In Vain

Norway’s In Vain, according to the Encyclopaedia Metallum, plays Progressive Extreme Metal. Progressive is a tag that gets thrown around a lot and can mean practically anything. In In Vain’s case, the “progressive” is the same as applies to Borknagar or Emperor but to a lesser extent. In Vain tempers their progressive tendencies with a strong dose of melodic death metal, to their benefit. However, their wealth of ideas is a double-edged sword. Although the album presents some true brilliance, the length and diversity become the album’s undoing.

7-minute opener “Against the Grain” gives the listener a good idea of what to expect, with shades of mid-era Opeth and the progressive melodic death of Iron Thrones. Keyboards lend depth to the sound and the clean vocals layer with textured harmonies. Sindre Nedland’s clean vocals are a major selling point to this album; they are clear and powerful without becoming overly theatrical or cheesy. Those acquainted with Solefald will already be familiar with his vocal talents.

The second track and a real standout, “Image of Time,” tightens things up and utilizes a more standard pop structure very effectively, beginning with some heavy, melancholy Insomnium-type riffage and harsh vocals before a clean bridge with vocals somewhere between Mikael Akerfeldt and I.C.S. Vortex’s clean vocal work in Dimmu Borgir. The chorus has some scratchier vocals and a melodic tremolo riff that reminds me of the folk-oriented black metal of Catamenia.

Following that, “Southern Shores” is an instrumental track that sounds straight off of Still Life. “Hymne til Havet” dials up the folk influences in what sounds like a metallic arrangement of a traditional Norwegian song and features a classic-sounding solo.

As is a common pitfall, the album presents its best songs first, leading to less engaging material. While not a bad track by any means, the 8-minute mid-paced and repetitive “Culmination of the Enigma” falls flat after the interest and diversity offered by the first four tracks. “Times of Yore” is heavier and focuses more on the band’s black metal influence, but also lacks the dynamic presence of the earlier tracks, with the exception of the absolutely blazing solo 3 and a half minutes in. These tracks require more patience and a different mindset – one that is not cultivated for the listener early on – undermining what might otherwise have been more rewarding.

The album doesn’t return to form until the penultimate “To the Core,” one of the heaviest tracks, featuring the clean vocals in the forefront during the latter half. The album’s indulgence comes to a conclusion in the 9-minute closer “Floating on the Murmuring Tide,” a truly epic song featuring a monolithic melancholy riff, an acoustic break and…yes…a saxophone solo, but one that works.

At the end of the day, I’m unsure where I come down on this album. The fantastic vocals, complex layering and superb song writing are all there in spades, but the shift at “Culmination of the Enigma” makes for an off-balance album. There are so many ideas here that Ænigma kind of collapses under its own weight. It’s 57 minutes long, and feels even longer. If In Vain could have reigned themselves in a little and made some judicious cuts, they would have had a true, unqualified winner.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by J. D. Anderson
January 24th, 2014


  1. Commented by: JL

    Hi J.D. nice review, but I disagree in a few points. Lars Nedland is the singer of Solefald, not Sindre, unless you are saying they have a similar style which I think they do not. On another note they put the catchiest material first, but I think the bulk of ideas later is what keeps this album interesting rather than by the numbers, and while “Culmination” is a so-so song the album picks up with Times of Yore. In comparison to last album I like this one more, although the standouts from last album are not surpassed. My two cents

  2. Commented by: j.d.

    My bad- got my signals crossed on that one somehow. As for the album, I can totally see what you’re saying- it’s true that the variety kept the album from being predictable. The other side of the coin is that it doesn’t set up for the drawn-out, patience-intensive songs after the awesome catchier stuff upfront. For me, it really drags in the middle when listening to it as a whole. Thanks for reading!

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