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Rating:
8.5
In Vain - Ænigma
8 March 2013


01. Against The Grain
02. Image Of Time
03. Southern Shores
04. Hymne Til Havet (A Hymn To The Sea)
05. Culmination Of The Enigma
06. Times Of Yore
07. Rise Against
08. To The Core
09. Floating On The Murmuring Tide


True to its name the latest release from Norway's In Vain has puzzling layers for you to consider. At its surface it might give the impression that it is simplistic in its richly melodic approach, as it carries the listener along with ease. Yet there is something which lies beneath which speaks of ambitious scope. A strong progressive undercurrent is at work which keeps Ænigma's accessibility afloat.

The source of the album's consistency is to be found in the natural flow of a seamless blend of melodic black and melodic death metal. In Vain interweave these styles to such an effect that they create for themselves a sound which is unique to them and gives the album its identifiable character. Transitions don't interrupt the album's progression as the stylistic shifts between the more prevalent melodic death riffs and those of a blacker texture are often subtle and when used in conjunction are positively explosive. Alternation between black and death is in a constant state of flux throughout the album and is fleshed out in a myriad of ways, whether it is the added symphonic layering or the dual and reciprocating role of death growls and black snarls, such as those used in the dominating opener "Against The Grain".

The progressive melodies are driven on muscular guitar lines and often completed with the poignantly clean vocals of Andreas Frigstad and guests Lazare Nedland and Cornelius Jakhelln of Norway's own Solefald. Their additional presence is key to establishing a viking black metal like tone which is brought to fruition by the stylistic rhythms. Many moments are reminiscent of Lazare's work with similarly progressive Borknagar or perhaps even a likeness to Enslaved might be identified.

The instrumental interlude "Southern Shores" or the hauntingly shrill keyboard veins that deftly run through tracks like "Culmination Of The Enigma" call Opeth to mind, the latter track being a highlight and appropriately titled as it reaches an epically climactic finish brought home with fervent shouts. The variance in the vocal work here is impressive, further adding to the album's change of face.

Never overstated is the inclusion of piano and saxophone on tracks such as the closer "Floating On The Murmuring Tide" which add further charm with which Ænigma captivates those who follow its very listenable melodic contours. The sound is enhanced all the more as a result of Jens Bogren's mixing and producing.

Potentially such ambitious merging of two highly melodic styles could fall apart at the seams but with their progressive charisma In Vain confidently tie things together, making for an album that demands revisitation.

Performance: 8
Songwriting: 9
Originality: 9
Production: 8


Band profile: In Vain
Album: Ænigma


 



Written on 13.03.2013 by
R'Vannith
R'Vannith enjoys music, he's hoping you do too.
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Apothecary - 13.03.2013 at 07:49  
I saw this under the New Releases tab, and something about the album cover was calling to me. After having read this review, I simply have to give it a peek.
Skøllgrim - 13.03.2013 at 11:23  
There's a small typo in Lazare's name, it's Nedland not Nedlund. He's actually bandmember Sindre Nedland's brother, so the guest appearance does make sense. In vain members also filled the gaps for Solefald to be able to play live not too long ago too.
There's massive Solefald moments in this, I'm also sensing this sort of viking metal as noted in the review, more specifically it reminds me of the blackened folk band Myrkgrav, which Sindre actually did clean vocals on a song for.
Introspekrieg - 13.03.2013 at 13:31  
What I noticed first was the title, being only one letter off another very famous release. After reading the review, I will have to check this one out.
Fallen Ghost - 13.03.2013 at 14:18  
Finally a review of this. I am completely in love with the album, so great! Have ordered it
Frodd - 13.03.2013 at 14:56  
I approve.
Neachy - 13.03.2013 at 18:53  
Great review.
chaosscizzors - 13.03.2013 at 22:11  
I really didn't like this album. the whole affair is a straight "from point a to point b" type deal with no variance whatsoever. fuck this, i'm gonna go listen to the sax breakdown from in remembrance and remember a time when in vain didn't suck.
R'Vannith - 14.03.2013 at 04:41  
Written by Skøllgrim on 13.03.2013 at 11:23

There's a small typo in Lazare's name, it's Nedland not Nedlund. He's actually bandmember Sindre Nedland's brother, so the guest appearance does make sense. In vain members also filled the gaps for Solefald to be able to play live not too long ago too.
There's massive Solefald moments in this, I'm also sensing this sort of viking metal as noted in the review, more specifically it reminds me of the blackened folk band Myrkgrav, which Sindre actually did clean vocals on a song for.


Thanks for the correction. I noticed they had the same surname but it never occurred to me that they were related! Can't say I've heard Myrkgrav but if it sounds similar to the viking bits in this then it should be well worth a listen.
R'Vannith - 14.03.2013 at 04:45  
Written by chaosscizzors on 13.03.2013 at 22:11

I really didn't like this album. the whole affair is a straight "from point a to point b" type deal with no variance whatsoever. fuck this, i'm gonna go listen to the sax breakdown from in remembrance and remember a time when in vain didn't suck.


