In Flames-The Jester Race (Nuclear Blast) 1996
Man, In Flames play such awesome and inspired music but the vocals...well, they just seemed to ruin it for me in the first few listens. However, the music was so compelling, I had to listen to it again and again. Over time the death metal vocals became as much an instrument as the guitars and drums and I began to like it more and more. I'm still not sure that In Flames wouldn't be just that much better with a more varied vocal performance, but I can say that this is one of those discs that is hard to remove from the cd player. In Flames founder Jesper Strömblad who is the band's guitarist and main songwriter has also written with, and for, Hammerfall. The cover art for this album was created by Andreas Marschall, known for his work with Blind Guardian, Running Wild, etc. Oscar Dronjak, of Hammerfall also makes a vocal-appearance on the track "Dead Eternity".
In Flames - Clayman (Nuclear Blast) 2000
1. "Bullet Ride" (4:42)
This is one of those controversial albums that people either love or hate. Many say this was the turning point for the band. I even read on one web site where the review described this album as "these guys are indeed a pop rock band with death vocals". Ha ha! Now that is just ridiculous and funny, but very untrue. I suppose five albums into their career these fans expected them to sound exactly like they did on their debut. The band is here attempting to recreate their sound, while not totally abandoning their roots, and with this in mind, I think they were not only successful, but created a very good, melodic death metal album. I actually prefer the mixture of vocals styles to the more ridgid, monotonous death metal vocals. Here Anders Fridén proves himself far more diverse than the average death vocalist, using some clean vocals, as well as some vocals that reminded me a bit of Celtic Frost. Musically, this is one wild ride as well. There are plenty of fast, chaotic riffs, but the band also adds in some diversity by experimenting with tempos and less brutal riffs. "Only for the Weak" for instance, sports a much slower tempo that one would expect from In Flames, but even this song is still heavier than your average heavy metal band. "Pinball Map" was probably the standout cut for me. It's one of those songs that just hits you between the eyes and doesn't let up. Likewise "Swim" is another standout cut. I think the problem people have is that they can't deal with having melody in their death metal. That is what In Flames excells at. They are heavy, they are brutal, but they also incorporate melody and diversity. To be quite frank, I have grown tired of the same old death metal, so for this I can appreciate them.
In Flames - Reroute To Remain (Nuclear Blast) 2002
Well, I must confess, I put off writing a review for this one for a loooong time because, frankly, after listening the first time there just wasn't much I wanted to come back to. Of course, for reviewing purposes and because I really wanted to find something to like about this CD, I revisited it several times before concluding that I just don't care that much it. "Reroute to Remain" starts off strong with the pummelling title track but quickly goes downhill after that. While I have never been a big In Flames fan to begin with, I really enjoyed "The Jester Race" and found the mixture of brutal songwriting, death vocals and melodic guitars intriguing. One this CD, however, the band has chose to allow their vocalist to hold up much of the melody using a clean style of vocals that I just cannot seem to appreciate. Subsequent listens and time may change that opinion, but as for now I they just seem distracting. (I have been known to change my opinion on certain discs over time.) I found the many metalcore influences and modern metal riffs to be surprising as well, considering how In Flames are credited with being one of the founders of the Gothenburg sound. Why would the leaders of a revered style of metal want to follow a trend that the majority of their fans despise? I suppose the band was trying to reinvent themselves, but sometime the old saying is true, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
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