In a sense, Mourning Sign has already achieved more than most bands ever do. After all, in the wake of 24 years in the business, this Swedish ‘gloomy progressive Death Metal band’ must be doing something right to have carried on so long, right?
Begging the question aside, Contra Mundum (Orchestrated Misery Recordings) is a Gothic/Death album of the kind Crematory and Paradise Lost used to push out in the early nineties. Time has, of course, moved on and, so, the album sounds like a relic from another age. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself, but it does… date you to hear it for the first time. Yes, policemen are getting younger these days. Isn’t it getting nippy? (Reaches for shopping trolley and People’s Friend).
That’s not to say it’s just a bloodless trudge through nostalgia. In fact, it is a polished and confidently performed package helped along by a nice, clear production. There are even one or two standout moments, like the crushing but too brief outro to track 7, ‘Who Will Crown The King?’ This is certainly a band that knows how to arrange and play their music with a passion and vigour. The music thunders like it’s still 1995, and there is never the sense that the band is just phoning it in.
And yet, the album mostly lacks much that really stands out. As said, this is hardly groundbreaking stuff, and in order to pull it off, you need to add a real vital spark to it. Effort alone is not enough, and so Contra Mundum ends up with a faintly formulaic quality about it. This is a shame; on the rare occasions the album tries something new, like the clean vocal chorus on ‘Sleep’, it threatens to get interesting… but then falls back into generic, well-trodden paths once more.
In summary, this is an album that’s not at all bad, but it’s hardly essential either.
6 / 10