Review Summary: In Vain move away from the amazing consistency of Aenigma to a strong, ambitious, but fractured effort with 2018's Currents.
In Vain's 2012 effort, Aenigma, was an example of how to execute the progressive death metal style as securely and confidently as possible. Not particularly over-complicated or tricky, it managed to succeed due to strong songwriting fundamentals and some great orchestration, with a powerful wall of melodic vocals and harmonized guitars dominating the picture. Currents moves in a direction which is a little more complicated in places, and simpler in others, and as a result manages to occasionally hit upon greatness amidst some fairly average tracks.
Fans probably weren't particularly enthused by the singles shown off prior to release. Seekers of the Truth
, which opens here, had some good ideas, but suffered from awkward transitions and some misguided instrumental arrangements. Soul Adventurers
proved a much smoother overall experience, but still wasn't quite as good as the tracks from the previous album. Thankfully, whilst these two start the album off in a fairly lackluster fashion, the best comes in the middle and end of the effort.
Blood We Shed
is easily the most meatheaded track on the album and indicates that the band is more willing to experiment with some of the more straightforward death metal elements, such as those of Times of Yore on the previous album. It's a welcome addition to this lineup of tracks and unlike Seekers of the Truth, manages to balance its uplifting melodies with the chunky rhythm playing a lot more skillfully, with some tighter transitions and songwriting generally. Whilst En Forgangen Tid (Times of Yore Pt. II)
suffers from some self-plagiarism, its overall atmosphere is far more haunting thanks to some well implemented organ parts and a suitable, consistent mid pace. Standing on the Ground of Mammoths
comes from the same overall template, with some great melodies and atmosphere giving it a more poignant, sorrowful mood than anything on Aenigma; this could well be one of their crowning achievements to date, and is easily the best track here. It even manages to get away with a clean break with a saxophone/blues guitar duet, and it all makes sufficient sense to feel like a natural change of pace.
Further following the theme of heightened variation on this album are Origin
and As the Black Horde Storms
, neither of which sound like something the band could have come up with previously. The latter is perhaps a bit easier to define, given its very clear black metal influence, utilizing a mixture of furious blast beats and screaming chords, with a bit more emphasis on melody a la Krallice
; the style works well for them, as In Vain's layered harmonies and vocals suit the blackened death metal format pretty perfectly. Origin is probably the closest the "good" tracks on this album get to Aenigma, but it still feels more heavily influenced by more traditional prog efforts than normal, thanks to some organ parts creeping in and a slightly higher emphasis on an ethereal sound. It's overall the most deservedly catchy song on the album, managing to bring out its hooks far more naturally and logically than the two singles.
Currents in many ways is the logical stepping stone, given In Vain have demonstrated before their ability to perform the more blueprint style progressive melodeath sound on their last effort. Currents diversifies and most often succeeds for it, but slightly falls behind on some of the more standard tracks due to a lack of the same fundamentals in songwriting as before. Nevertheless, Currents's high peaks help to make it an early progressive metal highlight this year.