Formed in 2000, in Falun, Sweden, In Mourning are a rather intriguing bunch.
Spearheaded by a three pronged guitar attack, with bass and drums rounding the lineup off, the five piece have several demos as well as three full length releases to their name, including the 2010’s critically acclaimed Monolith. Whilst predominantly melodic death metal in their musical stylings, the group also strayed into gothic metal in their earlier releases (and demos). They currently lean towards the progressive end of the death metal spectrum. With a thought-provoking approach to their lyrics, the band touch on the psychological side of things, namely dreams, memories, emotions and thought itself, allowing the listener to absorb the music and perhaps take stock themselves.
2010’s Monolith was a fantastic album which drew me in from the off. With that three-pronged guitar assault the melodic riffs (sometimes thrash-like, other times highly condensed and focused in delivery with a more death metal appeal) the wonderful arrangements and thought-provoking approach had me hook, line and sinker. Having followed the band since, the release of Afterglow had me anticipating just what the Swedes could come up with this time.
Starting off with an ambient sample of water like noises, the ringing melodic and fiercely distorted intro of “Fire And Ocean” kicks off the album. Rolling into a surging drum pattern with simple but hook laden guitar melody lines, it begins to set up the shift to the main riff. Brought in with a huge vocal roar and more of a kick musically, it shifts to full gear. The simple rhythm with a slight progression to it provides a sturdy foundation for the powerful vocals. As it speeds towards the chorus, a leads melody comes in but then draws it back to the verse feel, teasing at a big moment and pulling it back just to build the anticipation more. Slipping back to the intro sound very briefly, the arrival of the chorus is heralded by a drum roll before it explodes. Raw and powerfully delivered vocals over a thick rhythm sound and subtle melodic lead shifts behind give a massive sound and create a solid atmosphere, letting the full impact sink in. Slowing slightly, it moves to a bridge like section where the warm but rumbling bass tone can ring out clearly under the stabbed chords and eerie rotary speaker and chorus like effect soaked lead fill before it returns to the hard hitting death metal verse once more. Giving us one more verse, it shifts to the guitar solo, a highly melodic passage which has several great ascending licks and a swiftly delivered tapping section before it rolls back to the intro for one final push. In all, a solid opening track!
“The Grinning Mist” opens with a steady, almost march like drumbeat over clean guitars and low ringing bass. The rotary-chorus effect returns again, only this time with a more rounded feel, giving more of a synth delivery feel. Building under this, clean chords come in, raising the tempo slightly and adding a haunting melodic sound before it explodes once more with another vocal roar. The clean becomes distorted and from here it takes on a more ominous feel. Ringing out, the haunting lead pierces through the pounding and heavily distorted rhythms before it winds back in briefly. The subtle draw back enables it to come alive once again, this time with more venom in its delivery. With a fast pace to it and a more melodic death metal quality, the verse is swift in delivery but once more, it reels back to a clean break before the big distorted chorus comes in.
Harsh vocal tones, delivered in an almost tortured feel lead the way over solid and cutting riffs and the faster pace returns once more. Dynamic in both pace and delivery, the track constantly keeps you on edge without going to extreme lengths, using timing for maximum impact.
Another clean break commences halfway through. With an exotic sounding lead melody and warm bass tone, we get the first section of actual cleanly delivered vocals. Soft in the delivery and coming over clear, they add to the slight calmness brought on by the bright guitar and deep bassline. This begins to grow in volume as the synth lines add a slight symphonic quality and a touch of grandeur, allowing another dramatic build up to lead in for a powerfully delivered chorus. Slipping into a distorted break section, the stabbing feel riffs hit hard before a more shred friendly solo rips its way into the track. With a flurry of notes and a trade off sequence, bringing the urgency up and in turn forcing the rhythm to play catch up before one final chorus rounds this near ten minute epic off.
Slipping into a distorted break section, the stabbing riffs hit hard before a more shred-friendly solo rips its way into the track. With a flurry of notes and a trade off sequence bringing the urgency up and in turn, forcing the rhythm to play catch up before one final chorus rounds this near ten-minute epic off.
“Ashen Crown” opens with a slower pace initially. A melodic lead line and ringing chords shifts to a slight polyrhythmic section with intricate riffs and atmosphere building synths before the verse kicks in. Droning chords, subtle lead melodies and raw vocals lead to a more traditional MDM styled riff sequence. Hitting hard with the machine gun like bursts initially which become slightly more groove laden as it progresses, the steady paced riff provides the perfect feel to headbang to before it takes on a slightly progressive feel. The angular sounding riff gives a more complicated feel but it works well as it links to the chorus which has a massive sound and edge to it.
Full sounding thanks to clever use of space, the synths have that overarching effect, augmenting the big rhythmic assault of the guitar, bass and drums, helping the vocals come across with more rawness in them and providing a contrast the the slow, melodic lead. Repeating the same pattern, traditional riff feel into angular sound into chorus, it eases off into a clean section. The steady, ringing clean brings us another clean vocal section. Heavy on the echo and reverb, with ringing out effects and soft vocal delivery, it hints at something coming with the background sustained melodies and seemingly brightening sound. Growing in volume, it adopts a steady pace, a slightly warmer distortion and goes to an extremely melodic and uplifting feel, something quite unexpected and the less harsh approach ends this track in a rather unexpected but pleasant way.
