Insomnium
Anno 1696 

If you get naked, cry, and sacrifice babies at the altar of death doom, you probably like Insomnium. So, I guess the GOP can start looking for pedophiles at their shows (or in their mirrors). I’m only here to help. I’m no fanboy, but I do enjoy their output, particularly my favorite of theirs, One for Sorrow. In my eyes, I’m still chasing that one, and have high hopes their new one, Anno 1696, can do it.

With that in mind, they get one hell of a start with two absolute bangers to start, what’s essentially the title track, “1696,” which sets the stone for the fittingly Rotting Christ-esque “White Christ,” which features Sakis Tolis. The vocal tradeoff between him and Nillo is stunningly impactful. Of course, the band employs their trademark mourning, sorrowful lead guitar work throughout. This track is a truly stunning creation and not only one of the best on this album, but of their career.

The next track, “Godforsaken,” has gorgeous, guest female vocals from Johanna Kurkela. As the track starts with them, you get to hear them immediately. You get to hear them twice before Nillo makes his recognizable voice known. It’s a long track at over 8 minutes but goes quickly. While the lighter parts of what makes the band great are certainly present, the furious drumming of Markus Hirvonen keeps everything moving quickly. The quieter moment about 5 minutes in, with almost spoken vocals, slowed percussion, and beautiful guitar lines lead into a somber clean vocals section by Ville Friman, which then leads back into a heavier section with growls and cleans again. If you wanted to show someone how Insomnium sounds, direct them here.

Another one of the lengthier cuts is track 5, “Starless Paths.” When reviewing death doom, I frequently refer to the balance of dark and light these bands craft. Perhaps no one does this as masterfully as Insomnium. There’s this sense of calm always battling the heavier moments in the foreground. It frequently comes with hearing the drums and the riff but also having those beautiful, mournful guitar passages peeking over it. Few bands also know how to make an 8-minute track have so many movements and feel like it takes half the time. Nillo switching effortlessly between his growls and spoken word adds to this whole exactly what’s needed. Of course, there are keyboards in there with around 3 minutes remaining.

Near the end of the album, a much shorter track called “The Unrest,” contains only spoken word and clean vocals, leaving it as nothing more than an interlude leading into the final track, “The Rapids.” Before even hearing this, I thought this referred to the place where the men threw their prospective witches to see if they could swim. The song itself is a perfect closer, encompassing everything the band does well.

There lies the issue, however. All of the songs sound exactly how you expect them. At this point, Insomnium is who they are. However, before you write off this album, keep in mind that’s not always a bad thing. In this case, it isn’t. They’ve written eight excellent new tunes, and of the several times I have heard this album, I always want to hear it in full. Sure, it’s 8 songs and over 50 minutes, so it has every opportunity to wear out its welcome.

I like this album and can happily report it’s their best since One for Sorrow. That’s exactly what I wanted from them and a new album. It’s impossible to deny the formula works and here is one of the finest examples. This probably means that every other outlet that would praise them if they made an album full of fart sounds based on Moby Dick, will probably hate it. It’s okay to be wrong sometimes and to give this album the hype it deserves.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by J Mays
February 27th, 2023

Comments

  1. Commented by: Steve K

    Completely agree with everything said here. It 100% sounds like Insomnium, they’ve just presented it in a much more interesting way than they’ve done in a long time.


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