In Mourning
Monolith

Sweden’s In Mourning made a grand entrance into the melodic death/doom arena with their 2008 debut Shrouded Divine. Their even blend of earthy, rumbling doom and agile progressive death drew a lot of comparisons to Finnish heavyweights like Rapture, Swallow the Sun and Insomnium, but they most resembled a more straightforward, less adventurous version of countrymates Opeth. Now, that’s not a dig at all – as Erik Thomas pointed out in his review of Shrouded Divine, some longtime Opeth fans may be slightly disappointed with the increasingly progressive nature of that band’s last few albums (that said, I am not one of those fans). And so In Mourning, which still employed those famous light/heavy dynamics and shifting song-structures on their debut, but didn’t layer in pastoral 70s prog to do it, may have served as a compelling missing link.

Those fans should be even happier with the aptly titled Monolith. Although the progressive elements and subdued moments are still expertly woven into the songs, overall In Mourning sounds much more monstrous, aggressive and muscular than they did on Shrouded Divine. A big part of this is a heavier reliance on downtuned groove and chug (no surprise, given the involvement of Scar Symmetry guitarist Jonas Kjellgren). In lesser hands, this bludgeoning approach could have made the band sound one-dimensional, but luckily, those single-note jackhammer rhythms are usually layered with or followed by somber, stately and flowing melodies. Opener “For You to Know” is a perfect example of this interplay, as is the lurching attack of “A Shade of Plague.” And the band’s penchant for writing sinister, serpentine riffs – which, like Opeth, also harken back to a rock-influenced 70s groove – is still very much in play. Many of these riffs – there are plenty throughout “Debris,” “The Poet and the Painted Souls” and “The Smoke” – also convey an Eastern exoticism, but without being gimmicky.

Finally, there’s the matter of the gentler sections. They obviously inspired a lot of the Opeth comparisons on the debut, but for me, they also made that album a slightly uneven listen. There’s still that sense of dynamics and variance here, but it’s much more mature. Lovely acoustic passages still unfold from time to time, but they’re layered with ringing, folk-inspired tones or regal doom atmosphere (with early Katatonia coming in loud and clear on “The Final Solution”). The clean vocals, which seemed too youthful and overly emotive on Shrouded Divine (“By Others Considered” in particular) now sound more world-weary and convincing. And there are no more bright, triumphant songs like “In the Failing Hour,” which seemed so out of place on Shrouded Divine. Whenever there’s a moment of light here, it’s always tinged with mystery or melancholy.

If there’s one thing on Monolith which actually does seem out of place, it’s Tobias Netzell’s new half-scream/half-growl. His blackened rasps and guttural death growls are just perfect, but these are just too maniacal and strained. And for a band whose sound is otherwise so balanced and tasteful, they’re really unnecessary. Unfortunately, they’re the first thing you hear on album opener “For You to Know,” but after that they’re used more sparingly.

That said, the screams shouldn’t detract from what is otherwise an impressive step up from the already terrific debut, and another strong example of the genre. This should be an easy purchase for fans of the above-mentioned bands, and with this and the new Barren Earth on its way, it’s looking to be a bright winter for melodic death/doom fans.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
February 3rd, 2010

Comments

  1. Commented by: Vance

    Great review, this band is awesome, especially within the genre, very cool.


  2. Commented by: Stiffy

    You would think I’d love this type of thing but the samples I heard were meh. Going to have to take another listen.

    Excellent review as always, Jordan.


  3. Commented by: gordeth

    I feel the same way, Stiffy. Their style is too middle-of-the-road for me.


  4. Commented by: Mark

    listened to a few of their songs, and was totally impressed!!!


  5. Commented by: gabaghoul

    Stiffy/Gordeth – did you guys like the last one?


  6. Commented by: gordeth

    What I heard from it was too safe for my liking. They aren’t aggressive enough to excite me or depressive enough to evoke any emotion.


  7. Commented by: gabaghoul

    makes sense


  8. Commented by: faust666

    Cool band.. great new album.. nice blend of MDM, Prog and even some elements of core.


  9. Commented by: Stiffy

    Yeah I had the first one. Didn’t stick very long. I remember it being a poors man Opeth with more Melodic death leans. I’m gonna give this a chance though. See how it plays out over time.


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