In Vain - Ænigma
Indie Recordings
Progressive Death Metal
8 songs (51:09)
Release year: 2013
Indie Recordings
Reviewed by Andy

Norwegian progressive death sextet In Vain's third full-length album, Ænigma, takes a little getting used to. Listening to the first couple tracks for the first time, I was rather put off by the somewhat strange mix of clean/harsh vocals and choruses. After listening to the whole album, however, even they grew on me, and the resulting verdict is that Ænigma, while it contains a few flaws, is still definitely above average.

Drums and the guitars are the highest in the mix, but the mix usually spreads the two guitars into a wall of solid sound, emphasizing the overall melody of songs instead of individual technical ability. Against the Grain and Image of Time are solid and melodic, with a tough, tremolo-picked background reminiscent of Amon Amarth, with a symphonic-style keyboard backup thrown in in places, though their melodies are unremarkable. What is rather interesting is the tradeoff throughout all the songs on the track of harsh and clean vocals. Three other members of the band have vocal duties aside from front man Andreas Frigstad, and this results in a lot of chorused vocals on the clean parts as everyone bursts into song (notably on Hymne til Havet), and at least two voices on the death metal parts too. This works most of the time, though occasionally the vocals swap out from harsh to clean at an inopportune moment (Against the Grain did this pretty badly at least once) and one gets caught up short by it, but usually they can make it work.

The rhythm ranges from crunching, strummed tracks (Floating on the Murmuring Tide and Hymne til Havet) to mid-tempo overlaid with fast tremolo (Times of Yore and Image of Time are good examples of this). Culmination of the Enigma is worth mentioning, too; it has a lot of variety, including a quiet section with spoken words, though I wasn't a big fan of its shouted chorus, which seemed a bit boring. It seems like the tracks get better as one goes along; Times of Yore, starting more as straight death metal at first, developed into a more melodic piece with a crisp, racing background riff and a refreshing guitar solo. It's got a nice riff and sounds heavier than some of the first tracks on the album, and Rise Against continuing the trend, contains a fast-picked lead played against the background power chords that sounds like it would be at home in an In Flames album.

The crown jewel is saved for last, though: Floating on the Murmuring Tide is impressive, a crunching, deliberate melodeath song with plenty of tremolo-picking and their alternating death metal growls and clean vocals. This song alternates between quiet/introspective and grim/heavy very quickly, and partway through, we get both a great guitar solo and a gentle, languorous saxophone solo with only drums and piano to accompany it until the guitars kick in. The deep, hollow-voiced background vocals towards the end, too, work perfectly with the epic feel of the piece, providing a very strong finish.

While the first two tracks are kind of ho-hum, Ænigma is a lot more solid than it looks if one sticks with it. I'd like it if the melodies were more memorable and if they had a better sense of timing when switching vocal styles, but all in all this is a good album and those flaws can be ignored pretty easily.

Killing Songs :
Floating on the Murmuring Tide is probably the best one, but Hymne til Havet, Times of Yore, Rise Against are all great as well
Andy quoted 79 / 100
Goat quoted 82 / 100
Other albums by In Vain that we have reviewed:
In Vain - Currents reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
In Vain - Mantra reviewed by Goat and quoted 87 / 100
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