I’ve heard it said many a time that In Mourning carry the torch that Opeth “abandoned” with the release of Heritage.1 I don’t happen to agree with that statement. Sure, superficially the Swedish prog-melo-death-doom quintet share something in common with Blackwater Park-era Opeth, but it was clear to me from the first minute of the indelible Monolith that In Mourning were an entirely different collective, a point that each subsequent release reinforced. While the band’s output since Monolith wasn’t always as well received, The Weight of Oceans and Afterglow are still solid records, proving that the band is at least capable of delivering consistent quality. Does their latest offering, titled Garden of Storms, continue this trend?
Indeedily-do it does. For those who haven’t heard In Mourning before, expect a blend of melodic death metal reminiscent of Insomnium and Be’lakor with the prog-metal kinks often found on Voyager‘s and Great Leap Skyward‘s work. A looming gloom of doom and a fresh sprig of post-metal rounds out In Mourning‘s melodic mixture. Listeners will appreciate the wide range of vocals provided—Tobias Netzell injecting emotive cleans and a decidedly Åkerfeldt-ian death growl, Björn Pettersson supplying his own potent hardcore screams—and the impeccable sense of flow afforded by the tight performances of everyone involved.
In Mourning developed their songwriting a bit further here compared to the last two records, utilizing their brand of melody and drama to great effect. Opener “Black Storm” is a perfect example of this. The introductory riff and verse combination is potent, energetic, and illustrates just how patiently they honed their vision as their career blossomed. In fact, it’s difficult to decide whether it’s the hooky lead, the infectious riffing and drumming or the post-metal-esque chorus that seals the deal. “Yields of Sand” then begins and Netzell’s soothing, if a tad reedy, cleans serenade the listener before those big-boi growls muscle through. The tone shifts towards something closer to blackened doom, weeping melodies crying out for compassion and relief. And again, the lead guitar steals the show with a heart-wrenching trem-picked refrain in the second half.
To my great satisfaction, the rest of the record is as strong as the opening duo. No two songs sound quite the same, and yet all smack of In Mourning‘s trademark dynamism. Take “Magenta Ritual,” for example. A hypnotizing slab of progressive melo-doom, the song unfolds into a pensive post-metal digression, inserting a brief but effective span of airy atmosphere to provide ample oxygen for the listener. On the more aggressive side, “Huntress Moon” demands your attention with fervent riffing and leads, supported eerily well by a stellar drum performance (nice one, Joakim Strandberg Nilsson!). In short, these are some of In Mourning‘s best songs to date.
Garden of Storms is not without blemishes, however. First and foremost is “Tribunal of Suns.” Easily the weakest track here, the vocal melodies don’t meet the same lofty heights as those that came before it, and at times the cleans sound unsteady. This impression is especially vexing when the closing track features the most impressive clean performances on the album. “Hierophant” also falls somewhat short. It’s a good song on its own, but musically it doesn’t explore as freely as its album-mates, so it lacks memorability. Lastly, “The Lost Outpost,” despite ending a quality record beautifully, suffers from mild bloat by way of instrumental wandering which becomes increasingly noticeable after repeated spins.
I went into this review blind. I had no idea what Garden of Storms held behind its fascinating album artwork. But I had a weird feeling way in the back of my mind that I had to hear it. I’m glad I followed that instinct, because In Mourning delivered their strongest effort since Monolith. The record has its flaws, but even those are simply a matter of taste. The band used the three years since Afterglow to mature as songsmiths, and Garden of Storms bears the delicious fruit of their labor.