Review Summary: In Mourning have passed the test and pulled out an excellent second offering that improves on the band's songwriting and instrumental skills.
I remember when Shrouded Divine
first started making metal headlines in 2008. Here was a band from Falun, Sweden that combined crushingly hard riffs, progressive death metal songwriting, and a few melodic tendencies to create what many thought to be one of the premier metal debut albums of the year. Opeth comparisons were drawn--a little too quickly, I must say--and the band, along with In Vain, both quickly became metal’s new most-watched jewels. Now 2010’s Monolith
is upon us. As with many sophomore releases from promising up and coming bands, the question must be asked: can In Mourning make true on that talent that was hinted at in 2008 and release another exceptional progressive death album to rival that of their debut? Well to be honest, Monolith
doesn’t really just rival Shrouded Divine
In many ways, Monolith
actually surpasses it.
Things sound a little bit different this time out for the Swedish band. For one, vocalist Tobias Netzell has improved behind the mic; his growl is certainly more beefy
-sounding and his howls are much more capable of enunciating his intent. However, occasional clean vocals are utilized--such as those found in a brooding section of “The Smoke” or those found near the chorus section of opener "For You To Know"--that while not quite as enjoyable as Tobias’ more brutal style, do seem to add a bit of variety and are sung rather well. Elsewhere, things seem to have picked up a bit in pace as far as instrumentals go. There was a certain doom-like tempo that flowed through parts of Shrouded Divine
, and here things seemed to have livened-up a bit; rarely does the album trudge or brood for long--see the pummeling intro to “Pale Eye Revelation” that’s quickened feel continues through the majority of the track or the machine gun fire of “The Poet and The Painter of Souls” for another example. Also, the use of guitar "chugging" is an element of the music that tends to show up quite frequently throughout the course of the album. Fortunately, just when the band seems to be on the edge of wearing out their welcome with these chugs, In Mourning conveniently change directions in the song to keep things fresh and alleviate those that are not to found of this inclusion--e.g., the latter parts of "Smoke". The result of all of this variation is an album that is able to keep the attention of listeners all the way through.
The primary strength of Monolith
lies in this combination of elements: the vocalist, the pummeling guitar riffs, the captivating melodies, and surprisingly, an exceptional coat of production paint. Jonas Kjellgren has really nailed the band’s sound down in his job of producing this album--the riffs benefiting the most from his work--and things just generally sound clearly defined and magnified throughout. The recording work here makes songs like the fluent yet diverse instrumentals of “Debris” and “The Smoke” standout from the rest of the pack. Those that were fans of the intensely, melodic “In The Failing Hour” from the last album should look no further than the brutal yet catchy musings of “Pay Eye Revelation” for a similar experience with a captivating hook. Likewise, the aforementioned “Debris” enters its melodic bombshell of a chorus with a stop-start riff that transitions to an acoustic interlude before returning back to the main hook. While some might frown at the inclusion of a slightly more melodic approach throughout much of Monolith
, it must be said that In Mourning have done an exceptional job of staying true to their brutal genre; they never become cheesy or overtly commercialized in their melodies in the least, and as a result, the general listening experience of the album aids from the underlying catchy aspects of the music.
While improvements on an already outstanding vocalist are impressive, that’s not to say that the touch-ups that Bjorn and Tim have placed on the guitar playing should go without mentioning. As a listener, I was a little disappointed at the somewhat typical and underwhelming structure of In Mourning’s debut--as far as guitar playing goes anyway. On Monolith
, the duo--sometimes trio, as Tobias plays as well--have stepped up their game to make things much more interesting and unexpected. For example, “With You Came Silence” is a joyride that what starts on a quickened riff initially, soon transitions into a moving, depressive interlude section that then escalates to a final pulsating riff; all of which take place and come as a surprise without sounding disjointed. Likewise, the “The Final Solution” is a progressive death metal roller coaster with varied tempos and immaculate guitar progressions that splinter off into different pathways. After a brooding reprieve that takes place near what appears to be the end of the track, the band then builds and storms back into to action. Suffice it to say, the song comes together to close Monolith
off in an admirable way. This brings up another vital point that really aids Monolith
in its quest for greatness: the riffs come hard and unexpected, yet at the same time, consistent and cohesive. Is this not what every exceptional, progressive death metal album tries to accomplish?
Though I doubt In Mourning are quite good enough to draw comparisons to Opeth, I can say that this Swedish band is probably one of the best new bands that metal has seen in recent years. The band does seem to venture into the areas of a few monotonous chugging riffs in a few songs - see "For You To Know" and the "Smoke"; however, given the changes in tempo and songwriting structures, things are still able to remain interesting and fun. In summary, In Mourning's songwriting on Monolith
has surpassed that of their debut with brutal yet melodic progressive structures that build a tapestry of crushing riffs that few can match; not only this, but Tobias Netzell’s vocals have seen an increase in the level of timbre that really pushes this album to new heights. While it seems that creating a sophomore album can often turn into a treacherous affair, In Mourning have passed the test and pulled out an excellent second offering that doesn't disappoint in the least.