In Mourning – Afterglow – Album Review

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Artist: In Mourning

Album Title: Afterglow

Label: Agonia Records

Date Of Release: 20 May 2016

In Mourning is a name that that have flitted around the very edges of my consciousness for a few years now. ‘Afterglow’ however, takes the Swedish quintet out of my personal periphery and re-positions them at the very forefront of my mind. To put it another way, this is the aural equivalent of shouting in my face ‘like me, like me’. Well, it has worked, because I do. Very much.

Previous albums by the Swedes had been decent enough and pleasant, if ‘pleasant’ is an adjective that can be applied to a dark and doomy death metal band. ‘Afterglow’ is, in my opinion, another proposition entirely. It isn’t decent and it isn’t pleasant. It is, instead, rather excellent.

‘Afterglow’, the fourth album from In Mourning, is such a positive album because Messrs Tobias Netzell (guitars, vocals), Pierre Stam (bass), Björn Pettersson (guitars, vocals), Tim Nedergård (guitars) and former katatonia drummer Daniel Liljekvist have really come up trumps in terms of merging three or four key ingredients into a cohesive and believable end product. They take the crushing brutality of death and doom metal and blend it with mournful, elegant melodies, a progressive bent and a liberal dose of dark, foreboding atmosphere.

Opening track, ‘Fire And Ocean’ proves this beyond any doubt whatsoever. Chunky, heavy riffs, a driving beat, clever subtle melodic leads that are vaguely reminiscent of the likes of Daylight Dies and Insomnium, as well a surprising amount of groove combine to create a heady introduction to the album, especially when you factor in the occasional lead guitar solo and some truly satisfyingly gruff growls.

If anything, there’s an even more epic feel to the album’s longest track, ‘The Grinning Mist’, thanks largely to the expansive soundscapes created from the outset. The atmospherics make a bigger impact here and help to convey a slightly darker and altogether much bleaker sonic tapestry. There’s also room within the ten minutes or so for In Mourning to break out of their shell a little more and experiment with numerous different tempos as well as injecting more pronounced light and shade to increase the overall dynamics of the song. There’s even a brief introduction of clean vocals for added variety.

Credit: unknown
Credit: unknown

The opening two tracks are very good, but by track three, the magic really hits. ‘Ashen Crown’ begins in a similar fashion to its predecessors but just after the half-way mark something a curveball is thrown. The Katatonia-esque lead guitar melody and heavy, swirling riffs are disposed of. An undistorted guitar strums away and then the clean vocals appear once again, this time to dominate proceedings. It’s as if In Mourning felt an overwhelming urge to go all shoegaze and poignant on us. Elegant soft melodies and a piano join the party to help create a closing segment that feels both solemn and uplifting, with a fragile beauty that could break the resolve of the most cold-hearted of grown men. The song builds to a majestic crescendo, offering a vague sense of hope and light to the listener.

‘Below Rise to the Above’ begins in a manner not too dissimilar to the way in which its predecessor closed, with a quiet and intensely atmospheric opening, complete with haunting guitars and more clean vocals, albeit stronger-sounding and more assured this time. It isn’t long before the heavier riffs join in but by then, the die has been cast. As heavy the track gets, it retains that melodic core throughout. I love the stop-start, chugging off-kilter riffing and the way that the gruff vocals really come to fore, a wonderful counterpoint to the melodic and restrained tumult surrounding them. This track drips with atmosphere and the hairs on the back of my neck rise, particularly when the closing soulful, bluesy guitar solo kicks in. What a song.

The clean vocals do make further appearances, particularly during the penultimate track, ‘The Call To Orion’. However, the final three songs revert more overtly to the formula seen at the beginning of the record, each providing a more than favourable listening experience.

What I really admire about this record is the way in which the compositions are complex but in an unassuming way. It’s one thing to hurl a million ideas into the melting pot and emerge with an end product that is a muddled and unfocused mélange of sounds and ideas. It’s an entirely different skill to create complex music that sounds smooth and not at all daunting. And with ‘Afterglow’, In Mourning have succeeded handsomely. Yes it is heavy, intense and raw in places but the whole thing flows very nicely nevertheless.

As the final notes of ‘Afterglow’ assault the senses, I am left with two primary thoughts. Firstly, I am hugely impressed by what I have heard. There’s not a weak track anywhere to be found and the consistency of the song writing and indeed the execution is out of the top drawer. However, featuring just seven tracks, I kind of hope for just one more song. To be entirely fair, there are no quick instrumental intros, outros or interlude to act as padding and the album does last for 55 minutes, so you’re not short-changed. It’s just that ‘Afterglow’ seems to end all too quickly somehow. Maybe that’s a good thing?

That aside though, there isn’t much to find fault with here. ‘Afterglow’ is a damn fine record and is one of the finest melodic death/doom releases I’ve heard in a while, right up there with label mates October Tide and last year’s opus from Swallow The Sun. Highly recommended.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.0

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others right here:

Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – TripsOctober Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld

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