In the interest of objectivity, one may understand the appeal of examining the output of a band without any regional prejudices or scene characteristics. Collectively lumping all Swedish death metal bands together is clearly unreasonable considering the ample variety they provide and therefore an assessment devoid of generalization seems like the ideal one. On the other hand, a sensible assimilation of what leads a certain band’s identity to reach full fruition and find its own sound is also necessary. In Mourning, a five-piece from the small town of Vansbro in central Sweden, is a band that is often referred to in reference to other bands even though they have carved out their own niche sound a couple of albums into their career.
In Mourning’s sound is thick and dense due to their clever use of three guitars, and it features long instrumental segments that pair quite cleverly with front man Tobias Netzell’s deep and vicious growls. These elements may have been fueling the enduring comparisons to progressive death metal pioneers Opeth, which were indeed well founded, especially when Opeth’s output was based on a death metal framework. However, these two bands evolved in fundamentally different ways and In Mourning have firmly established themselves as a formidable force with its own character. And so, four years after their sublime 2012 effort The Weight of Oceans, Sweden’s purported heirs to the progressive death metal throne are back with their fourth full-length Afterglow.
In Mourning have been productive using the largely popular two-year album cycle. However, the relatively lengthy period behind the birth of this album could be partially attributed to a significant line-up change. The band’s original drummer Christian Netzell is no longer on the drum throne and was replaced by former Katatonia drummer Daniel Liljekvist. Upon close examination of his performance, Daniel’s drumming with In Mourning sounds very different from what he did with Katatonia. This is definitely due to the vastly different natures of both bands but it also proves how dexterous and multi-faceted a drummer he can be. The remaining four members remained intact which has fortified the band’s collective writing approach and made the painstaking refinement of their music all the better for it.
As one might expect, Afterglow isn’t the kind of album that reveals itself at once. This fifty four minute effort is rife with moments of brilliance that cover both exceptional individual skill and stellar group harmony, but above all, it maintains an unwavering grip on the listener’s attention. “The Grinning Mist” for example is a beast of a track that comfortably crosses the nine minute mark while boasting segments in 7/4 and 11/8 in homage to the gods of prog. It also features a finely textured melodic chord arrangement that elevates the track with class; a trick that was executed to perfection on “Ashen Crown” where it created a counterpoint to the dark brooding melody on top of the main riff.
The importance of mood is also not neglected on this record. The ebb and flow of “The Lighthouse Keeper” is a perfect example of that, so is the sheer heaviness of “The Call to Orion” which to some extent hearkens back to “Pale Eye Revelation” from the band’s sophomore record Monolith. The title track, which happens to be the shortest one on the album, ends things on the highest of notes. Tobias sounds massive on this one yet the monstrous doom-tinged riffing behind him sound even bigger. Then, after the exhausting emotional journey, things end of a very peaceful, yet sorrowful, note; typical In Mourning ending.
It takes a great deal of musicianship to put together a carefully balanced album like Afterglow that provides such depth and complexity while maintaining a high level of intensity throughout. In Mourning have definitely set very high standards for themselves and they seem intent on meeting them. It is an attitude that personifies the most Swedish of values; that which prioritizes quality over anything else. They have made it very exciting for their fans to follow them and, given their steady evolution since their inception, it will be even more exciting to hear how they push this sound of theirs further ahead when it’s time for the next album; hopefully before four years this time.
In Mourning’s Afterglow gets…