to the gut. With Insomnium, it is standard to tell a grandiose story, but it is never predictable just how it creatively plays out. Their epic 2016 album Winter’s Gate was quite the feat with one long, forty-minute-long song. Then, seeing them break it down into chapters in a live setting, there really was no stone unturned with their successful exploration of musical storytelling. As in the past, the lyrics to Anno 1696 are written by Frontman Niilo Sevänen himself… although this time telling a bit of an abbreviated story.

Released February 24th via Century Media Records, Anno 1696 is specifically designed to tell an ancient story of tragic proportions. Done so through melody, interestingly, it starts out with an acoustic gentle medley for the title-track that suddenly bursts into absolute brutal destruction of the darkest silhouettes. It is perfect in its execution of musically sending you into a different time and place; one well before any of us existed. It ends how it begins, and then the song “White Christ” floods into your mind with guest vocals from Rotting Christ’s Sakis Tolis, and it is a well thought out collaboration that would be a treat to see live.

Then Anno 1696 takes on a very unusual direction for Insomnium, because “Godforsaken” breaks the mold with guest female Vocalist Johanna Kurkela. Really capturing another realm in the storytelling from a vocalist standpoint, this eight-and-a-half-minute long piece serves up the meat of the story that is about to grow darker as it goes on. Next, a four-and-a-half-minute long song, “Lilian” breaks the sound barrier of all that came before it; channeling the story into a heavier direction that is brought to a demonic light that empowers the song “Starless Paths.”

Wrapping things up, “The Witch Hunter” is a further dive into the climax of the album. Then you are invited to drift off into “The Unrest,” which is another brief acoustic interlude that softens the attack of “The Rapids.” The album’s final song, it is commanding, as you seemingly float on waves to escape the dangers of the land.

One of the inspirational traits of Insomnium is that their concept albums really work as a unified collection, but all while still managing to have creative uniqueness within every song. The current members of Insomnium have definitely crafted another great album with a fluctuating sound that is unmistakable. For this and more, Cryptic Rock gives Anno 1696, 4.5 out of 5 stars. 

Insomnium – Anno 1696 / Century Media Records (2023)

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Lisa Burke
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Lisa is a metalhead at heart with a variety of musical genre interests, and the determination to save the world, one Metal show at a time. Her professional passions range from Rock n Roll and Gothic Metal inspired fashion design to Heavy Metal and Rock n Roll journalism for live and album reviews. She currently contributes these reviews to Metal Assault and CrypticRock.

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