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Kristiansand in Norway is a city renowned for spawning some of the metal scene's most innovative acts such as Solefald, Green Carnation, Scariot, In the Woods, and Communic. Add to that list In Vain who, with their third full length release, have unleashed an untamed and formidable prog metal beast of gargantuan proportions. Interestingly, five of In Vain's six members are also currently double-shifting as live session players in Solefald (who, after fourteen years of existing exclusively as a studio entity following a brief tour in 1998, have decided to hit the road), so I guess it's "return the favour" time by having Lazare and Cornelius from said band guest on 'Ænigma'. However, while In Vain aren't afraid to experiment within the context of their compositions, this album doesn't adhere to the wildly innovative and stylistically diverse palette of Solefald. Sure, there are stylistic variations to be heard on 'Ænigma' but In Vain's aesthetic is generally a less multifarious one. What In Vain have succeeded in creating is a near-perfect slab of prog metal extremity with a strong dose of panache. Produced and mixed by the skilled hands of Jens Bogren, the album's sound is expectedly massive with a richly textured sonority. Guitars, bass, drums, keyboards and occasional strings, horns, sax etc. all combine to create multi-layered instrumentations that ooze sonic grandeur and, combined with some darkly melancholic and affectively moving melodies, the overall effect is a thoroughly captivating one. In Vain achieve a good balance between the emotionally moving and heavy extremity, interposed with calmer, mellow breaks. Vocally, the album excels too with a good mix of death and clean singing, both simultaneously and discrete, as well as sporadic narrations (presumably Cornelius is responsible for the latter). At times, some of the clean vocals are delivered with a melodramatic twang that brings to mind Leprous' Einar Solberg, particularly over the closing bars of 'To the Core', and adds to the songs' quasi-theatrical effulgence. In short, 'Ænigma' is a mightily sophisticated, epic sounding album with profound sonic depth that'll reveal new emotional layers with each new listen... at least that's the affect it's had on me. Extreme prog metal doesn't get much better than this.
Indie Recordings
Review by Mark Holmes
8th March 2013
1) Against the Grain
2) Image of Time
3) Southern Shores
4) Hymne til Havet
5) Culmination of the Enigma
6) Times of Yore
7) Rise Against
8) To the Core
9) Floating on the Murmuring Tide
"...a mightily sophisticated, epic sounding album with profound sonic depth that'll reveal new emotional layers with each new listen..."