In Vain – Ænigma (Indie Recordings)

An adventure throughout the realms of In Vain.
Release Date: 
8 Mar 2013 (All day)

Welcome to the trip, a Norwegian one. Everybody knows that Norway is the place the great bulk of good metal comes from and it’s useless to cite ever band that's caused an impression in the past, and the newer bands that are causing an impression today, from black metal to punk, to progressive rock. But somewhat In Vain entered into the pantheon of the great names of the extreme progressive metal style, like Enslaved, Borknagar and Ihsahn to name the main ones.

I mean, almost everything that Norway produces seems gold, but In Vain surpass any expectation, and their new opus Ænigma is the new cultural export out of the country.

Produced by the Swede Jens Bogren, the elements you imagine are all there but sometimes shadier than the other bands already cited: the already traditional blend of clean, harsh, and guttural vocals, with references ranging from black metal, death metal, heavy, thrash, jazz and the 1970’s progressive rock.

But I stress, it’s not a salad of elements put there to sound “original”, In Vain know their metal, and do it with self-assurance, never trespassing the frontiers adding useless elements to their sound. Every single passage, change of tempo and variation is there with a purpose. No fillers here!

The opener Against The Grain showcases why they are here: an extreme barrage of heavy music, with guttural screams changing from the terror to crystal clear passages with vocals that overleap themselves in a festival of harmonic parts. It’s said that Lazare from Borknagar makes a special appearance on the album but I’m not certain in which song, since In vain has K. Wikstøl who makes the “hardcore” vocals (as they emphasize in their press release) and A. Frigstad who makes the “vocals” (which one? The  clean ones? I suppose) 

Image of Time follows suit, and the broken pace with the alternating of guttural and harsh vocals soon give place to clean vocals and it seems  to be the frame of the whole album, but with coolest riffs, and epic passages (here they resemble Borknagar a lot) like drum fills that are difficult to memorize, but it’s a pleasure to hear. This is the exact point when one understands that In Vain are between the Norwegian giants of the style. 

After a brief interlude with acoustic guitars, the song Hymne til Havet comes with more epic swirls, with a touch of Enslaved. Of course is not a mere imitation, I’m citing that because the lyrics sung in Norwegian which brings this Viking feeling and here it’s the point that you cannot help but notice that they don’t lock themselves in a cage or a particular style. Still everything sticks together, never going to far from their gestalt. 

Culmination of Enigma has a rad bit of riffage in the beginning of the song, and this is just the prelude to what's to come. Although this is not an album to hear and like at first go, Ænigma and this song in particular cause extreme addiction. It’s where one starts to take notice that this CD is more than “something” in the year of 2013. The song has a doom-laden side, while it doesn’t differ from the previous songs. It adds elements, not changes them. A craft for masters ONLY. The spoken part with the acoustic guitar exploding in an ultra heavy part is orgasmic.

Now the bottom line: although everything in this album is extremely well done, it’s the guitar work that leads the whole disc. Each and every song is primarily identified by its guitar riffs. Even when the tempos start to change like in the track Rise Against, it is the guitar which detaches from the rest of instruments. I’m not being unfair to the other musicians, but J. Haaland and Kjetil D. Pedersen deserve kudos for their hard work and creativity. 

The last song Floating on the Murmuring Tide is somewhat different from the others with a middle session passage with sax and then drums that won’t be out of a place in a Opeth, or even in a Dream Theater album. If it’s the best song I don’t know for Ænigma has a lot of candidates for the best tune. 

The bottom-line is that this new opus of In Vain upped the ante in their career and it’s not likely to be neglected. This is a special band to be adored. In Vain haven’t just entered into the pantheon of the greats;. they entered in the pantheon of my fave bands. And this is not a thing to be ignored. 

 

Ænigma is out now on Indie Recordings.