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What seems to be an oriental version of The Great Old One graces the cover of this album, a work of the mighty Necrolord, though not one of my favorites from him. Yet I do feel this image really fits the album, not because of its maritime premise, but because it reinforces my belief that here lies a great force of potential that could be unleashed to devastating effect… yet it simply stays there, static, contemplating its own possibilities. This is the second album I experience from In Mourning, the first one being their sophomore Monolith, from two years ago. I must confess I was not impressed by their “Opethy” brand of progressive death/doom, founding it generally commonplace, most of its compositions hiding minor whirlwinds of grandeur amongst vast oceans of dreariness. For their third album, attractively titled The Weight of Oceans, things haven’t changed much, though I feel it is marginally more consistent and interesting than its predecessor.
One of the main problems I find here is that the riffs, which aren’t particularly exciting, creative or remarkable, are repeated ad nauseam throughout many sections of the album. Therefore most songs feel really stretched out, to quote Bilbo Baggins, “like butter scraped over too much bread”. The placid, melancholic melodies on top of the blunt rhythmic riffage are better, but even those feel a bit overused. And so we face another flaw here: songs are too damn long! As a guy who enjoys a great deal of what the progressive rock and metal realms have to offer, I have no problem in enjoying 20-minute suites and never-ending tracks… as long as they deliver the goods for their whole duration. Most tunes here have entire segments they could do without, and others that could be trimmed a lot. It’s a feature displayed by most bands within this style, but that’s no excuse for not counting it as a downside. Check out some Burzum for examples of long compositions with little variation and a reduced array of riffs that end up being brilliant and memorable. And while there’s plenty of variation here, covering a wide range of emotional soundscapes, the results are not that enticing.
It’s a shame really, because production is top-notch, clear and bodacious, and the guys clearly have talent and they’ve put a lot of effort into the compositions, even though I feel they’re overlong. Ironically, the track in which I think they almost nailed it is nine-minute opener “Colossus”, the longest of the bunch. It slowly builds up and stirs, like the leviathan on the cover uncurling from its millennial slumber. It’s fairly fulfilling, packing contemplative melodies and solid riffing. In particular, I find the chorus to be quite pleasing and catchy, probably the highlight of the album. But then again, it’s far from perfect, suffering the same ill than its shorter peers, dragging a bit in some parts. “A Vow to Conquer the Ocean” starts interestingly, with a faster and meatier complexion, but it sadly ceases to flex its muscles and becomes increasingly dull ‘til it reaches total failure with that quasi-metalcore chugging around the five-minute mark. It regains strength at the end, but damage’s already been made. “From a Tidal Sleep” is also a multi-section track, packing varied changes in tempo and atmosphere, yet that again translates into an uneven quality.
Another highlight is the mournful ballad “Celestial Tear”. It’s a more cohesive piece than the others and a break of sorts in the album; it certainly wouldn’t be out of place in a Steven Wilson project (Porcupine Tree, Storm Corrosion or whatnot). It’s the less metallic song here but definitely one of top ones. After that, the album carries on in the same irregular fashion. “Convergence” could be an Amon Amarth/Insomnium hybrid, being fast, muscular and full at first, then delving into sad organ-like waves of melody and harmonized guitars, and going back and forth between both styles several times with mixed results. Then “Sirens”, a melancholic if disposable piano interlude, precedes the last winner here, “Isle of Solace”. Just under five minutes long, it’s sweet, dynamic and more to the point, a structure that could have been applied to the rest of the tunes to great avail, I think. It reminds me of the latest Dark Tranquility material (when it’s good). I find the remaining of the album to be rather uneventful, making me wanna listen to something else.
If you are a fan of Opeth and don’t mind listening similar bands which offer not much apart from that, then this might be for you. However I would recommend, to go no further, the latest Barren Earth album, also from this year. It’s a fairly similar progressive death/doom style, perhaps more psychedelic and seventies-flavored, but overall better. And if you are more into the melodeath aesthetics of this album then you MUST check out the latest from Austrialian masters Be’lakor. That’s a helluva lecture on how to successfully compose long, multi-part, ambitious melodeath and an album you should not let past your radar. I might gave it a rave review sometime...