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Sunday, April 13, 2008

SHROUDED DIVINE Review


SHROUDED DIVINE
In Mourning
Aftermath Music

Release date: 2 Jan 2008

It’s incredibly hard to imagine that Shrouded Divine is In Mourning’s debut full-length. Why? Because they simply have such a refined sound. Sure, prior to this release, they did have the experience of five demos, but for this band from Sweden to come up with something so enticing on their first LP is pretty damn amazing.

So what genre do In Mourning fit in? Progressive? Death metal? I’d say, they’re a mix of both. They aren’t exactly a regular progressive band such as say, Between The Buried And Me or Opeth (who they seem to resemble vocals-wise), and neither are they a flat out death metal band. For one thing, their songs don’t span more than ten minutes long, and the guitar riffs and drumming patterns do not always take influence from death metal. Also, they don’t take influence from jazz and folk as Opeth do.

Vocalist Tobias Netzell is a real highlight on Shrouded Divine. Yes, his vocals do have a certain similarity to that of Opeth’s main man, Mikael Akerfeldt. One slight setback, though is that Tobias doesn’t quite utilise his resources fully. In this case, I am referring his clean vocals. He does so on tracks such as By Others Considered (which boasts a pretty amazing interlude, mainly caused by the great effect of the clean vocals and acoustic guitar with everything else flowing smoothly in between) and The Shrouded Divine, and it is well clear that he has the ability, so why not use it more? On The Black Lodge, which is my personal favourite track, Tobias also features his clean vocal style, although he could have technically touched up on the way it came through for those few moments.

From a guitar point of view, the interesting fact to consider is that In Mourning have three guitarists. What really struck me as inventive is during the verse of the track Amnesia, the guitar sounds pretty much like a keyboard, creating a really airy atmosphere as the chugging rhythm is played as the base. Solos don’t appear as much as expected, but when they happen to appear seemingly out of nowhere at times, they really grip you with what I would call, stylistic emotion. They may not be aiming to display brilliant technique or anything, but in my opinion, it’s the emotion in depth, not simply emotion which can be heard immediately on the surface, that counts. The bass also makes its presence pretty clear, such as on the intro of The Art of a Mourning Kind and during that atmospheric interlude on By Others Considered, at least clearer than a typical metal band, which would usually have the bass playing in synch with the rhythm guitar. Drum-wise, In Mourning don’t do anything too showy, just really precise and perfectly fitting along with the rest of the sound. No blast beats, not too much double bass, just lots of great team play within the band. I particularly enjoyed the drumming pattern during one of the breakdowns on The Shrouded Divine, layered with a great progressive guitar melody and splendid transition of vocal style.

So what else makes these guys so engaging on Shrouded Divine? Perhaps the fact that they have a mix of long and short songs (the longest being just past eight minutes and the shortest only three and a half). As a result, the listener barely gets bored throughout.

And even the longest track, The Black Lodge doesn’t even feel like eight minutes. I would have to say the intro on this one has yet again, so much emotion in depth. Not long after though, the song reverts back to pretty much the main feel of the album during the verse. However, the chorus again displays great emotion, with the lead guitar playing in a very subtle manner but at the same time so powerfully in its own way. Tobias’ transition from death growls to screams is really excellent too. Before you know it, the song moves into a really awesome breakdown, which features interesting guitar sounds (that strangely enough gives the song a somewhat Middle Eastern feel, something which I probably exaggerate a bit on). Just don’t get me started on the superbly crafted, yet not draggy bridge which I can’t seem to get enough of. The rest of this awesome song, is well, history.

Shrouded Divine is the type of album which sounds great the first time, but also needs more than just one listen, to pick up the minor details which count for so much, such as the guitar effects during the verse of The Shrouded Divine and during the bridge of In The Failing Hour and the interesting element of repeating the opening riff of The Black Lodge on the final track Past October Skies (The Black Lodge Revisited), which probably explains the song title. The way In Mourning indirectly tease the listener with that slightly muffled riff momentarily appearing once again really had my attention. The closing stages of the final song exhibit the triple guitar play really well, but sadly, it ends all too abruptly, leaving the listener wanting more.

Nevertheless, Shrouded Divine doesn’t fail to disappoint one bit. Then again, were In Mourning ever under pressure to perform to their maximum on this record? I doubt it. After this though, once more people begin to hear of them more, perhaps. For now, just sit back and enjoy great prog –

No, great death metal –

Nah. Great music.

Rating: 4.5/5

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