In Vain – Solemn


In Vain return with another impressive collection of progressive death/black metal tracks picking up where the previous album Currents left off in 2018, making the long wait worthwhile.

Given their Kristiansand, Norway home, and base in extreme metal, one immediately expects a lot from In Vain, a band that has been around since 2003.  The band’s first album, The Latter Rain, was released in 2007 and featured nearly 20 guest musicians, showcasing their strength in progressive metal that veered heavily toward that “extreme” label.  While the second album from the band, Mantra, did not garner the same response as The Latter Rain, subsequent albums Ænigma  and Currents  where the band brought in Jens Borgen (Opeth, Soilwork, Borknagar) to handle production and mixing duties, were well received by critics and fans alike with Currents getting some perfect scores from various metal publications and making my Top 10 list for 2018 even though I’m not a big fan of the genre. For Solemn, once again the band has enlisted Jens Borgen for production duties and once again that choice is perfect.

Much like my review of Currents, time since I reviewed Currents, I honestly had forgotten a bit what In Vain sounded like and my general memory was that they were a bit toward the doom side, but I still liked their previous album.  This time however, I instantly remembered their sound as soon as “Shadows Flap Their Black Wings” started.  A chiming guitar riff backed by a pounding rhythm section and production giving a full heavy sound immediately reminded me of the progressive death/black metal of In Vain.  This song is a perfect opener.  The growled, death metal like vocals contrast perfectly with the near black metal shrieked vocals and the somber, clean vocals.  One of the strongest elements to the song from my perspective is in the production and the use of silence allowing instruments to be heard fully and individually and the full sound brings to mind other progressive bands like Evergrey.  The breakdown section toward the end that has what could be a horn section leading into guitar solos, was an unexpected touch but works well within the song and helps carry it to the end.

“To the Gallows” starts out more like a black metal track with blast beats and the shrieked vocals before settling down into a calmer pace with clean vocals coming in which also allows the bass work from Alexander Bøe to become more apparent.  The back and forth between the black metal and the more progressive metal sections of the song work really well.  Changes in the guitar tone and between clean and distorted dominate many of the transitions in the song.  The ending of the track is a bit drawn out for my liking but it does showcase the incredible drum work by Tobias Øymo Solbakk, which is also evident throughout the rest of the album.

Tobias and Alexander help drive the opening to the “Season of the Unrest” which then moves into a similar overall theme as “Flap Their Black Wings” before the song slows dramatically and becomes what could be an atmospheric  instrumental with guitar and horns (again) before the unexpectedly exploding into a heavy riff-driven section punctuated by a guitar solo and a slow groove.  These shifts within the songs are no surprise to those who have followed In Vain, but they certainly will come as a bit of a surprise to newer listeners.

Variety in song structure and style is one of the trademarks of In Vain and can perhaps be best heard in the slower, doom progressive sound in “At the Going Down of the Sun” and the fast technical death/black metal of “Where the Winds Meet”.  Everything from the vocals to guitars to the speed of the track are very different between the two and yet neither song seem out of place on the album, which is a testament to the band and their ability to craft songs with complex elements  and arrangements and keep them coherent.  I feel at this point I also have to mention that “Where the Winds Meet” is another track where you need to listen multiple times to appreciate the work on the drums by Tobias Øymo Solbakk.

“Eternal Waves” is yet another track where Tobias gets a huge workout on the drums and the band makes good use of the silence from the instruments at various points in the song.  The slower, grinding riff in the track really stands out and works really well with the deep, growled death metal vocals carried along by the rhythm section from Tobias and Alexander.  Just when you think the track is ending, it moves into an atmospheric section that Tobias and Alexander drive along with a jazzy, near funk beat before being joined by the rest of the band and more horns and eventually strings…

In Vain have picked up where Ænigma and Currents left off and subtly refined the complexity to the point where the songs all become epic in their own right.  On Currents, I said “In Vain showcases their abilities at combining great instrumentalists with strong production and a vision for crafting complex arrangements while keeping the songs accessible” and on Solemn the band has further expanded on that.  While far from my favorite genres, this album hooked me from the first track and gets better with each listen.

Rating: 9/10

Written by John Jackson

1 Shadows Flap their Black Wings
2. To the Gallows
3. Season of Unrest
4. At the Going Down of the Sun
5. Where the Winds Meet
6. Beyond the Pale
7. Blood Makes the Grass Grow
8. Eternal Waves
9. Watch for Me on the Mountain

Band Members
Johnar Håland – Guitars and bgv
Andreas Frigstad – Main vocals 
Sindre Nedland – Vocals
Alexander Bøe – Bass
Kjetil Pedersen – Guitars
Tobias Øymo Solbakk – Drums

Release Date: April 19th. 2024

Record Label: Indie Recordings

2004: Will the Sun Ever Rise ? (Demo)
2005: Wounds (EP)
2010: Mantra
2013: Against the Grain (Single)
2013: Ænigma (review)
2018: Currents (review)
2024: Solemn

Social Media: Facebook | Bandcamp | X | Spotify | Instagram | YouTube |

Video for “Season of Unrest”

Video (Audio) for “Shadows Flap their Black Wings”

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