I really loved the 2013 album Ænigma from Norwegian prog death metallers In Vain, so I was super excited to see they had released a new album (and also stunned to realize it had been so long since the last one). Well, while the new album, Currents, is good enough, some parts feel like a rehash of Ænigma. Initially, the parts of Currents that appealed to me most were those with the emotive, almost hymnal clean vocals and melodic riffs that made “Hymne Till Havet” (from Ænigma) and “On the Banks of Mississippi” (from their previous album Mantra) so moving, but they also felt like repeats of previous songs. “En Forgangen Tid (Times of Yore Pt. II)” literally uses some of the same riffs from Ænigma – which makes sense, since it’s a continuation of that song, but it intensifies the sense of déjà vu (or déjà écouté, rather). “Standing on the Ground of Mammoths” seems to use a variation on the same riff, too.
When I paid closer attention, though, I began to notice some distinctive moments. Matt Heafy (of Trivium) lending his voice to “Soul Adventurer” is a cool touch that fits well with the band’s emotive style and gives that song a slightly different feel. “Origin” also features some unique vocals and guitars, starting with a proggy melody that gets absorbed into atmospheric tremolo guitars, and with vocals that hit some high notes, both screamed and clean. Every now and then the band will launch into a blistering black metal frenzy, for instance after the initial buildup of the aptly named “As the Black Horde Storms.” And the last song, “Standing on the Ground of Mammoths,” is an epic that departs (in the middle of the song) from the band’s common denominator mournful/harsh style into a grandiose mix of black metal underpinnings with soaring power metal guitars and clean and screamed vocals.
Still, this album didn’t grab me the same way as Ænigma – comparing the two, Currents just doesn’t seem to have the same intensity, whether it’s in the emotional melodic parts, or the furious and harsh parts (or the combination of the two). It’s like the ingredients are all there but it wasn’t stirred with the same magic spoon, or something. Maybe that says more about what a hard album Ænigma is to follow than about Currents itself, though.