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IN VAIN - Ænigma cover
3.81 | 13 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 2013


1. Against the Grain (7:06)
2. Image of Time (5:40)
3. Southern Shores (1:59)
4. Hymne Til Havet (5:06)
5. Culmination of the Enigma (8:25)
6. Times of Yore (7:21)
7. To the Core (6:28)
8. Floating on the Murmuring Tide (9:17)

Total Time 53:22


- S. Nedland / Background Vocals, Keyboards
- S. Reinhardtsen / Drums
- A. Frigstad / Lead Vocals
- K. Wikstøl / Bass
- J. Haaland / Guitars

About this release

Indie Recordings, 11th of March 2013

Thanks to UMUR for the addition and graphix for the updates

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Phonebook Eater

Overly Familiar, But Executed With Well-Intentioned Energy.

It might sound derogative, but it’s the way things are: right now In Vain are just another Death Metal band hailing from Norway with a polished-sounding production and constantly clean/growl vocal pattern. It’s a formula that has been used countless times in the last fifteen years or so in metal music, and a lot of times bands like Opeth and Enslaved find great success indulging in this style. But in more recent years there have been a great deal of downright copycats; sadly, In Vain sounds just like one of them.

At their third album, “Aenigma”, it seems they don’t make an effort to try different approaches. The one thing they do that is admirable is that they’re able to use both Death Metal growls and Black Metal shrieks and make them cohabit in the same track very well. This is in fact a talented band, with great musicians and with evidently a lot of points of reference, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But I’m yet to hear from them something that sounds just a little bit different from the prototype of Progressive Metal band who likes to turn it up a notch vocal performance-wise.

But even if the album somehow did manage to have its own distinct sound, the songwriting is half-forgettable, even though In Vain manages to structure a few songs quite well and to put some nice, quieter instrumental bridges within a stracks. I could start drawing comparisons here, but they’d be useless. In terms of dissecting a song’s core, and spreading some diversity here and there, the band can do that well, and that’s one thing that matters. Tracks such as “Times Of Yore” and the closing “Floating Of the Murmuring Tide” are perfect examples, and also happen to be very well executed. Another highlight would be the opening track “Against The Grain” easily the most memorable and melodic track here. But the rest of the album, sadly, is bland and pretty much flavorless.

Saying that In Vain is not a good band is a ridiculous statement, because there is a lot of potential in their music. They’re talented musicians and I’m sure they’re capable of making more original and less borrowed-sounding music eventually. But for now, they can’t help but being stuck in the vast, painfully homogeneous sea of Scandinavian bands that haven’t gained much success.
On Aenigma In Vain play a style of blackened death metal where the primary black metal inspiration is progressive-era Enslaved. This means lots of clean vocals and atmospherics by the ton, with just enough death metal to stop the band from descending into Enslaved clone territory. Actually, I'd say In Vain have a way to go before they are on Enslaved's level when it comes to progressive extreme metal - in particular, their song structures feel cluttered and messy, almost as though they just threw in a bunch of stuff for no reason other than they heard Enslaved doing it - but they're on the way.
Ænigma is the third full-length album by Norwegian progressive death/black metal act In Vain. The album was released in 2013, following a delay related to writer Johnar Haaland having to put things on hold for almost a year while he sorted out legal issues (not related to In Vain). The album features guest appearances from Solefald duo Cornelius Jakhelln and Lazare Nedland. The bulk of In Vain make up the live backing band of Solefald so their appearance here isn’t a surprise. And also In Vain’s keyboardist/clean vocalist Sindre Nedland is the brother of the aforementioned Lazare.

Although In Vain are most often described as both a death and black metal act my experience with Ænigma is that it is much more the death metal orientated release in all aspects, although as a progressive death metal album it naturally has a great deal to do with progressive metal as well and actually quite often feels like the extreme metal elements are playing second fiddle to the prog. This is quite the melodic take on the progressive death metal style, although it rarely goes into a sound fully recognisable as melodic death metal, whereas most progressive death metal acts seem to favour a technical death metal backbone. This makes Ænigma come across as quite the refreshing change of pace. Melodic black metal influences do come into play every so often, but are often quite subtle and sometimes the only indication of their presence is a shift in growling style from deep death metal grunts to higher screams.

There seems to be two breeds of song presented on Ænigma. The melodic kind which use a lot of clean vocals and the more intense ones that won’t leave any doubt about In Vain’s death metal allegiances. It seems that the earlier stages of the album are given over to the first kind and it gradually builds up in terms of overall intensity, although To the Core also features a lot of clean singing in its second half, following on from an aggressive start. Not that the early tracks don’t have some really heavy moments in their own right, but it does seem to really build up as it goes along but climaxing with the epic Floating on the Murmuring Tide.

The creativity of the music on Ænigma is quite stunning no matter what sort of direction the album takes. Along with their progressive death metal there are actually several non-metal parts and outside influences. There quite a bit of saxophone on offer, especially in the second half of the album, and check out the brief instrumental Southern Shores for some emotive lead guitar playing to lead into Hymne til Havet, which is quite the anthemic song.

It’s also one of those albums that just seems to get better and better with additional listens, and the first impressions were very high to begin with. It has some tracks that use a lot of clean vocals like Hymne til Havet, lengthy epics like Culmination of the Enigma and plenty of death metal right across the board. The best of the bunch, and let me tell you it’s really hard to pick in this case since the quality is not only so high but also consistently high, has to be Floating on the Murmuring Tide, which seems to combine a lot of the elements that the release had delivered up until that point. Death metal, saxophone parts, a light symphonic backing here and there, acoustic guitars, drawn out instrumental work, and a mix of growling and clean vocals. Spectacular!

Ænigma has impressed me greatly and is an easy contender for being the best progressive album of 2013. At first listen it was an easy album to award a high end exceptional rating to, but I’m glad I gave it a few extra spins before finishing this review off to see how time affected its appeal. When I found that the appeal went up rather than down Ænigma then become an easy album to award a top tier rating to. This one is an absolutely must own!


(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven (

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