At this point, In Flames are less of a band than they are a musical institution in the heavy music world. Since helping create Sweden’s legendary “Gothenburg Sound” three decades ago to their current status as melodic metal monoliths, the act have constantly eschewed trends in order to forge their own musical path.
This is evident on their 13th full-length ‘I, The Mask’ out on March 1st 2019 via Nuclear Blast.
“I think it’s very difficult for In Flames to be something we’re not and that dichotomy of melody and aggression will always be at the core of our identity,” vocalist Anders Fridén explains.
“We are always open to new ideas and don’t let anything limit us,” guitarist Björn Gelotte adds. “We just ask ourselves if we will love playing this stuff live… and as long as we feel that, nothing can really touch us.”
I fell out of love many years ago with In Flames. They just weren’t producing exciting or interesting music in my opinion. Their last album, Battles missed the mark in a number of ways for me (read our review here) and I absolutely hates their covers EP: Down, Wicked & No Good (read our review of that here).
There wasn’t much excitement for I, The Mask truth be told but then the singles started dropping and we saw both ends of the In Flames scale which left us pretty confused. On the one hand the title track and Burn are cracking, catchy melodic metal number (read our review of Burn here and I, The Mask here). On the other, (This is Our) House was everything bad about the band. Over-produced, commercial sounding rubbish. Read our review of that single here.
They are just 3 tracks out of a 12 track album though so the question is what direction does the rest of the album go in?
The pointless electronica at the start of Voices doesn’t bode well but thankfully it’s brief and literally erupts into In Flames delivering a robust slab of melodic metal. Catchy as hell, Anders vocals are *ahem* on fire here. It’s only held back by a chorus that doesn’t quite hit the right notes.
The banger that is the title track follows next, exciting and rhythmic as hell. However, the current trend of hit and miss In Flames tracks continues as Call My Name is blandness personified before I Am Above really delivers on the heaviness and fire. What’s the deal with In Flames?! These two tracks couldn’t be any further apart in quality!
It’s so frustrating because when they’re good, they’re really good. The clean cut production really highlights the best of their groove. This album definitely feels like a band trying to recapture their early days but not being capable of delivering it anymore. Case in point is Follow Me, a heavy ballad that is oddly positioned but has some great guitar work, in particular a solo but is then followed by the worst track on the album, the aforementioned (This is Our) House. What on earth were they thinking with this one? The vocals are rubbish and it’s as commercial as the band can possibly get.
How you go from that to the excellent We Will Remember is simply flabbergasting. Top drawer vocals, an absolute belter of a chorus and some really dark and heavy riffs.
I don’t think anyone could be blamed for throwing in the towel as the lighter, rockiness of In This Life then kicks in. Don’t give up on this one though as it really grows and grows. The classic rock style is actually really appealing and it’s one track you kind of want Anders to shut up so we can really hear the guitars.
The nastier and heavier side of In Flames makes a return for Burn but it fails to spark before Deep Inside sees the metallers really dig deep to right the ship once again. They manage it with some impressive riffs and a perfect mix of clean and dirty vocals. The moody melody and whispered vocals that come at the end is pretty damn great.
I, The Mask ends with the double ballad of All the Pain and Stay With Me. The former is flat and uninspired, utterly forgettable even if it gets meatier and meatier as it goes on. While the latter has nice melody, decent acoustic guitar strumming and a pained vocal performance. We probably could have done without two similar tracks to end things on though.
An aggravating album. It’s so hit and miss, you have to start wondering if they’re doing it on purpose. There are great songs here, really high quality stuff that can sit alongside the best of In Flames but there are also far too many ‘meh’ tracks too. The gulf in class between the good and bad is staggering leaving a very confused feeling.
In Flames – I, The Mask Full Track Listing:
2. I, The Mask
3. Call My Name
4. I Am Above
5. Follow Me
6. (This is Our) House
7. We Will Remember
8. In This Life
10. Deep Inside
11. All the Pain
12. Stay With Me
I, The Mask will be available via all major streaming services on release but can be ordered now via Nuclear Blast here.
In Flames - I, The Mask (Nuclear Blast)
The Final Score - 6/10