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When Nothing Remains : In Memoriam

When Nothing Remains step up to a new level of lush and symphonic sophistication.

Following on from 'As All Torn Asunder' (2012) and 'Thy Dark Serenity' (2013), third album 'In Memoriam' from Sweden's When Nothing Remains gives no reason to doubt that it is a continuation of the same story. Once again released by Solitude Productions, wrapped in Zoltan Horvath's very-recognisable artwork, the cover completes a triptych of Victoriana-styled pieces: the ghosts of the original couple now watch calmly over a younger descendent (a granddaughter, perhaps, if they are fully chronological in order), while lupine beasts circle their graves and the Apocalyptic Horseman wait in the background.

In tandem with that, Daniela Svennson returns to flesh out lyrics on one song, while Tobias Leffler seamlessly takes up the main lyrical duties, collecting together another loosely-coupled set of narratives on wintry death, loss and sorrow. Behind the scenes, and one of the reasons it's been a while in arriving, the band has had a bit of a reshuffle - taking on a new drummer and rhythm guitarist Tobias, while Jan Sallander moves from rhythm to bass - but that hasn't changed the essential nature of the project: it remains a vehicle for the lush, symphonic compositions and arrangements of the band's founder members, Sallander and Peter Laustsen.

When it comes to Swedish Gothic/Doom, there's one obvious name which casts a very long shadow, and, indeed, Draconian's Johan Ericsson was a long-standing guest clean vocalist, while Jerry Torstensson was the drummer on 'Thy Dark Serenity'. Even so, When Nothing Remains have always stood out from under that shadow, establishing an identity that draws from the same '90s Gothic/Death/Doom sources but merges it with significant symphonic Gothic Metal elements - at heart, perhaps more like that other Swedish Gothic/Doom band: The Equinox Ov The Gods. 'In Memoriam' continues the arc away from those original influences, though, with a further evolution of their trademark male/male 'Beauty and the Beast' vocal duets and wide range of synthesised orchestral instruments into ever-more sophisticated realms.

It is, in fact, a luscious, crisply-produced tug on every heartstring going - melodic tracks typical of the preceding albums, such as 'Drowning In Sorrows' and 'Eternal Slumber', rubbing shoulders with the MDB violin and riffs of 'Ghost Story', through 'The Soil In My Hand's Within Temptation-esque female-vocalled slow dance, to the weepy Gaelic folk theme of closer 'The Spirits In The Woods', which could easily have graced a Clannad album. Musically, it never fails to convince with its stately and majestic backbone of guitars and percussion underwriting some tremendous keyboard lines and synth/programming work: the depth and spread of that in places as full-sounding as a Therion-style band-and-orchestra extravaganza. And, once past the rather dubious spoken doggerel introducing the album, the interplay between clean and harsh vocals is perfectly balanced, declaiming passion and pain in equal measures. Every note and nuance, as might be expected, is rendered with a delicious clarity: the mix and mastering commendably spot-on for the material.

You could say that it essentially touches base with more or less every emotive Gothic oeuvre imaginable, to the point of haunting familiarity and aching nostalgia. But that's the thing with music in romantic Gothic genres: its themes and boundaries are so well-established as to be cliché; what matters is not really that it embraces them, but how effectively it renders them. By that yardstick, 'In Memoriam''s polished portrayal of the beautiful sorrow of fleeting, tragic existence is a near-flawless one. On the Doom side of the equation, it's a little more ambiguous, though. The pace is certainly slow, often funereal, and the excellent growls and (limited) guitar leads are both classic Doom elements, but the expansively melodic melancholy pervading the album gives it an overall accessibility and spaciousness rather than any great sense of darkness and despair. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does skew the likely audience somewhat. As my colleague Mark observed of 'Thy Dark Serenity': "To me, this is a Doom album suited more for listeners outside the genre and curious, than those already living within it". If anything, I'd see 'In Memoriam' as a step further in that "gateway" direction, at least as likely to reach out to fans of Epica or Lacrimosa, and beyond, as to those of Lycanthia or Draconian.

Regardless, if you fall anywhere on that spectrum, you should find it no problem at all to spend an hour drifting with the languid tides of 'In Memoriam', knowing there are no hidden depths or dangers to drag you down. Much as the cover depicts, it's a serene refuge in well-worn and comforting griefs, while any greater perils are held at bay, left to prowl outside. Don't be surprised, either, if you find snatches of it echoing in your thoughts afterwards - some of the hooklines are fearsomely catchy. Even if you prefer your misery delivered in harder-edged packages, it would be hard to refute the quality and completeness When Nothing Remains have made their own: sure, it's comparatively light by Doom standards, but without contrast, there is no darkness, either - right?

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. Reunited In The Grave
2. Drowning In Sorrows
3. In Memoriam
4. Ghost Story
5. The Soil In My Hand
6. A Lake Of Frozen Tears
7. Eternal Slumber
8. While She Sleeps
9. The Spirits In The Woods

Duration : Approx. 62 minutes

Visit the When Nothing Remains bandpage.

Reviewed on 2016-02-22 by Mike Liassides
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