IN FLAMES – Siren Charms

In Flames - Siren CharmsFew metal bands has been more under debate than Sweden’s In Flames. In recent years, they have more and more left their melodic death metal and become more of “normal” metal band with clear influences from both rock and pop. Things has even gone as far as old fans calling them a pop band, but that’s just preposterous and taking things way too far. But the fact that they have changed their style a lot through the years is indisputable. I have never been a fan of any kinds of death metal myself and I do have a problem with In Flames’ earliest material. Their four first albums Lunar Strain (1994), The Jester Race (1996),  Whoracle (1997) and Colony (1999) are all too much death metal for my taste. Yes, I know that In Flames kind of death metal is the melodic kind, but that kind of music just gets on my tits. Clayman from 2000 was the first In Flames album that I liked and I became a fan with the brilliant Reroute To Remain (2002). That was, of course, because they had become more and more melodic which suits my taste in metal more and even though I have a huge (as in HUGE) problem with growl and guttural screams, I found it bearable and that was only because the melodies were so pronounced and distinct – and catchy. The only other growler I can stand is Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth. The original diehards hasn’t been merciful when it comes to the criticism of In Flames more and more melodic style, butI guess it’s understandable if you’re a death metal fantastic, but to me it seems only narrow-minded to not let a band develop musically and progress instead of stagnate and tread water. On the other hand, not many bands has changed their style so much without changing their name, because the In Flames of 2014 aren’t even close to the In Flames of 1994. It’s almost impossible to recognize them as the same band. Still, sometimes I feel the criticism towards them is a bit too ferocious. But the biggest change came when the last original member, guitarist and song writer Jesper Strömblad decided to leave the band to get kick his alcoholism in 2010. The album that followed, 2011’s Sounds Of A Playground Fading marked the biggest leap away from their (death) metal roots so far and the album consisted of mostly clean vocals from singer Anders Fridén and there were songs on that album that wasn’t metal at all. Some loved it, some hated it and some, like me, thought it was a natural progression that had been ongoing for years and years. With the release of their new album, I think few had even dared to hope for a step back to brutal metal, but I don’t think anyone had envisioned just how big the step further away from their roots they would take on their new album.

First single and video “Through Oblivion” created quite a stir and really split the In Flames fan camp in two – and this time it was really understandable. Even though I really like the song, it doesn’t sound like In Flames one bit. It’s more a heavy pop song with a gothic twist and some rife Depeche Mode intimations. Brave move, but I guess the guys really will have to defend themselves for this one. The old fans won’t be merciful to this song. “In Plain View” opens the album and at first it doesn’t strike me as a opener. The song is pretty hard, but at the same time soft. It’s very metal, but also very catchy and melodic. I really like it, but it might turn a few heads. “Everything’s Gone” is a metal track, but goes into a kind of Marilyn Manson gothic vibe – a bold move, but it works and I like it. “Paralyzed” seems to be aiming at rock radio, very melodic and catchy. I have no problem with that what so ever. “With Eyes Wide Open” is the furthest away from what In Flames are known for so far. It’s a ballad-like pop / rock song with almost AOR-ish arrangements. With “When The World Explodes” they’re back with metal and screaming vocals, but still with some killer melodies. Swedish opera singer Emilia Feldt guests with some really cool, operetic vocals which gives the song a whole different kind of dynamics – very good. “Rusty Nail” is a killer and no fan should be disappointed by this tune. It’s hard with screaming vocals, yet catchy with a pop feel. A great pop melody has always been In Flames’ trademark, no matter how hard, brutal or extreme the music has been. “Dead Eyes” is a very melodic metal track with some fine, catchy riffing. It also contains something as conspicuous as a keyboards solo. How about that? An awesome move, I think, but maybe it’s a thing that will deter the already forlorn death metal fans. The album ends with “Filtered Truth”, a straight forward hard rock song right up my alley. There might be one or two old In Flames fans that will disagree, though.

As for moving away from their melodic death metal sound, this is the biggest step they have ever taken, by far. If you listen to this album and to their debut, it’s impossible to recognize this as the same band. I can understand that musicians needs to develop and move forward, to evolve and in this case, the band doesn’t have any original members left so it would be strange if the band didn’t change. But for old fans who wants to preserve the old death metal roots who has watched their favourite band crumble before their eyes, this album might just be the nail in the coffin. If that wasn’t the last album. Or even the one before that. But for me, never a death metal fan, I embrace this evolution – to a degree. I too miss some of the heavy groove of their later, yet more metallic albums, but I really think that In Flames still can write some really brilliant tunes. There are more clean vocals than screams and the downside to that is that it becomes pretty clear that Anders Fridén really isn’t a great singer and his english is horrendous. He really should have bettered that ages ago. Those things were easy to hide behind screams and growl before, but now becomes way too clear. Also, when a band changes as much as In Flames has, I believe that they should at least take a name change under consideration – they really do sound that different. Hard rock, pop songs, keyboards, goth, Depeche Mode influences. How much In Flames is that? Still, I have a tendency to not give a crap about those things. I care about good music and I believe this is a very good record, no matter what and I have no problem listening to this album and Clayman in a row. So who’s gonna like this, then? Well, people with broad taste. In Flames fans that don’t mind change. People that just likes a good hard rock record. But I really do understand that old fans might hate it.

Jon Wilmenius (7/10)

Tracklist:

1. In Plain View
2. Everything’s Gone
3. Paralyzed
4. Through Oblivion
5. With Eyes Wide Open
6. Siren Charms
7. When the World Explodes
8. Rusted Nail
9. Dead Eyes
10. Monsters in the Ballroom
11.  Filtered Truth

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6 comments on “IN FLAMES – Siren Charms

    • Well, I always add some apetizers in the form och YouTube clips so you can always check those out.
      And I did burn you a whole bunch of CDs. Still curious of your thoughts about those.

      • Well Jon I would have to go back and listen again to point out specifics but I note that one thing most of them have in common are the melodies. Very melodic musically and vocally, in general. Which is good! It takes me a while to get used to new bands I’m not familiar with– my brain is searching for something familiar.

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