Well here we are. The 8th studio album from the highly acclaimed Melodic Death metal band, In Flames is out. However as most fans agree, the last two albums have been somewhat disappointing. Especially Soundtrack To Your Escape, with the lack of proper solos and Anders screaming vocals, to name a few problems. (Some have even gone so far to call them nu-metal, which is absolutely absurd, because nu-metal isn’t even real metal – it’s alternative metal with hip-hop/rap influences). So In Flames have brought a new album out, with “more guitar solos” and is “more upbeat.” But the question still remains…are they the old In Flames, or the new? To be honest they’ve sort of combined the two sounds, as Anders described this album as a `best of In Flames.’
They are some strong moments in the album but also some weak. Firstly, when I think of the older In Flames, I think of well-constructed, highly melodic songs, such as Colony, Jotun, etc. Basically everything from the Jester Race to the Clayman era. These new songs don’t really sound like that anymore. The harmonics between the guitars are not so strong, and don’t interlock in a decent melody to remind me of the `Food for the Gods’ music. On the whole the songs in the past were more epic, majestic and out of this world. Come Clarity presents a little more modernized songs. Secondly Anders voice hasn’t really improved since STYE. It’s not a proper death growl, unlike the other albums. It’s more like a constrained scream. I’m not saying death screams aren’t good, but they don’t fit with In Flames’ style. For example, Alexi Laiho has a high-pitched GROWL that goes well with Children of Bodom’s music but Anders’ SCREAM is too forced. Thirdly, some of the drumming gets out of control. Instead of the old blast beats, it’s just a pounding overlay of noise. This can be felt most prominently in “Take this life”, which also features Anders appalling screams. However a great solo slightly redeems the song.
Don’t worry though. There are plenty of good aspects in the album: I’m only fussy because I’m a huge fan of their older stuff, and people who like both new and old, tend to agree their older material is more superficial and easily surpasses RTR and STYE. “Leeches” is a monster of a track. Only 2.55 minutes long, it bursts with energy the whole way through, including the 38-second solo. In has almost an Industrial sound to it, and a very catchy beat. “Reflect the storm” has the old In Flames classic style (albeit Anders voice).
Another good thing is that Anders clean vocals have definitely improved. On STYE his voice sounded strangled, but they are much better now. “Come Clarity” is a shocker. It sounds nothing like a melodic death metal song, but a slow but heavy power metal song. There is beautiful clean vocals, with Anders singing “I want you to lead me, take me somewhere, just don’t want to live, in a dream one more day.” This could hardly be called a `melodic DEATH metal song.’ Especially with the lyrics.
“Pacing Death’s Trail” has a very catchy beat, and is exactly like the old In Flames, lyrics, music, drumming and everything. Anders voice goes pretty well with this song.
“Crawl through knives”, “Vacuum” “Versus Terminus” and “Our Infinite Struggle” all have `death growls/(screams)’ for the verses but clean singing for their chorus.
An interesting song is “Dead End” which features the female vocals of Lisa Miskovsky. It fits rather well with the music, and chorus (clean singing by Anders), and contrasts vividly with the death screams.
A song to be wary of is “Scream.” This is rubbish for In Flames’ standards. In fact a mediocre band should be ashamed of producing such nonsense. Basically as far as the music goes think: Linkin Park. A cruel comparison, but when hearing the chorus it’s exactly what it sounds like. Obviously it’s a lot heavier, but it’s just an embarrassment. The lyrics go like “I say scream, you scream. Scream, we scream but no one listens”, with Anders literally screaming the words. Gah. Avoid at all costs. The song isn’t even structured well; it’s boring and annoying.
“Your bedtime story is scaring everyone” is a slow atmospheric long song to close the album. It’s slightly pointless though. You get 3.45 minutes of scuffling noises, with a chord here and there, then Anders voice suddenly booms out and ends at 4.30 leaving some more scuffling noises.
In a nutshell: Anders clean singing voice is great; his growling is no longer a proper growl but a bark; Jesper and Bjorn play well, but they don’t harmonise enough (except for a few old-sounding songs like “Dead end”, which has the Godly harmonies); the bass is good, but the guitars cover the sound sometimes; and Daniel’s drumming is good (epecially in “reflect the storm”, but in some songs (“Take this life” and “scream”) there’s an excess of pounding instead of the well crafted blast bleats.
Now this may seem like a harsh review, but considering In Flames are my favourite band, I have very high expectations of them, and this is a review mainly to old-school fans. For a random band, this album would probably get 5 stars. To new fans of In Flames or melodic death metal, I’d advise you to get the first 5 albums first!