Insomnium's Markus Vanhala unleashes fretboard fury in The Witch Hunter playthrough

Markus Vanhala
(Image credit: Insomnium)

Earlier this month, Finnish metal heroes Insomnium dropped Anno 1969 – the latest addition to their discography and the most recent extended display of guitarist Markus Vanhala’s awe-inspiring compositional and performance chops.

Though present throughout the album’s sprawling blend of melodic death metal, Vanhala’s playing prowess is particularly present in Anno 1969’s final single, The Witch Hunter, which sees Insomnium’s resident six-string specialist let loose for a five-minute fretboard throwdown.

A new Guitar World-exclusive playthrough of Anno 1969’s sixth track lets listeners to get up-close-and-personal with Vanhala, his prized Jackson Randy Rhoads custom shop electric guitar and, of course, the axeslinger’s pinpoint playing.

In what is both a display of Vanhala’s surgical lead skills and elite rhythm abilities, The Witch Hunter wastes no time in introducing the see-sawing, sustain-laden main motif, which shares the spotlight with textural arpeggios, cinematic whammy wails and a two-hand tapping reimagining of the lead lick in the closing stages.

A healthy helping of distortion – and just a touch of reverb and delay – is all Vanhala needs to navigate the various parts of The Witch Hunter, during which he demonstrates his picking prowess through razor-sharp riffs and thrashing strums.

As for gear, Vanhala opts for a particularly devastating combo: his beloved Seymour Duncan TB4-loaded Jackson Randy Rhoads custom shop model from 2014 and an EVH 5150 3 Stealth guitar amp.

The Witch Hunter is kind of a cool Insomnium tune, having bit new winds and more versatile shades on it,” reflected Vanhala of his guitar parts. “And for the Insomnium world, the song has a kind of proggy feel: trademarked tapping leads, clean picked parts, melodies and melodic deathly riffs.”

Of the track in general – which was inspired by a short story written by bassist Niilo Sevänen – Vanhala added, “This is a good example of a song growing and finding its own wings during the studio process. This one definitely has a cinematic feel; the storyline needs the essence of a journey moving forward.”

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.