Total Time: 50.26
Label: Century Media
When you hear the name, immediately you feel the breeze and the dreamy wondering in the snow. Scandinavia… guarantee. The Finnish Melodic Death metallers are back with their ninth album, in full speed and steady, as they do the last 25 years. The 50-minute “Anno 1696” with eight songs follows the amazing “Heart Like A Grave” and was recorded immediately after the release of the EP “Argent Moon”. This means hard work ladies and gentlemen! Behind the lyrics we find once more Niilo Sevanen (vocals, bass, frontman, the main creating point for the band and he who gives the musical direction) who manages to bind decisively all the songs in one story. As far as the lyrics are concerned, this is a concept album, with a theme revolving around a dark page of Finnish history that happened in 1696 (and 1697) as the title suggests.
Time for a history lesson! The witches mania of the 17th century, reached Finland and led to persecutions in the name of witch hunting. The allegations often came from petty differences or personal vendettas and the accused were submitted to horrible tortures and executions. Fear and paranoia overcame the whole population and that led to the loss of a 30% of the population, countless lives leaving a deep scar in the nation’s history. The ninth album of INSOMNIUM revolves around those dark historic events and in the meantime honors the werewolves story “Sudenmorsian” from the fellow countryman Aino Kallas.
Inspired by those events, the melancholic and melodic passages of INSOMNIUM are still present, intertwining with the spotless Melodic Death Metal that pushes us to alluring and touching sound paths. Inevitably we get into the process of comparing this album with “Heart Like A Grave” but, while it is not a reinvention of their sound, there are differentiations that benefit “Anno 1696”. First of all, there is a lot less emphasis on songs that are centered around a refrain and song like “Lilian” with a refrain are not in the front row. Moreover, the new album is more aggressive than the last one with a more vivid and lively closure.
The emphatic beginning with the song “1696” introduces us to the thematic story of the album beginning with a folk instrumentation before the burst of metallic power, with the amazing harsh vocals from Biilo and the guitars from Ville Friman, Markus Vanhala and Jani Liimatainen offering us a harmonic result.
Continuing our journey, we encounter something innovative for INSOMNIUM since there are two guest vocalists in this album. The first song is “White Christ”. The high and strong vocals of Sakis Tolis (ROTTING CHRIST) are unique and fit perfect with the lower growls of Niilo Sevanen. For the most part the song has the same mid-tempo rhythm and closes with a beautiful, slow guitar solo. Amazing song and terrific atmosphere. The second vocalist is the Finnish Johanna Kurkela in the song “Godforsaken”. Johanna moves mostly to folk paths with many collaborations (SONATA ARCTICA, AURI, NIGHTWISH etc – she is Tuomas Holopainen’s wife). The song begins with her sweet, angelic voice and fits perfect with the dynamic and the bombarding of riffs, melodies and the melodic, melancholic climax making the song unforgettable for the listener. Two songs that brings out a sense of mysticism…amazing!
We move on to “Lilian”, a typical, INSOMNIUM song, catchy but with a special atmosphere. Then we have “Starless Paths” and “The Witch Hunter” that blend in with the whole melancholic atmosphere of the album. “The Unrest” is the shortest song where we listen to piano, nice guitars and perfect clean vocals. The end of the story comes with “The Rapids”, a dynamic song that, for me, is the best way to close this album with intense black metal moments.
Concluding, we can easily say that this is a solid album, worthy of their career that demonstrates the progress they have as a band, since it is rich in new elements without forgetting the melodic death foundations. Moreover, the contribution of Coen Janssen (EPICA) in keyboards is really important. Always consistent and reliable in their albums, INSOMNIUM raise the bar for every new release from now on. Different than “Heart Like A Grave” without losing their identity. The more you listen to it, the more you excited you get. It is an album that we must listen to its entity and it sticks to your mind from the beginning.
Editor: Filomeni Riga
Related link: INSOMNIUM – Official Page