In Vain – Currents Review

In Vain - CurrentsNorway’s In Vain is a melodic death metal band with a blackened edge to them. The band—which features Sidre Nedland (Lazare‘s brother) and doubles as Solefald’s live band—is back with their fourth album, entitled Currents after a five-year wait. They released Ænigma back in ’13 and it was mighty well-received around here.1 Ænigma kept the listener on their toes with a sound which I compared to the proggy death stylings of Barren Earth and Opeth, but which in retrospect had a uniquely Norwegian post-black metal feel. Five years later, In Vain has finally dropped its followup to Ænigma, and it has been worth the wait.

Currents balances a three core ideas and executes all of them with skill. At its very core is a balance of Scandinavian metal traditions. On the one hand, Currents fits well into a post-black metal landscape, reminiscent of Borknagar and Solefald. In Vain writes tracks which hint at blasts, but rarely sustain them (“Soul Adventurer” and “As the Black Horde Storms”), and which dabble in trem-picking but doesn’t abuse it. Songs frequently merge into the unique vocal harmonies that made Arcturus, Ásmegin and Solefald intoxicating when they first hit the scene. This tradition is best exemplified in “En forgangen tid,” a sequel to “Times of Yore” from Ænigma. “En forgangen tid” (A Past Time) is a beautiful mid-paced track featuring the kinds of harmonies for which the Nedland kids are apparently bred. But these post-black tendencies are balanced, on the other hand, by the second leg of the stool, the Scandinavian melodic death sound; Swedish and Finnish alike. Currents features quite a few straight up melodeath components. “Seekers of the Truth” features a ’90s melodeath lick in its hooky-as-fuck chorus. “Origin” evokes the wall of sound and pace of Insomnium, while the presence of Amon Amarth groove rears its head most notably on the final two tracks.

In Vain (2018)

American death and thrash metal influences make up the final core component of Currents’ sound. This aspect of the band’s approach is one that didn’t stand out on my listens of Ænigma at all. Throughout Currents, In Vain drops jagged riffs suited for a Morbid Angel album starting with B, C, or D. “Blood We Shed,” one of the album’s strongest tracks, kicks off with this old school feel—complete with pig squeals and the mid-paced ’80s feel—before giving way to organs and clean vocals. The older American thrash/death feel shows up prominently in Kjetil Pedersen’s leads, which at times evoke Kerry King-style dive bombs and the kind of atonality characteristic of the American LSD metal tradition. This ends up balancing out In Vain’s heavily melodic tendencies and defines Currents’ edgiest moments.

In Vain’s strength is their ability to balance these different sounds with a grace that lends to their appeal. “En forgangen tid” features both amazing vocal harmonies and an ur-metal riff with a sick groove.2 “Standing on the Ground of Mammoths” counters a saxophone-laced, Opeth-ian bridge with a peak of trem-picked guitars over machine-gun kicks and half-note snare. Even “Soul Adventurer” balances a djenty intro and the cleans of Nedland and Matt Heafy (Trivium) with Pedersen’s guitar work, which the beautiful harmonic minor vocals with chromatic guitar work. Currents is an adroitly accomplished balancing act.

In Vain (2018)

Clocking in at roughly 45 minutes Currents is tighter than its predecessor, though maybe not as heavy. That might turn some fans off, but the only criticism that I can really muster is that there’s a bit of a dip in the middle of the album, as “En forgangen tid” gives way to “Origin.” As both songs are mid-paced to slow, it sometimes killed the flow of the album for me. But the band is great and Bogren’s mix does a great job of showing off the best sides of Currents. The mix deftly handles In Vain’s complex sound, bridging extremity with the subtle use of orchestrations and horns on tracks like “Standing on the Grounds of Mammoths” and “Seekers of the Truth.” Worth noting, too, is that the drums sound great. They have a hefty, acoustic sound that sits perfectly in the mix. Kolstad’s (Borknagar, Leprous, ex-Oceans of Time) session work is stellar, and paired with bassist Alexander Lebowski Bøe, the rhythm section stands out on Currents.

It seems, in fact, that In Vain’s biggest fault on Currents was that the album was released in one of the strongest Januarys that I can remember in years. The logistics of writing this review interfered with getting it out in time for the album’s release, but it would be foolish for anyone to overlook. Currents belongs on January’s Record(s) o’ the Month, and I fully expect to be coming back to it all year.

Rating: Great!
DR: 6 | Media Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Indie Recordings
Websites: [New] | [Old] |
Released Worldwide: January 26th, 2018

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Insert joke about onions on belts being the style at the time here.
  2. I’ve completely racked my brain trying to figure out what it sounds like, and I think I’ve settled on Manowar’s “Woman Be My Slave.” Not only is that a great comparison riff, it has the benefit of not being a horribly misogynistic song written by High-functioning Psychopath Joey DeMaio. It should be noted that calling DeMaio a high-functioning psychopath is a joke, not baseless speculation, and therefore is not grounds for libel should his lawyers come knocking.
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