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Whenever discussions are held about the realm of melodic death metal it usually doesn’t take long before INSOMNIUM becomes part of the equation, their calibre and wealth of talent require no introduction. Winter’s Gate and Heart Like A Grave both rocketed to the top of the Finnish album charts and the impending Anno 1696 looks destined to also receive critical acclaim.
“We’ve just recently returned from playing the 70,000 Tons Of Metal cruise where we had the chance to play some new songs and the feedback was awesome,” confirms guitarist Markus Vanhala. “We played all three singles and even got Sakis Tolis from ROTTING CHRIST to come out and perform White Christ with us so that was a cool experience. It was my fifth time on the cruise so I’m a bit of a veteran! It’s sad to be back in the dark and winter of Finland!”
INSOMNIUM pride themselves on creating an immersive experience for their fans, constructing a captivating narrative alongside visual, cinematic endeavours and Anno 1696 is arguably their most ambitious undertaking to date. Vocalist Niilo Sevänen has even written a story to accompany this release, focusing on the infamous Scandinavian witch trials of Torsåker. “This all started coming together before the pandemic, with most people that time is a bit of a blur as it’s just a bunch of time where not a lot happened,” admits Markus. “We were out on tour and Niilo said he had an idea for another concept story, similar to how we did Winter’s Gate. When the shit hit the fan and the world started to close its doors we decided to buy a little time and we did the Argent Moon EP, which was more mellow, ballad type songs.”
“We decided to put all of those songs on one release and leave the more mean and raw tracks for the album. The concept is such a tragic story that we wanted to keep the more aggressive style music to support the story. We laughed to ourselves at the time thinking people will probably start saying we’re getting old when they hear Argent Moon! For Anno 1696 we wanted to do a more blackened metal album and just make music that we love. Music is a kind of a selfish thing but you have to please yourself and your bandmates before the fans. We are five pretty tough critics so the songs go through various pathways before the songs are forged.”
This kind of project takes a lot of patience and persistence to ensure all the components can gel together effectively. Due to previous outings INSOMNIUM were well equipped to handle such a venture. “Once Niilo had developed the theme for the story that gave us the inspiration for the direction the music should head in. Obviously the subjects involved are not too fun so it lead the way for how it turned out,” explains Marksu.
“We were all working simultaneously, he was writing the story at the same time as we were writing the music and then we pulled it all together. That was probably the most difficult part as the album was not composed track by track to keep to the story. We composed the music and then decided which would suit the chapter in the story and made sure it all kind of flowed in sequence. It’s a lot of hard work but when you’re in the middle of it you don’t think of it as work, you just keep moving forward. When the process is finished and you look back on it you think ‘how the hell did we achieve all of this?’. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions putting an album together. One day you’ll feel on top of your game and like a genius and the next day you’ll feel like you’re shit and the album is never going to be ready. I have a lot of respect for anyone in the music industry as I know how painful the process can be. It ruins your life and eats all your time!”
For the majority of their career, INSOMNIUM have been a four-piece outfit but as the years have progressed priorities have shifted and founding member Ville Friman cannot 100% commit to the band, stepping away from the touring circuit, opening the door for some new blood in the form of the experienced Jani Liimatainen (formerly of SONATA ARCTICA).
“As Ville was getting busier with his studies he was no longer able to do live shows as he was just too busy,” explains Markus. “We started using session guitarists, one of who was Jani. Everything went really well and it just made sense. We thought it would be stupid to use Jani only as a session guitarist as he fits perfectly into the band. Ville will be joining us for the album release shows but that will probably be it. I’d love to have a three-guitar assault live but unfortunately, it’s just impossible at the moment. For him, INSOMNIUM is more of a hobby and for the other four of us, it is our place of work and where our hearts live.”
Markus eats, lives, and breathes the world of music and INSOMNIUM is only one of his vast array of projects. As well as also being the founding member of OMNIUM GATHERUM he has also journeyed into the world of black metal with newly formed project I AM THE NIGHT. “We just played the first club shows and I loved every minute of it. Getting the war paint on and the fake blood like some sort of mid-life crisis! I would’ve loved to do it when I was younger but I escaped into the realms of melodic death metal. I don’t do anything else other than music and play in bands and I’m happy that I’m able to do it full time. Of course, sometimes it makes me a very busy man. Soon I’ll be in North America with OMNIUM GATHERUM and then I literally have two days in between before I’m touring with INSOMNIUM so I won’t be going home! It’s hard but still doable. I also have a fourth band which we’re going to announce which was like a COVID season project and that’s going to be really cool. There are a lot of familiar faces and we have an album coming soon. That’s my place in the world, to play metal and make songs and that makes me a happy man.”
Anno 1696 is out now via Century Media Records.
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