There is little sense in starting from the beginning of a story if the road to greatness was paved with such a scattering of diabolic shards as it were for the first decade of Falun, Sweden based progressive extreme metal band In Mourning. Eight years of demoing as a typical gothic melodic metal band would eventually give way to a progressive death influenced debut (‘Shrouded Divine’, 2008) and an awkwardly faceless follow-up (‘Monolith’, 2010). Like many others I’d entirely passed on the project at this point with some misdirected distaste for vocalist/guitarist Tobias Netzell lead vocalist presence in the awkward reformation of October Tide that same year. All tilting mediocrity would right the ship towards notability with ‘The Weight of Oceans’ (2012), a progressive melodic death metal record that’d brought along some of the lessons learned on ‘A Thin Shell’ whilst incorporating the progressive metal weight of then-peaking Insomnium. It was not my personal favorite moment in their discography but surely the breakthrough where In Mourning appeared to be a worthy and somewhat earnest endeavor. As I said, this beginning to the story isn’t all that exciting a ‘first act’ beyond the triumph of a pretty good record after twelve years of soul-searching. What comes next is what is arguably remarkable, if only for the adaptive nature of the project along these past seven years of growth; This ‘second act’ of In Mourning‘s story is one of deeply considered movements that blossom at an exacting and beauteous moment, a rare but appreciable event for fans of modern progressive melodic death metal.
‘Garden of Storms’ is a loosening, a leavening, an aeration of In Mourning, who’d just freshly broken from their shell within the four years they’d taken to release ‘Afterglow’ (2016). That claustrophobic and stranded melodramatic sandstorm now at least touches shoulders with contemporaries October Tide, Insomnium, and Be’lakor whilst pushing forth a deeper atmospheric ether alongside some heavier, and now appreciably aggressive, progressive music. The flower blossoming as a description of the leading fanfare on ‘Garden of Storms’ might appear trite but, “Black Storms” (the original title of the album) opens up towards a much deeper magenta-tinged celestial hug than anything the band had attempted previous; Relax as comfortably as you can, though, that’ll be is about as wide open as the space between gets. The bulk of this record is undoubtedly pensive, tensile, and finessed progressive metal served through a melodic death, gothic doom, and dark metal tinged vehicle. The established fan will understand this musical language but likely not at all expect such an appreciable handling of modern Scandinavian progressive metal ideals in addition to the olden-refined melodic standards of say, Omnium Gatherum or Amorphis. No, this isn’t exactly a fidgety Witherscape album but a Leprous or Soen fan might find some peripheral interest therein.
A new rhythm section, a more inclusive approach to songwriting, a more relaxed production experience, and some new voices serve to complete the trilogy started back in 2012 and to be sure ‘Garden of Storms’ is related to, but undoubtedly superior to its first two thirds. The ambitious fable is completed with a similar voice and unto a satisfying end though I’d venture few listeners dig into the lyrics of In Mourning‘s records as much as the feeling and intricacies of their guitar work. It surely isn’t a standard form of modern progressive melodic death metal, leaning heavily towards a progressive permutation influenced by atmospheric rock/metal hybrids, but none of this stretches too far from the greater voice of the project. What freshly compelling detail I’d point towards is at first a very peripheral engagement– The extra layering of synth, guitar effects and generally spacious additions make this one of the more detailed and varied records in this style in recent memory. On that same note the soft and space-faring movements of the record wouldn’t work if the heavier parts weren’t compelling, aggressive, and creative beyond the legions of tiredly bonking djent attuned prog-metal bands that surround In Mourning in Sweden. The full listen is a cut above, and should at least please the death metal fan who’d bend as far as to enjoy modern records from any band I’d previously mentioned in my analysis.
You’d think I’d been mooning over this album for weeks on end, wrapped in its oozing throes and souring within its somewhat gloomily aggressive movements but there is a small missing piece in the connection between the ear, brain and heart connection. At no point do I particularly ‘feel’ the very soul of this album gripping me so much as its intention to complete a story in several complex parts. A story can easily tangle the strings of emotion into a glorious knot but prose is a more effortless vehicle for the particularly attuned. In short, I was thrilled that there were melodic death/doom undercurrents throughout this album and their correlation with tighter progressive death rhythms is a great strength of In Mourning‘s but the deeper personal connection never sunk into me enough to send the listening experience to the point of craving. A personal exercise in expectations versus meeting the artists on their own terms aside, ‘Garden of Storms’ is an effective full listen that is highly repeatable on the level of ‘New World Shadows’ era Omnium Gatherum, an intermittent favorite of mine that is at least somewhat nearby in a similar melodic/progressive paradigm. It is hard to tell when I’ve listened to a melodic and hook-filled record enough to gauge it with a balanced mind yet I can say that with a full month of listens under my belt ‘Garden of Storms’ has radiated with professional, endearing and repeatable value since that first listen in early September. Moderately high recommendation. For preview purposes I’d suggest starting with two of the harder songs “Huntress Moon” and “Black Storm” and then juxtaposing that tonality with the more patient-yet-redeeming single “Yields of Sand”.
Burnt trails in blackened sand. 3.75/5.0
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