In Vain - _Ænigma_
(, 2013)
by: Aly Hassab El Naby (7.5 out of 10)
Norway's eclectic metalheads In Vain are back with a third full-length, under the name of _Ænigma_, that faces the challenge of matching the whirlwind caused by its predecessor, 2010's _Mantra_. _Ænigma_ retains some of the characteristics that made _Mantra_ such an enjoyable album for me. It demands multiple listens to unveil its dispersed moments of creativity, and that is something I've always admired about In Vain. There are some parallels that can be drawn to _Mantra_, especially in the quality of production. A band that puts that much variety into its sound would require a very meticulous production job. Seeing that they've done that before on _Mantra_, I'm not really surprised they did it again on _Ænigma_. The challenge here was to put out another compendium of composite metal that can keep one's attention in check without being overly saturated with disjointed ideas.

Seven minute opener "Against the Grain" left me with some mixed feelings at first, because it had initially sounded like a weak attempt at uniting In Vain's various influences. However, the catchy trills and dexterous drumming started sinking in a few listens later and my worries evaporated. On "Image of Time", the trilled melody combines with some high pitch screaming to elevate the track beyond the chugs and growls. "Southern Shores" dispels a rather somber and dark mood over its two minute duration, which is then expanded on "Hymne til Havet", in Norwegian mind you. It's an example of In Vain's remarkable skill at mixing together various metal influences that aren't normally found together. "Time of Yore" is another perfect example of virtuosity: brutal and vicious at first, it then morphs into a black metal assault with screams and more trills, and then puts forth a guitar solo with a very obvious heavy metal tone and drumming.

Acoustic passages always seem to come naturally, even if a little predictably, like the one on "Culmination of the Enigma", which is cleverly placed before the intense couple of minutes in the end. However, the one on "Floating on the Murmuring Tide" fares a lot better because of the inclusion of a very smooth saxophone segment that bleeds into the distorted section. In addition to all these ideas, individual skills also get some time in the limelight. Take for example the guitar solos on "Hymne til Havet" and "Floating on the Murmuring Tide", or the commanding vocal performance on "To the Core".

I can imagine why some people would attack In Vain for a perceived lack of identity because of how much they shift from one thing to another, but I would beg to differ. I find it refreshing to get a well selected segment from various corners of the metal world that are put together with such tact. _Ænigma_ in particular may not be as captivating as its older brother _Mantra_, but it's definitely an enjoyable listen that pulls its own weight. So far, I can't say that I'll be going back to it as frequently as I did with _Mantra_, but only time can test that.


(article published 28/4/2013)

7/28/2010 A El Naby 8 In Vain - Mantra
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