“I like to write, that’s my other passion besides making music, so it’s perfect for me that I can combine these things here” — An interview with Niilo Sevanen.
There can be no mistake that Insomnium has carved an inimitable path throughout its career. Having sung their grandiose tales of melancholy over two decades, the Finnish quintet have left an incomparable mark on the melodic death metal genre with Insomnium now a name synonymous with melodic death metal. Fuelled by two years of lockdowns and restrictions, and armed with literary content penned by their frontman, Insomnium heads into 2023 eager to release their latest album Anno 1696. Metal Wani had the chance to sit down with bassist and vocalist Niilo Sevänen to discuss Anno 1696 and explore how a short story and the band’s music have collided to become Insomnium’s latest masterpiece.
The conversation begins covering the conception of Anno 1696, and the union of Sevänen’s short story to the musical output of the band. When asked about how the concept of the album came to fruition, Sevänen explains “Well it’s a concept album, and I had this idea of this kind of story already, before the pandemic started and I talked it with the guys at that point, but things changed and we did Argent Moon (EP). After that, we started thinking about the full album. I had this story set in the year 1696 in my head, I wrote the short story then we started making music that would fit this very dark and tragic story. The music fits the mood of the story really well.”
Set during the late 17th century, Anno 1696 is a story set in a very dark period of Europe’s History, with Sevänen remarking about how 17th-century Europe was a dark place full of contrasts. “There’s a lot of stuff going on, it’s a very interesting period, but it’s very dramatic as well. Witch Hunts were raging across Europe, but at that point, they were already kind of dying out in Central Europe, in France, England, and Germany, but in the dark North — Sweden, and Finland…we were still burning Witches. There is Hunger, there is darkness all over the place, so it’s a very dramatic setting for the story.”
With story content of such a harsh nature, Anno 1696 is obviously a harsher-sounding record compared to its predecessors. During the conversation, Sevänen provides insight into the darker nature of this album and discusses how while the world went into a Lockdown, Insomnium toiled away behind the scenes to create new music. “When the pandemic started we started working on new music right away, we did the Argent Moon EP, four songs, a bit more, well mellow—ballad kind of material. It was on purpose like that because the plan was to continue working on a full album next which it’s going to be traditional heavy metal, Insomnium, dark and heavy again. So, if some folks thought that ‘ok, you guys got soft now with Argent Moon’, that’s not the case and we are still Insomnium.”
This album features guest appearances from Sakis Tolis (Rotting Christ), Johanna Kurkela, and Coen Janssen (Epica), and with guest appearances being something that Insomnium has used very sparingly in the past, the discussion also canvasses how these partnerships came to be, and their overall impact on the sound and feel of the album — particularly with the use of female vocals being a first for the band. Commenting on Tolis’ appearance, Sevänen remarks “It started as a joke because the song has this Rotting Christ feeling, so the demo version was titled “Sakis-something”, and then we joked about it that we should actually ask Mr. Sakis Tolis to feature on it. Then, as often happens, the joke moved even further and we asked him and it became awesome. He was really happy, and it became one of the best songs – the coolest songs on the album.”
With the reopening of many global borders and the prospect of touring on the horizon, the conversation closes by covering the band’s touring plans for 2023 and the possibility of performing the album on new shores for the first time.