Seemingly taking its cue from how the previous track ended, “Below Rise To The Above” stays clean and melodic. Full sounding, the initial sequence of keys, clean and lightly distorted and massive sounding guitars, steady drums and thick bass set a more welcoming sound and the soft vocals really work well once more, showing that Melodic Death Metal doesn’t always have to be intense. Building up an intriguing atmosphere, it shifts more to the progressive side of the spectrum with its massive sounding harsh distortion and complex polyrhythmic feel. Vocally going rawer, soft vocals turned to venomously delivered roars, it takes a darker edge but still retains the melodic and epic feel. Shifting from building, it has a solid rhythmic foundation along with some well arranged lead melodies, giving a well rounded sound and even as it eases off a touch towards the later third of the song, it still retains that grand and slightly ominous feel which was createds from the first wall of distortion back near the start of the track. Thunderous bass, pounding drums, eerie synth ambience and a stop start feel lead to an explosion of uplifting and melodic layers of ringing guitars and harshly growled vocals. Seemingly brighter, the final minute or so of the track becomes a thick wall of sound before it gently eases itself down into a slick bluesy feel lead section, delivered with great feelings in every note and lick, singing out wonderfully as it fades.
“The Lightouse Keeper” opens up cleanly with a slightly hypnotic and quality to it. The slightly synopticated delivery of the rhythm, underpinned by a pseudo-jazz feel drum pattern and thick warm bass gives way to more powerful metallic fury and when the synths kick in behind this, the grand feel is back again. Bringing the slight polyrhythmic shifts, the stop-start riffs and bassline, the harsh growls and complex drums, it keeps us in that progressive edge of the death metal spectrum, constantly evolving as it progresses. Into a clean section with a mesmerising, delay laden guitar line, real deep and rich bass and foreboding sensation carried by the buzzing lead, it turns towards the well rounded initial distorted feel once more, snapping us back to the heavier side again before the magic happens.
Almost seemingly out of nowhere, it suddenly splits up. Rapid, swift and without warning, the drums get more intense, the riffs pick up their pace and the vocals get angrier. The brief burst of full on melodic Death Metal fury serves as a kind of wake up call before it goes back to the carefully structured approach of heavy and pounding, yet melodic and hook laden. Going back, the heavier and faster side emerges again. Rumbling bass, thick distortion and gratuitous double kick give a real intense low end and then the riff delivery which borders on Dream Theater territory with the tone, arrangement and atmosphere really adds depth to the final run which goes back to the familiar feel of earlier in the track. In all, a rather interesting musical experience.
“The Call To Orion” has more of an impact in the beginning. With piercing melodic riffs, it heads into a very bass orientated progression. The shifting feel and deep rumblings are accompanied by the punchy delivery of the guitars and the constantly changing feel keeps us in the progressive realms once more. Getting darker rhythmically and vocally, but remaining melodic with a simple lead melody, the verse hits hard, paving the way for a slight reprieve in the chorus section which despite remaining heavy, has a more melodic and welcoming feel to it. With so many intriguing chord progressions, laced with subtle melodic changes and captivating lead melodies hidden enough to just about peek out and attract you, it keeps you engaged.
Halfway through it breaks to a mini-lead section before shifting yet again to another proggy sounding segment, initially chaotic and harsh, it cleans up once more and the melodic, clean side of the band comes out. Passionate, warm, welcoming, this ‘bridge’ of sorts serves well as the startying point for the end. Slipping back to powerful and raw metallic fury, the ending of the track is intense and ominous, paving the way for the last track on the album.
Title track “Afterglow” closes the album and it has more of a metallic edge to it than progressive. With a slow, ominous building breakdown feel, deep and penetrating vocals and lazy-feel guitars, it quickly slips back To the grand and epic feeling progressive death metal feel we have become accustomed to throughout the release. The atmospheric synths create a phenomenal sounding backdrop for the harsh growls and jarring guitars to cut away at you with to the polyrhythmic shifts of the current being driven on by the bass and drums. Throwing you about like a small boat in a massive storm, the moments of clarity are few, but the brief reprieve they offer is welcomed given the massive symphonic effects they have, whilst the rough swells are the harsh metallic elements, pounding away at you with little to no remorse!
This all changes though round the 4:20 mark. Amidst the storm of chaos which is this track, a lone female choir sound cuts through it cleanly, almost like a ray of light through the storm clouds. This sound resurfaces again, clearly the work of the keys and synth element to the band and it becomes more prominent as the track slowly ends, leaving a deep bassline and drums left to slowly fade and finally come to a rest.
Afterglow is a rather intriguing release. Showing an excellent demonstration of the bands technical prowess when it comes to musical delivery and compositional ability, the clinical approach of the melodic death metal is only augmented and complemented by the progressive metal elements. Sure, some tracks may drag on a little, some parts might feel samey, but the fact that In Mourning have managed to put together a death metal album full of decent length tracks which do hold the interest from the duration is something which has to be taken into consideration. Timely inputs of flair and sparks of individual brilliance help shine a light on how much of a solid unit this band are, and given the finished product, In Mourning are entitled to bask in the afterglow of this release!