Review Summary: In Mourning set the bar, and leap clean over it
The sense of anomie that many fans of melodic death metal are feeling in recent years is entirely justified, if not expected. Much like black metal has run its course and seen its heyday come and go in the early to mid-1990’s, melodic death metal was a phenomenon that had its own time on the big stage, but like all things in this world it has fallen from grace. Don’t tell that to In Mourning, though, because from what they’re showing us music with a bit of melodic death metal in its veins is not withering away with the decline of the greats of Gothenburg. If anything, Sweden’s In Mourning are showing the metal community that, while traditional melodic death metal may be in its final dying epoch, the idea is still there for the taking. The Weight of Oceans
is not normlessness incarnate – its bearings are actually quite stable and rooted in the traditional ferocity of death metal laced heavily with sweeping melody – but In Mourning do more than simply take the genre for what it is, and show that progressive death metal that delves heavily into melodic death metal may be something worth keeping.
If the question was raised back in 2010 whether In Mourning’s chosen direction was a healthy one, the answer would likely be no. Their sophomore effort Monolith
wasn’t exactly a head-turner, and may even be considered a letdown in the wake of their debut Shrouded Divine
, which was for all intents and purposes a very fine record. Stylistically, The Weight of Oceans
differs slightly from anything the band has done before – not in terms of genre, but in terms of approach. The album is more careful, and it is more intent on crafting mood rather than simply forcing it – an error which was part of the reason why Monolith
was less effective than it had the potential to be. The debut track “Colossus” is just as much a heavy-hitter as its name implies, and the songwriting fires on all cylinders and hits, showing that such a pretentious and potentially catastrophic genre tag as “progressive melodic death metal” may not be such a bad thing after all. Tobias Netzell’s vocals have the range necessary to conquer the massive waves of riffing while not being too abrasive or heavy-handed to butcher the soft ballad “Celestial Tear”. The band, it seems, have learned to write within their ability, an attribute of maturity and awareness that allows In Mourning to create a record that appears to be much more complex than it really is.
The unorthodox and lengthy song structures, when combined with riffing that steers away from solely playing crunching death metal riffs or simply melodies, gives the progressive tag its weight, but the album’s structure is vital to its appeal. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill verse/chorus pattern, but instead is a developing being that changes as time passes. The atmosphere fluctuates between intensity and serenity in ways that may not be so obvious, and during tracks like “The Drowning Sun” or “From A Tidal Sleep” it is common for exceedingly heavy verses to shatter into a harmonized guitar solo, clean guitar bridge, or breadth of cleanly sung verses. Those who are not familiar with In Mourning’s style would find it easy to approach, while fans of the band will encounter some new hook or string of tempo shifts that keep the album – and the band’s sound – as fresh as ever. The pace is slower than what In Mourning have showcased in the past, but that doesn’t change the fact that the album is still filled with intensity and fervor in its more striking moments, easily fitting in next to tracks like “Celestial Tear”, which work the album’s more lethargic pace as if it were natural and not a new thing.
When it comes down to it, the slower pace of the album and the fact that it really isn’t technical is not a detriment to its overall effectiveness. If anything, the down-trodden nature of the music helps differentiate it from being just another attempt to mimic Shrouded Divine
. There are similarities of course, but I think the attempts to link The Weight of Oceans
back to In Mourning’s debut are missing the point: this is not meant to be a clone. The songs are longer, the mood is altogether different, there is more melody, the production is better, and on a broad scale I think the songwriting is a bit tighter. The last three tracks of the album are rather lax in inspiration and their substance is hollow, especially concerning the closer “Voyage of a Wavering Mind” which is essentially dead weight, but everything generally seems to fit together. This is an album; a cohesive arrangement of songs meant to convey specific imagery in the imaginations of a listener. It lacks a single standout track like, say, “The Black Lodge” from Shrouded Divine
, but it simply has so many more memorable moments. “From A Tidal Sleep”, “Colossus”, “A Vow To Conquer The Ocean”, “Celestial Tear”, and “The Drowning Sun” all contain moments that are vivid and easily recalled long after the album comes to a close.
The Weight of Oceans
is by far the most melodic of In Mourning’s albums, but that allows it to also be the most lingering. The crashing drums of Christian Netzell and the haunting melodies of Björn Pettersson and Tim Nedergård will bring you back in for another go – that I can assure. In Mourning’s sound has not changed radically, but it has most definitely been refined. It is a compliment to In Mourning when I say that The Weight of Oceans
can most definitely go toe-to-toe with Shrouded Divine
, and while many may call that a rather contentious statement, I can’t dissuade myself from believing it to be true. Everything is here that could be asked of In Mourning in their current state and with their current sound, and despite the fact that they somehow couldn’t wrap the entire thing up to a sound conclusion with the last few tracks, the album remains a testament to the fact that In Mourning know what they are capable of, and can write music that fits their capabilities perfectly. Their goals aren’t aimed at places they couldn’t hope to achieve with their talent, and they aren’t settling for something that doesn’t use their potential to its fullest. This is In Mourning writing music they excel at, while still maintaining an attitude of trying to set the bar even higher, and The Weight of Oceans
is the wonderful result.