Two tracks into Currents and it’s already clear that In Vain have matched their previous album, and prior strongest effort, 2013’s Ænigma. Halfway through the following song, it becomes apparent that Currents could be even greater. Channelling melodeath stalwarts Dark Tranquillity, older [1] In Flames and more purely progressive metal bands such as Barren Earth, Norway’s In Vain have spent the last five years crafting their progressive extreme metal to deliver seven tracks of complementary styles; testing the boundaries of their genre with flashes of folk and black metal to name but two styles touched upon. That members Johnar Håland, Andreas Frigstad and Sindre Nedland (guitar, lead vocals and keys respectively) have been with the band since its inception 15 years ago delivers coherence and flow both across the album’s length and within each song. This songwriting quality, combined with the musicianship one would expect from a progressive band, forms the backbone of In Vain’s sound.

From the first unsettling and almost thrash-esque notes of “Seekers of the Truth”, within one track the listener is swiftly taken on a journey which they will follow across the duration of Currents through its multiple changes of style and tone. The album is inspired by the flow in currents of people, tradition and cultures, highlighting “movements that distort old patterns, (to) create tensions as well as new opportunities” [2] as a key feature, and one which can be identified multiple times across its length. By the end of fitting closer “Standing on the Ground of Mammoths”, the most instrumentally impressive track, the listener is left feeling they have concluded an experience rather than merely having heard an album.

The only criticism of Currents would be that in places it is not the most accessible melodeath – it’s challenging in places with its changes in time signature, tempo and even language (in “En Forgangen Tid”) across the album and within individual tracks. Conversely, this rewards the more seasoned listener with a record that reveals more facets and qualities upon multiple listens – unpicking the perfectly produced clean vocal lines when they are the only sound present in “Blood We Shed”, to noticing another lead guitar line layered within the mix of the ominous and driving “As the Black Horde Storms”.

Currents is a superb example of modern metal, and across the whole album In Vain build upon their progressive extreme metal base by drawing from the characteristics of a broad range of genres, and the songs are performed with all of the pomp and confidence of a progressive rock band in the 1970s. There is plenty of heaviness to be found throughout the album as is to be expected, yet there is also an abundance of melody, craft and ceremony. We are not yet at the end of January, and already have an early contender for my album of the year.

Currents Track Listing:

01. Seekers Of The Truth
02. Soul Adventurer
03. Blood We Shed
04. En Forgangen Tid (Times of Yore Pt II)
05. Origin
06. As The Black Horde Storms
07. Standing On The Ground Of Mammoths

Run Time: 42 minutes
Release Date: January 26, 2018

Check out the video for the Matt Heafy (Trivium) assisted “Soul Adventurer”, which presents the most melodic and catchy riffs and vocal lines on the album.

[1] Better
[2] From In Vain press release


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