As with all lives… life changes path, form and direction. In Flames are a band that undergoes continual metamorphosis, leaving their fans intrigued for their next venture. Since 1990 In Flames have been a band that have never been afraid to try something new and expand their range.
A little dive back to early 90’s In Flames, alongside bands such as At The Gates, where an epic example of the talent rupturing out of Gothenburg, Sweden. With the darkness fuelled release of ‘Lunar Strain’ in 1994, it was clear that the passion from the band, formed by former guitarist Jesper, was going to be a driving force for In Flames. In 1996 Anders is the new voice of In Flames, by 1999 release ‘Colony’, Friden, with translation assistance, is writing his own lyrics inspired by concepts such as occultism and putting his personality out there as one of the most unique sounding artists in the alternative scene.
By 2002 the band had further transformed their sound musically and vocally, from that of what became established as melodic death metal, to that of a softer melodic style shared with the world on ‘Reroute To Remain’, which saw In Flames pushing forward with their new vision for the band. This move was surprising to many of the early fans that had followed In Flames, yet never being a band to compromise, they have continued to develop their own sound with their creative licenses that they hold as artists. This album become very popular with the release of ‘Cloud Connected’ and broadened their already diverse fan base.
As a late blooming Jester Head, I only discovered a love for the Swedish giants in 2008. Having not been a fan from the start, organically my love for the band grew through research and listening to their back catalogue. Hearing the development of the band from the early years until that point when ‘A Sense Of Purpose’ hit my pleasure centre, I can only admire their diversity and versatility, enabling the band to continually grow, adapt and reinvent their sound and image time and time again, whilst loving every second of what they do.
I have feeling that ‘Battles’ will be faced with similar criticism to that from ‘Reroute To Remain’, given that this release also is turn in their creative road. This being said, I believe music can only be produced from the heart and what is inside the heart is transferred into the art that is a product of the creators.
In Flames will certainly not sound the same as they did during the 90s, if they did, you can be sure that their fan base would have thinned out from listening the same formulas and styles over and again. Lets face it, that wouldn’t be much fun for the band, who ultimately would tour less and thus produce less records. With changes to the line up throughout In Flames history, it is clear that the band work together to produce a shared vision that is current with themselves as a band and embracing the new styles featured within popular alternative culture.
‘Battles’ defiantly has a different kind of vibe to it than that of their previous endeavours. Every track is emotionally driven and written in such a way that it is relatable and easy to connect to. Given that Anders has been relatively closed toward the meaning of his lyrics in the past, this album feels very connective in an open sense that many people will take their own perspective from each of tracks featured within this album. Through struggles that we all experience everyday, it is about dealing with a facing those demons and moving forward. As if through the lyrics, In Flames are guiding you to reflect on the exploration of life, present and of times gone by.
Do you think about the end?… You will! ‘The End’ is the debut release from ‘Battles’, which is an example of how this album differs from previous releases. A darker intro with a lot of belly to the chorus and mid sections. This track features some helpers in the form of innocent gang vocals which gives the track a new layer to the vocal coverage, leaving the listener to reflect on the ultimate final curtain and assessing where you are in your life, and reflecting to an earlier period of time and have you done everything?
With changing tempo’s throughout the album, the structure of the album is in such a way to keep the listener interested throughout. With the progressive sounds and unexpected peaks and falls in the undercurrent of the album, this stops the listener from becoming complacent and keeps the interest alive.
‘Drained’ kicks the album off with a haunting other worldly intro, which very quickly progresses off into riff and the heart felt angsty screams which I am sure we can all relate to from some point in time, ‘you ripped the heart out, you killed the part of me that kept the part of us alive’
Next up is a beautiful rhythmic guitar joining forces with a rather insecure, Emo-esque statement ‘I believe that the whole wide world is against me, I believe that the whole wide world is afraid of me’ despite the cheesiness, it is very catchy and will bore into your ear. Needless to say, you will defiantly pick up the lyrics quicker than a cold and catch yourself singing along to it solo, or in a club/gig with your fellow Jester Heads, having a sway along to ‘Like Sand’.
To wake you up a little, ‘The Truth’ will have you jumping along to the party rhythm and chanting along to the chorus. It is clear to see why this was the choice for the follow-up release from this album. This tune is catchy as hell, starting out with clapping that works seamlessly with the beat, joined with that pleasant squeal of a guitar tantalising your ears and a variance of vocals from Anders signature back catalogue of styles. This track is a real Jekyll and Hyde of a tune battling between the smooth groove of innocence and the chugging underbelly of tainted destruction.
Whilst not the most heavy of their releases, the one thing that stands out with this album is the attention to diversity used vocally throughout ‘Battles’. Whilst the rhythm cvreted by Bjorn is interesting and the use of more digital sounds create an interesting soundscape it is the medley of vocals that has caught my attention. This could be attributed to the production of the vocals on this album, it feels that Anders is projecting his vocals in such a way to create that anthem vibe, this coupled with gang vocals is fantastic foundation to build for the best live show atmospheres.
‘Battles’, the title track starts out almost harking back toward their past somewhat, with powerful statements that are left to the listener to decipher. With a very groovy very Bjorn riff and progressive drums that create suspense leading to verses, this track has polished vocals and an uplifting sense of morality within the world. Another track that many listeners will find a personal attachment to.
‘Wallflower’ is personal favourite from this album, with a careful constructed layer by layer intro which creates a surreal suspense for what’s coming next, suddenly it explodes with energy and a chug that you cant help but bop your head to whilst you wait for what’s next. The track deceives you in more than one place, gradually getting bigger as it plays through. It is incredible seductive in the way it lures you in and reminds me of many of my prize tracks featured on ‘A Sense Of Purpose’. ‘Wallflower’ is a beautifully grotesque tune that I am in love with it!
The closing track has a very digitally proggy feel to it that explodes with the recognisable guitar solo style that we know is an In Flames product. Save Me is definitely up to the times of current popular alt music and I think this will definitely be a big hit in months to come.
I am pleased to say that whilst this album has blossomed far from their roots, In Flames have successfully embraced the current music trends whilst still being able to put their recognisable signature on it. This album is emotive and many listeners will feel an affinity with many of the offerings featured on Battles.
Its a thumbs up fro me! Having been lucky enough to experience their live shows at venues and festivals, I can safely say I’ll be getting my tickets and looking forward to seeing them showcase their new material live on their UK tour in January whist they tour with Avenged Sevenfold and Disturbed.