I haven't heard the bands earlier material yet but it sounds as if you are stressing how simplified this one is in comparison. Were their previous albums more varied? While I suppose there's no "breakdowns" here for the sax I thought it was well used.
Eccer - 14.03.2013 at 05:48  
Written by Fallen Ghost on 13.03.2013 at 14:18

Finally a review of this. I am completely in love with the album, so great! Have ordered it

Smelgedelge?

Anyways, I think this is the best metal release this year so far...imo
Fallen Ghost - 14.03.2013 at 08:27  
Written by Eccer on 14.03.2013 at 05:48

Written by Fallen Ghost on 13.03.2013 at 14:18

Finally a review of this. I am completely in love with the album, so great! Have ordered it

Smelgedelge?

Anyways, I think this is the best metal release this year so far...imo


Fattern lager skiver i min munn..!

And I think I agree..
IronAngel - 14.03.2013 at 12:15  
This is considerably less exciting, energetic or imaginative than Borknagar's work, though. I do like the clean vocal melodies and all, but it seems awfully predictable. Not entirely sure what's progressive about it, but I'll accept the consensus. I am impressed by the accessibility of it on first listen, but I suspect I'll grow bored in the future. Here's hoping I'm wrong!
R'Vannith - 14.03.2013 at 12:27  
Written by IronAngel on 14.03.2013 at 12:15

This is considerably less exciting, energetic or imaginative than Borknagar's work, though. I do like the clean vocal melodies and all, but it seems awfully predictable. Not entirely sure what's progressive about it, but I'll accept the consensus. I am impressed by the accessibility of it on first listen, but I suspect I'll grow bored in the future. Here's hoping I'm wrong!


Melodically speaking it's much simpler indeed. I initially had the same concerns you're having, felt the streamlined approach wasn't working and that might become tiresome at some point in the future but.. it just hasn't waned for me at all.

AndI'd say it sounds progressive both by association (i.e. the kind of sounds that it reminds me of from other progressive bands, generally the extreme kind which mix in the death and black) as well in the nature of the compositions; the way they're structured seemed simple to me at first but I think there's a bit more to them than what most would identify at first glance. You could say its accessibility is a disguising factor.
BloodTears - 14.03.2013 at 12:29  
This one is on my list. According to your description, it sounds like a mix I will enjoy.
chaosscizzors - 14.03.2013 at 22:58  
Written by R'Vannith on 14.03.2013 at 04:45

Written by chaosscizzors on 13.03.2013 at 22:11

I really didn't like this album. the whole affair is a straight "from point a to point b" type deal with no variance whatsoever. fuck this, i'm gonna go listen to the sax breakdown from in remembrance and remember a time when in vain didn't suck.


I haven't heard the bands earlier material yet but it sounds as if you are stressing how simplified this one is in comparison. Were their previous albums more varied? While I suppose there's no "breakdowns" here for the sax I thought it was well used.

yes, the difference is like night and day. go listen to their debut album "the latter rain" and you'll see what i'm talking about. the sax breakdown thing was just an example. this used to be a progressive metal act. da fuq happened? i've heard chainsaws with more variance and creativity than this album.
K†ulu - 01.04.2013 at 12:57  
There are worthwhile moments in the last 2/3 of the album, but overall I have to agree with the previous poster. This is another example of what I call "modern gothenburg metal" in the vein of In Mourning. I don't see any death, black or progressive metal here.
R'Vannith - 03.04.2013 at 14:36  
Written by K†ulu on 01.04.2013 at 12:57

There are worthwhile moments in the last 2/3 of the album, but overall I have to agree with the previous poster. This is another example of what I call "modern gothenburg metal" in the vein of In Mourning. I don't see any death, black or progressive metal here.


In Mourning is a useful comparison for this album I think. When you're looking at what makes this sort of melodic death so "progressive" it's useful to find something to match it up to. In Vain and In Mourning sound fairly different but they both have a melodic death sound which incorporates elements from other sub-genres in a way that warrants calling them progressive. With In Mourning you've got the melodeath paired with a melodic death/doom sound (fair bit of gothic in there too I'd say). Despite leaning more to the melodic death side of things In Vain has a prevalent melodic black song structure and tone, reminds me of Old Man's Child sort of riffs quite a bit or the more folky and proggy Borknagar influence in there. Plus there's the mix in vocal work, bit of black stylings and death as well.

I'm not sure what "modern Gothenburg metal" means to you. I mean you say you can't hear any death in this but I'm not sure how you could call it "Gothenburg" if there's no death in it? Gothenburg refers loosely to a general style of melodic death after all...

