In Vain - Mantra
Indie Recordings
Progressive Melancholic Death Metal
8 songs (1:03:06)
Release year: 2010
Indie Recordings
Reviewed by Goat
Surprise of the month

Well, this is a find! Like, I suspect, many reading, the first release of this Norwegian project slipped right under my radar in 2007, yet this more than makes up for it, improving upon its already impressive predecessor in virtually every way imaginable. The Latter Rain featured a host of guest musicians on everything from Hammond B3 to trombone, and whilst Mantra is much more stripped-down there is still a fantastic amount of variety on show. Somewhere between Death and melodic Doom, with heavy Prog influence in the songwriting, and you've halfway there - the obvious comparison is to Opeth, yet In Vain are far from a clone. Like the Swedes, they're not afraid of a bit of headbanging, and are more than capable of crafting the sort of riff that resonates epically - yet there's as much Black and Doom Metal at play here, tracks like opening stormer Captivating Solitude like a de-Vikinged Borknagar in some ways, although chances are you'll be having too much fun to care. Let it be said, however, that fans of Vintersorg's Cronian project will enjoy In Vain a lot, as the two bands have a similar approach to their epic and progressive sounds.

Yet it's the variety which really calls for attention. Mannefall opens harsh and heavy, Swedish Death influences coming to the fore, before switching to epic melody and almost melodeath catchiness - followed by the gentle folksiness of interlude Ain't No Lovin'. The bludgeoning On The Banks Of The Mississippi takes a Doomier path, heavy riffs and clean vocals combining to great effect, whilst Dark Prophets, Dark Hearts rages melancholically like Paradise Lost with the oomph they've been lacking for years. Manic screams mix with a memorable chorus and some great soloing to ensure that the nine minute track isn't dull for a second - the songwriting on this album is superb, especially considering that the shortest songs aren't a second below seven minutes. Yet those who lack patience have nothing to fear, as the music flows so beautifully that track lengths never are a problem. Even the slightly zany Native American tribute that is Wayakin (The Guardian Spirit Of The Nez Perce) with its melancholic wailing and chanting mixed with tribal percussion just works as a song despite it hardly being the first subject you'd expect a Norwegian death metal band to sing about.

That's ultimately what endears In Vain so much to me; they are so stately, serious and full of charming quality that even forays like this sound like part and parcel of their sound rather than an experiment. Certain bands seem a cut above from the get-go, and In Vain are definitely the sort of band that deserve greater exposure - listening to Circle Of Agony alone with its expansive and open-minded Death Metal attack that closes with melancholic strings and gentle folk-rock, I felt that comparisons to recent Enslaved weren't out of the question, high praise indeed from me. Finale par excellence Sombre Fall, Burdened Winter is especially impressive, starting out gentle and melancholic before turning all modern and sharp-riffed, ending on a solemn note of subtle misery that will have fans of the more modern and melodic-death-oriented sorts of Doom bands in tears. In Vain are an easy band to recommend, with wide appeal, and the fact that they're just on their second album bodes well for their future career. For the moment, this Mantra is easy to lose yourself in, and should be explored by all fans of Prog Metal that walks unashamedly on the Death Metal side of the fence.

Killing Songs :
Captivating Solitude, Mannefall, On The Banks Of The Mississippi, Dark Prophets Dark Hearts, Circle Of Agony
Goat quoted 87 / 100
Other albums by In Vain that we have reviewed:
In Vain - Currents reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
In Vain - ├ćnigma reviewed by Andy and quoted 79 / 100
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