I, The Mask continues to push In Flames’ stylistic shift, and is nothing short of brilliant!
When a band sets out to change their sound, it can divide fans like the Red Sea; Melodic Death Metal pioneers In Flames can attest to this, with their fans riding on a see-saw of emotion as their sound has progressed and become more accessible to a wider audience over the years, the most notable omission being the limited use of growling vocals. Not only has their sound changed, but their line-up has undergone transformation also. In Flames has three current members – Anders Friden (vocals), Bjorn Gelotte (lead guitar), and Niclas Engelin (secondary guitar) – as well as members who join them on tour – Bryce Paul (bass), Niels Nielsen (keyboards), and Tanner Wayne (drums).
Their 2016 release ‘Battles’ was arguably one of the best they have released in years, and part of that reason being the shift in sound and style. Not many can successfully pull it off, but there’s no denying that In Flames have began their transition successfully. Their upcoming 2019 release, ‘I, The Mask’ attempts to further push this transition steadily, and manages to do so with absolute success (although, it nowhere near as defining as Battles is).
The album opens with Voices, which not only opens the album with the notorious In Flames flare, but the stylistic change shines through in droves – it’s absolutely brilliant! Friden’s clean vocals are simply superb, and begs the question as to why the decision to have him showcase them more prominently (over his growling vocals) took so long to come about.Y
Whilst In Flames have cut back on the growling vocals that were once prominent in their performances, the album’s title track I, The Mask serves as a stage that allows them to blend brilliantly with Friden’s cleaner vocal set – and the combination is very pleasing to listen to. There aren’t many vocalists who have the range to successfully pull off both a growling vocal set, as well as a clean set, as seamlessly as Friden does, and is part of the reason why In Flames has garnered so much success over the years.
The pairing of Call My Name, and I Am Above doesn’t only highlight the much ‘ballsier’ sound that In Flames are more than capable of delivering, but contain subtle nods to their past sounds that adds a layer of nostalgia for the older fans to the album. Their sound and style might be shifting, but it’s great to see they haven’t lost touch with their identity!
The acoustic guitar played throughout Follow Me adds further depth to the album, and is absolutely beautiful (especially in the opening of the track). Lyrically (compared to the rest of the album) although simplistic, is probably the most ‘catchy’ the album has shown thus far. They do say sometimes less is more – they weren’t wrong! (This Is Our) House has been met with mixed response. Does it have its flaws? Sure. Is it a bad track? Absolutely not! It’s packed with catchy hooks that serve well enough to keep you listening from start to finish, and the combined chants of the band members throughout the track are sure to get the live crowds kicking up a frenzy.
If your opinion is starting to waiver, allow We Will Remember to bring you firmly back to the reality that In Flames is capable of spinning some absolutely magical music. Say goodbye to the growling vocal set because Friden does this one completely clean – and it’s nothing but brilliant. This track will serve as an anthem for the band for years to come. In This Life further cements this notion, as whilst the guitar set might sound a little quirky and tempo might be dialled back slightly to what we’re used to, the softer vocal arrangement is definitely one that allows Friden’s talents to truly shine. They’re complimented perfectly by a masterful instrumental set (and not just in this track, but throughout the album). There’s no denying this band’s ability – whether you enjoy the stylistic shift of not, these guys are the real deal!Y
Burn demonstrates that In Flames hasn’t lost touch with their identity; whilst they’re undergoing stylistic change, this track embodies their personality perfectly. It demonstrates both vocal sets of Friden (growling, and clean) with the familiar In Flames instrumental support – whilst containing enough subtle nods to say it’s definitely a track that highlights progression.
Deep Inside and All The Pain is a pairing that showcases the balance of a softer, sombre performance which highlights Friden’s tones more so, against the more boisterous, overzealous performance where the instrumentals take control of the wheel and takes the listener for the ride of their lives. There isn’t many that can pull the balance off as smoothly as In Flames does – which, again, further solidifies why they are so highly regarded not only by their fans, but by their peers also.
The album rounds out with Stay With Me, the softest performance throughout the album. Friden is accompanied by a soothing acoustic arrangement, for the most part, before the others break onto the scene and bring the album’s end with a crescendo of musical brilliance.
Whilst many might still be trying to come to terms with the fact that In Flames are far from the Melodic Death Metal band they once were, there’s no denying that they’re producing some absolutely f***ing brilliant music. Though it might not match that of Battles, this will definitely be marked as one of their stronger outings as a band. If you’re only going to listen to a handful of Metal albums in 2019, make sure I, The Mask is definitely one of them!
I, The Mask is available March 1st, 2019. Head on over to Nuclear Blast and grab yourselves a copy HERE!