For me I'd happily place this among the "progressive melodeath"
Mr. Doctor - 03.04.2013 at 16:26  
Written by R'Vannith on 03.04.2013 at 14:36
I'm not sure what "modern Gothenburg metal" means to you. I mean you say you can't hear any death in this but I'm not sure how you could call it "Gothenburg" if there's no death in it? Gothenburg refers loosely to a general style of melodic death after all...


I seem to recall something Marcel used to say: In Flames sounded like a faster Iron Maiden with rough vocals.
In bands such as In Flames or Arch Enemy sometimes I fail to hear any death to be honest.
K†ulu - 03.04.2013 at 16:46  
Written by R'Vannith on 03.04.2013 at 14:36

Written by K†ulu on 01.04.2013 at 12:57

There are worthwhile moments in the last 2/3 of the album, but overall I have to agree with the previous poster. This is another example of what I call "modern gothenburg metal" in the vein of In Mourning. I don't see any death, black or progressive metal here.


In Mourning is a useful comparison for this album I think. When you're looking at what makes this sort of melodic death so "progressive" it's useful to find something to match it up to. In Vain and In Mourning sound fairly different but they both have a melodic death sound which incorporates elements from other sub-genres in a way that warrants calling them progressive. With In Mourning you've got the melodeath paired with a melodic death/doom sound (fair bit of gothic in there too I'd say). Despite leaning more to the melodic death side of things In Vain has a prevalent melodic black song structure and tone, reminds me of Old Man's Child sort of riffs quite a bit or the more folky and proggy Borknagar influence in there. Plus there's the mix in vocal work, bit of black stylings and death as well.

I'm not sure what "modern Gothenburg metal" means to you. I mean you say you can't hear any death in this but I'm not sure how you could call it "Gothenburg" if there's no death in it? Gothenburg refers loosely to a general style of melodic death after all...

For me I'd happily place this among the "progressive melodeath"


Well, like Marcel, I have always been differentiating between Gothenburg and Melodic Death, but that is a matter of definitions. For example, early In Flames is Gothenburg, but Carcass' Heartwork is the true definition of melodeath. By "modern gothenburg" I mean "watered-down gothenburg." This album is very much based on thick chugging rhythm guitar and omnipresent but wandering - and for that matter very often quite superficial - lead guitars, and that makes it very repetitive. As far as it being progressive, again, I guess it comes down to definitions. I think about prog as something complex or demanding in some way, not just anything which blends genres.

As for the melodic black sound, I can see where this notion comes from, and I guess I can live with that, but its presence is still very subtle.
R'Vannith - 04.04.2013 at 17:37  
Written by K†ulu on 03.04.2013 at 16:46


Well, like Marcel, I have always been differentiating between Gothenburg and Melodic Death, but that is a matter of definitions. For example, early In Flames is Gothenburg, but Carcass' Heartwork is the true definition of melodeath. By "modern gothenburg" I mean "watered-down gothenburg." This album is very much based on thick chugging rhythm guitar and omnipresent but wandering - and for that matter very often quite superficial - lead guitars, and that makes it very repetitive. As far as it being progressive, again, I guess it comes down to definitions. I think about prog as something complex or demanding in some way, not just anything which blends genres.

As for the melodic black sound, I can see where this notion comes from, and I guess I can live with that, but its presence is still very subtle.


It's interesting you know because I wonder whether it really is "Gothenburg" any more if there is little to no death in that sort of melodic metal. I mean if you take the death out of it why do we still refer to it as "Gothenburg"? Stuff like early In Flames doesn't seem totally distant from death metal to me.

I really enjoy this album and to subjugate it to a fate of being labelled as merely '"watered-down Gothenburg" is, in my view, unfair and belies the quality of the recording. Not saying I'm right and you're wrong, it all comes down to taste of course but to pass it off in such a way doesn't accurately describe the sound here from my perspective. There is far more at work here than a watering down of the Gothenburg sound I think. The thick chugging you describe of the rhythm guitars is true. Wandering leads?..nah. Songwriting often seems very poised and well written with a clear sense of direction.

I'd like to stress what I said about THE WAY the genres are blended here, not just the fact that they are blended. I mean we could then start calling any black/death combination "progressive" which would be entirely misleading. The way the genres are blended here, albeit with melodically central focus, seems "progressive" in performance and structure. I know far too little to explain in hard and fast terms about the technical aspects behind my claim that it is progressive, so I can only describe it in a way that makes sense to me and what I hear. The instrumentation is often something I would associate with the tropes of the progressive genre, more specifically the "extreme progressive."
The complexity you look for isn't immediately obvious I would say and though things sound very simple with easy to follow melodies and whatnot I think there is more to it than the accessibility of the record might indicate. I could very well be spouting bullshit to make this album sound like something than more than what it is but in all honesty it is what I hear, the progressive nature of it just seems obvious to me. It immediately clicks with me as of a proggy sound.

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