Review Summary: Exquisite symphonic (and gothic) black metal
There’s something to be said about sad, depressive music. Done right, it’s incredible. Miserable black metallers Mist of Misery come from a Swedish scene where the sun is never seen and only dark grey clouds exist. Plying a trade in despairing black metal doesn’t sound very appealing but it can yield powerful pieces of music and Mist of Misery’s first two full lengths are a testament to the beauty of black metal.
But as a listener, being engrossed in this music is not a straightforward transaction, there’s a delicate balance to be met as, at the end of the day, we’re listening to connect with feelings and ultimately derive a sense of comfort and enjoyment from these albums. I’ve connected with Mist of Misery since the beginning of their recording existence, and have again with their new album Severance.
The corpse painted foursome from Stockholm with new vocalist Änglamakaren have crafted here a concept album that “tells a tragic tale which takes place in 19th-century rural England”. It begins with a simple piano opening and already I’m feeling that sense of comfort knowing it’s Mist of Misery. But this is not a long instrumental prelude as previous LPs opened with, as “An Ode to Solitude” swiftly transitions into black metal extremity and already it begins to captivate. With a gothic landscape reminiscent of early Cradle of Filth, the sound swells and wanes like a Shakespearean tragedy.
The black metal that captures my imagination is on offer here with backing choirs and various orchestra instruments filling spaces around the guitar riffing and expansive drumming. The compositions are interesting but logical with the various components each having a time and place. Songs like “The Long Road” feel like they have a licence to extend into epics but are smartly reigned in to freshen up the album’s early stages.
The more straightforward gothic black metal number “A Sombre Solace” follows but is kept compelling with organs and melodic guitars underpinned by sections of blast beats and an amazing double kick tone. These songs take influences from "Storm of the Light’s Bane" and "Dusk and Her Embrace" but are very much a novel take on big symphonic black metal.
The overall feeling of despair in the wailing vocals and quieter interludes is juxtaposed with the uplifting orchestral sections to deliver a full range of emotions. This is no better reflected in the premier song “Through Night’s Gloom”. In classic Mist of Misery fashion, it begins with a storytelling passage upheld with huge strings before being accelerated with double kick to intensify the drama. The ensuing baritone choirs gives the song a classy edge and we’re in that esteemed incredible territory.
The production of the album is clean and reminds me of Saor’s latest album "Origins". This is the best Mist of Misery have sounded, as symphonic black metal demands. This mix doesn’t prefer any elements over another and feels organically recorded so props to the band for nailing this. It must also be said that the previous two LP’s "Absence" and "Unalterable", whilst featuring exquisite epics, could also be accused of having too many instrumental filler tracks and extended run times. Not so with Severance, as it has a relatively compact total of 54 minutes and is expertly edited.
“Oceans of Grief” and the title track continue the excellent song writing and the variety within songs reminds me of the better albums from Cân Bardd, Sojourner and Pure Wrath. I keep returning to this album not because of its inherent sadness but simply because it sounds so good and increasingly so. And like a gripping gothic film, this album has a magnetic pull right down to the final blasts of “Towards the Descent”.