It has been 13 years but Austria’s Melodic Death Metal group In Slumber is finally back with a new album. After some tumultuous lineup changes since their last album in 2013, the group has now become a duo with Wolfgang Rothbauer still handling vocal, guitar, and bass duties alongside Flo Musil on drums (who has done work with such bands as Schammasch). While In Slumber aren’t the most renown band out there, they have quite an underground following similar to the likes of Darkane and Wintersun who also recently took forever to get an album out, so fans should be pretty excited for this. New listeners will find the music a mix of Belphegor meets ‘Gallery’ era Dark Tranquility meets ‘Whoracle’ In Flames. It is a strong mix of aggressive Blackened Death Metal with lots of melodic touches. ‘While We Sleep’ starts out aggressively heavy but softens up a little over time. With only 2 members in the band, yes the sound is a little stripped down; the drums are loud but simple but right in the front along the guitars and vocals. The bass is a little pushed back, but everything is still pretty audible. Vocals consist of a throaty roar or snarl, but compared to the last album they seem to have a bit more ferocity to them.
One doesn’t really get the ‘melo death’ influences in until ‘Paraasomnia’. While the first two tracks are pretty heavy and sound like standard Belphegor style chugging Blackened Death, here we get a much more catchy, melodic opening and even some softer guitar sections that aren’t really heard before. Then we get a shift more back to the Belphegor inspired style with ‘Sleep Paralysis’ regarding the riffs and drum style with some melody injected. ‘Manacle of Dogma’ is another strong Melo Death track with the Dark Tranquility touch; the guitar solo is excellent, dark, and something with depth to hear rather than just a blistering solo that populates a lot of the album earlier. In Slumber have caught flak in the past for being too ‘predictable’ with some of their Melo Death moments – patterning too much after In Flames. Here maybe it is a little different, but still predictable, because they tend to make a track as heavy as possible at first and then for ‘melodic sake,’ add in a breakdown that doesn’t quite seem like it belongs there or interlude. ‘Subconscious Scars’ is a good example of this from the melodic beginning, then heavier sections, then a slow, foreboding, somewhat melodic section, and then exploding again; very Belphegor inspired and not the most original.
Ultimately, there is still more good than bad on this album. In Slumber’s core sound is still there thanks to Rothbauer still with the group, and his handling of the bass and guitar but the sound just sounds heavier overall and less Gothenburg inspired. The vocals have more Black Metal influence to them and as a result In Slumber feels a little bit new for once, so nay sayers might appreciate them more. While a bit of the melo death influences are lost, one can appreciate this heavier direction and will find that sometimes 2 heads are better than five. While we have yet to see if In Slumber will remain a 2 piece and become the ‘Rothbauer’ project, it will be interesting to see how In Slumber does from this point out with their new outlook.