Anything with Jens Bogren in charge of production means high quality and high output. This is the man responsible, amongst others, for works by Opeth, Devin Townsend, Dimmu Borgir and In Vain. This is In Vain’s fourth album release.
Sure enough, the production is expansive, which suits the band’s extreme progressive style and accentuates the twists and turns. As I listened to “Seekers of the Truth”, I couldn’t get out my mind the idea that this is what I was listening to 10 or so ago – a Norwegian take on Scar Symmetry, Dark Tranquillity, In Mourning and Kreator, another Bogren band. The mood switches with the more stargazing approach of “Soul Adventurer”. The sophisticated melo-death is there and there’s a mind-blowing epic solo, which is woven into the texture of this aptly titled song. Melodic death is at the epicentre of these sophisticated metal pieces. Harmonies ooze out of the centre from time to time. So a dreamy chorus enters and transforms “Blood We Shed”. This works for the fact that this is not rough at the edges, but it’s carefully produced, even when it goes into full metal mode. “Blood We Shed” captures most sides of the band.
The title “En Forgangen Tid (Times of Yore Pt II)” suggests melancholic nostalgia and heroism, and this is indeed the atmosphere that In Vain manage to create. It’s dark and heavy but with another epic clean chorus, which adds weight to this well-balanced and impact-laden song. I really liked the dark yet uplifting quality of this one, and appreciated the counterbalance of the dark, sophisticated metal and the cleaner, reflective chorus, which features again on “Origin”. With some bands this juxtaposition can sound contrived but not here. Everything has power. Indeed the vocalist works seamlessly from the clean chorus to remorseless growls. The drum and guitar rhythm meanwhile is one of high tension. By contrast “as The Black Horde Storms” is a frenzied progressive death metal romp. It showcased the talents of the band, but wasn’t for me that cohesive. I far preferred the more uniformly dark and melancholic “Standing on the Ground of Mammoths”. Its pomp has an epic quality like “En Forgangen Tid” before it. Mid-way through there’s a break, and a quiet acoustic passages ensues. The sophisticated tone is enhanced by the sound of the saxophone, before it bursts back into one final epic instrumental and vocal onslaught.
In Vain manage to bring an old school melodic death style up to date here with this collection of thoughtful compositions. I suppose “Currents” is a bit of hotch-potch and maybe it’s a bit complex structurally for its own good in parts but I thought it generally hung together well, and most certainly has power and substance.
(7/10 Andrew Doherty)