Around 2000, when their fifth full length (“Clayman”) was released, the highly influential Gothenburg melodic death masters known as In Flames did something daring: they experimented with their sound. Keyboards and clean vocals were introduced to the mix, thus making the band’s music more melodic and also more radio friendly. Plus, subsequent albums (like 2004’s “Soundtrack to Your Escape”) sounded downright simplified and commercialized to some fans. While this new sound attracted some newcomers, most In Flames diehards yearned for a return to form. Well, the band obviously heard those cries, because their new album, “Come Clarity,” is easily their best and heaviest album of the past several years. The aggressive riffs, raging vocals, pounding rhythms, and a few of the guitar solos (i.e. in “Leeches”) return, as do the Maiden-esque guitar licks and catchy songs.
The album begins “Take This Life,” which is bursting at the seems with fast drumming and fiery riffs. “Scream” is an appropriately named track, because frontman Anders Friden screams in a very angry tone throughout, while the guitarists (Bjorn Gelotte and Jesper Stromblad) provide suitable back-up propulsion. The walloping “Pacing Death’s Trail,” “Crawl Through Knives,” the scorching “Versus Terminus,” and the pounding “Vanishing Light” are a few other brutal tracks.
But, even though “Come Clarity” is a return to form for In Flames, they haven’t completely abandoned their new musical touches (much of this album balances heavy stuff with delicate melody.) Some of the keyboards and clean singing are still in tact, here, and tracks like “Reflect the Storm” even have dreary, sing-along choruses. Plus, songs like “Dead End” (which features Lacuna Coil-esque female vocals) and the title track (which begins with acoustic picking, but gradually becomes heavier) have heavy rhythms, but the clean singing makes them have a melodic and somewhat pretty edge. Lastly, the album closer, “Your Bedtime Story Is Scaring Everyone,” is very ambient; part of it is occupied by spacey, cool piano playing and distant sound effects.
This record still doesn’t top my personal favorite In Flames record, “Jester Race,” but “Come Clarity” is still a very good album. It should please both old and new fans (so if you like this band, get this album!), and it’s an early candidate for album of the year.