Review Summary: So, is this the album of the year already? Doubtable. But as far as progressive death metal goes, well, let‘s just say that Opeth for once have something amazing to beat this year.
Comparisons can be a bitch. Especially for a band like In Mourning, who bear a certain resemblance to a little known band called Opeth
. There are plenty of Opeth clones out there, surely these guys are just another one, right? Wrong. Sure, the vocalist sounds a hell of a lot like Akerfeldt, and sure, there is a huge prog rock influence in their otherwise melodic death metal sound, but these guys are another breed of the progressive death metal style that you might be used to. Placing less emphasis on the soft to loud dynamics and instead using their progressive melodies amongst the heavy death metal riffing and keeping the intensity going, often, it provides a very unusual sensation, where the growls of the lead singer mould over the mid-tempo prog melodies, but my god, these guys know how to pull it off well, and what could have been a recipe for disaster has turned out to be a stunning formula.
Beginning with a powerful doom metal riff, one might be thrown into the assumption that this is a doom metal album. But as soon as the first of many progressive melodies begins to entwine with the more up-tempo drumming, you know that all early predictions of how this album might sound should be thrown out of the window. This is like nothing you have ever heard before. The opening (and title) track perfectly begins the album, both showing the band’s capability to craft long, interesting compositions and their ability to write groovy and progressive melodies. What starts out simple, eventually manifests into a complex and intriguing seven minute mini-epic ending with a surprising acoustic section that will certainly have you thinking of Opeth.
So, fronted by the multi-dimensional vocalist (more on him later) and the dynamic attack of the three (count them up) guitarists, In Mourning already have an exciting and unique sound that for once actually tries to breathe new life into the somewhat stale death metal genre that has had the same sound recycled over and over again. It is nice to see that there are still some artists out there who don’t want to follow the accepted formula. The drumming is good, if unspectacular, and the bass is loud enough in the mix to really have an impact.
With so much going on in there music, so many different melodies and ideas, you might expect it to be a great album but with little memorably, and once again, your assumptions would be wrong. In Mourning have a knack of writing an amazing chorus, one that will stay in your head long after you hear it, the most notable being on ‘In The Failing Hour’, which excels in it’s simplicity. It is the second shortest and most direct song of the album, which at first seems to be trailing off into mediocrity, but as soon as the chorus kicks in and Tobias starts screaming his heart out, you can just feel that this band have something special, and all of this is in their debut.
This is my confession, my lament to you, It‘s me, I‘ve painted the walls, it‘s a portrait, of a black parasite, from this day on, I would look at life with my eyes closed.
Looking back at the opener, you would probably expect In Mourning to utilise the clean vocals a lot more than they actually do. In fact, very rarely do you hear them, once on the opener, the amazingly emotional interlude in ‘By Others Considered’ (lyrics above), and briefly in the eight-minute epic of the album, ‘The Black Lodge’. When you analyze the album, it’s hard to see why, as they suit the bleak atmosphere a lot of the songs are going for, and yes, Tobias’ screams and growls are brilliant, but his clean vocals, too, are very good, and could be used more. Still though, it’s hard to complain about the vocals at all on this release, from the demonic growling which is eerily reminiscent of Akerfeldt of Opeth, to the fantastic screams, which might sound like Stanne of Dark Tranquillity
if he really went all out. The comparisons with the screams brings us onto another band that In Mourning seem to have taken a few little things from (notice how they take after the best of the best). Upon first hearing, I actually mistook the third guitar for a keyboard, but even though the band don’t use keyboards, the way they use the third guitarist is similar to how Dark Tranquillity use their keyboardist, providing another layer to the sound, and most of the time the progressive melodies that are so memorable, take one listen to ‘The Art of a Mourning Kind’, with it’s menacing vocals and huge chorus, and then listen to something of the early-era Dark Tranquillity, and you’ll notice a few subtle similarities, though In Mourning presents them in a completely stylistically different way.
In Mourning somehow manage to keep their formula fresh throughout the album, and each of their songs is memorable for completely different reasons. ‘In The Failing Hour’ for it’s emotional and thoroughly brilliant chorus, ‘By Others Considered’ for the beautiful melodic interlude that somehow weaves it’s way into the song, ‘The Art of a Mourning Kind’ impresses with it’s menacing atmosphere and ‘The Black Lodge’ shines with it’s inventive and melodic riff structure. Indeed, all of these songs are brilliant in their own right, but ‘The Black Lodge’ is really exceptional. Beginning with a somber but powerful riff with the drums galloping beside them, it gets more complex before slowing down, settling into a powerful mid-tempo groove. Soon, Tobias comes in with his guttural growling, and then it goes back into the beautiful melody that was played at the beginning of the song and… well, you just need to hear it, the lyrics are beautiful (if somewhat odd) and the guitars play a completely prog-rock melody that is contrasted wonderfully by the tormented screams and growls of the vocalist. ’She approaches through the water…’
The lyrics could be considered cheesy, but the way the vocalist delivers them is anything but, full of emotion and pain, and when he starts with his tormented clean vocals, you need to just sit back and take a deep breath.
There are quite a few solo’s on the album, though they don’t appear on every song, and each one is a welcome surprise when it pops up, so if like me, you think that a good solo can do wonders for a song, you will find nothing to complain about here as they are placed in just the right moments and played at the perfect tempo to fit wherever they are. But these are not important to In Mourning’s sound, no, they are a band that try to create emotion instead of technicality, and in doing so they create a vivid, if unusual atmosphere for a metal album. The atmosphere would remind more so of say, maudlin of the Well
than your typical metal band (though don’t think that these bands sound similar, but they create the same dreamlike atmosphere)
In short, In Mourning are something different, something unique, and they sound damn good too. The Shrouded Divine is an album that both impresses on first listen, and then continues to develop and improve on further listens, on the first listen, you will enjoy the album for it’s melodies, the memorable chorus’, the exceptional performance from the vocalist. But only after further listen will you notice several subtleties in the album, the way that you can often just hear a progressive melody playing underneath what you first though was a simple death metal riff, or the way that the bass will often play off of the guitars, instead of intertwining with them as what you might expect. Simply put, this is both enjoyable at first and then rewarding later, something which you won’t often find in an album.
Sure, it isn‘t perfect, but being as this is the band‘s debut album, and the fact that they play something so unusual, that can be easily forgiven, the good easily outweighs the few, tiny flaws that you can find with the album (and I‘ll be damned if you can find more than a few anyway). So, is this the album of the year already? Doubtable. But as far as progressive death metal goes, well, let‘s just say that Opeth for once have something amazing to beat this year.