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An Ocean Too Colossal - 75%

eyes_of_apocalypse, September 24th, 2012

In Mourning burst on the scene in 2008 with their acclaimed debut Shrouded Divine. Arriving just in the wake of what is accepted to be Opeth's descent into mediocrity, In Mourning has been praised as the new Opeth.

I have to ask: what the hell? Opeth play a very distinctive style that is not easily replicated without being a complete clone band. Furthermore, In Mourning is not nearly as technical or diverse as Opeth is. The main progressive quality of this band is their song flow, which does remind of Opeth somewhat. The quality of the music, and riffs in particular, reminds much more of various melodic death metal bands than Opeth, honestly. Furthermore, In Mourning is more aggressive than Opeth typically is, and they don't delve into acoustic progressive rock sections the way Opeth does (rather, their slow sections bring to mind something akin to Swallow the Sun instead). Though they do delve into very progressive rhythms at times, I believe Shrouded Divine is the only album that can rightfully be compared to Opeth. And even then... not really. However, between the song flow and occasionally progressive rhythms, I can definitely see an Opeth comparison. I would presume Opeth to be an influence for this band, certainly.

I view In Mourning to essentially be a unification of Insomnium's atmosphere and melodies, Amon Amarth's anger, and Opeth's progressiveness - where each of these elements is dumbed down for the sake of coalescing seamlessly with the others. This has not changed, but I find the atmosphere of past albums has been emphasized in The Weight of Oceans. This makes the entire album feel more moody, rather than angry like their past outputs. This is by no means a negative thing; rather, I find it fits in well and gives the album an appeal that their past two releases didn't quite have for me. Opener "Colossus" represents this perfectly, showcasing some beautiful melodic structures and multiple moody solos. As does "Celestial Tear," a ballad of sorts that... somewhat reminds of an Opeth ballad, to be honest. Though it's a little more groovy than Opeth ballads usually are.

The album's most glaring flaw is the length to each track. There's 9 tracks - 1 of them being a short interlude at less than 2 minutes long - and the album still exceeds the hour mark. While this is progressive melodic death metal, this is still melodic death metal. They seem to forget that melodeath is usually rather hooky, and they abandon the catchiness of melodeath for the sake of being long and dramatic at times. To put it simply: almost every song on the album overstays its welcome. I am fine with long songs and quite adore Opeth, but In Mourning is not technical or varied enough to pull it off. Instead, the songs are stretched thin through material that almost falls into doom metal territory, feeling slow and sludgey rather than technical. "Convergence" is the biggest offender; just over 8 and a half minutes, the song is extended through unnecessarily long slow parts and could've used being cut down by 2 minutes. Still, the only song past the 5 minute mark that is not overwhelming is, again, "Colossus" (ironically the longest track). Its varied enough to remain interesting, but it's really the moodiness that is absorbing enough I'm unaware of how long the track truly is while listening to it.

The back end of the album is where In Mourning's real progressive influence comes out. Just after the interlude "Sirens," the album kicks off with "Isle of Solace" which features chunky, proggy riffs I actually wouldn't be surprised to hear out of Opeth's more progressive death efforts. That effort flows well into "The Drowning Sun," which features more progressive rhythms, this time joined by melodeathy leads recalling Insomnium once again. "The Drowning Sun" is suceeded by "Voyage of a Wavering Mind" - this entire track goes back to slow and sludgey, ending the progressiveness of the prior two songs with an interesting doom vibe... unfortunately leaving me bored. This one doesn't even exceed 6 minutes, yet I feel its overall appeal would've been greatly enhanced had it been edited down.

What this all comes down to is that In Mourning almost suffers from an identity crisis. They attempt Opeth style song flow, turn Opeth's acoustics into death/doom instead, then unite it all with some Insomnium atmosphere and Dark Tranquillity or, occasionally, Amon Amarth (the anger of past albums has taken more absence with this album) style riffs. The first half of the album builds up on the atmospheric melodeath, while the second half plays a more aggressive progdeath. The identity crisis is very subtle due to how these elements are seamlessly merged, but the end result is a sound that combines several closely related elements without playing on the strengths of any of them to the extent they could. That said, I have no desire to over-criticize this. This is still a solid album that has many strengths of its own: the song flow keeps it from being overly predictable or boring most of the time, and the album is full of really good melodic structures. This is all merged together with a strong "oceanic" theme - lyrically, yes, but musically as well. Tracks like "From a Tidal Sweep" contain melodies that feel like a reckless sea. The album also flows like an ocean tide, from the slow opening groove of "Colossus" to the aggressive peak of "Convergence" to a return to the sludge with "Voyage of a Wavering Mind," the album has a cohesive, sweeping flow. It's a powerful ocean, I will admit; it's just a little too vast.