In Flames is a band from Gothenburg, Sweden and was originally formed by guitarist and main song writer Jesper Strömblad in 1990, the band wrote, recorded and self produced the 1993 demo and their debut album “Luna Strain” in 1994, along with the likes of Dark Tranquility and At the Gates they are credited with pioneering Melodic Death Metal in the Gothenburg Music scene. Mikeal Stanne of Dark Tranquility was replaced by session vocalist Hecke Forss, who then helped the band record their first EP “Subterranean“. In 1995 while making one of their most loved albums “The Jester Race” Hecke was replaced by Anders Fridén as vocalist, they also approached Björn Gelotte to do drums, although he would later switch to guitars.
The band have since gone through many line up changes with Anders, Björn and Niclas Engelin on vocals and guitars respectively as the only constant members. The band also has Bryce Paul Newman on bass and Tanner Wayne on drums. “I, The Mask” is In Flames’ thirteenth studio album. Also worth noting that In Flames has gone through a lot of style changes too with “Luna Strain”, “The Jester Race”, “Colony”, “Whoreacle” and “Clayman”. Their much loved Melodic Death Metal releases “Come Clarity” “Soundtrack to your Escape” and “A Sense of Purpose” being geared more towards a mainstream, Metalcore style of music, something which long time fans haven’t loved
The first song I want to talk about on this album is the first single that was released for the run up of this album, “I Am Above”, by far my favourite song on this record and one of the strongest. It starts with an airy, atmospheric wash of noise then the guitars kick in, solid guitar riffing that doesn’t feel empty or like its being under used, solid, melodic and heavy, groovy guitar riffing and then we hear Anders’ vocals. They sound amazing with a harsh coarse screech on the verses, very low deep growls on the pre chorus and then his Melodic sing along style vocals on the chorus. This isn’t something purists and some older fans won’t love but I think it has enough of the older style of In Flames to keep that side of the fan base happy.
The first five songs on the album are all pretty strong and are good mash up’s of new and old, these songs sound good and are enjoyable and feel like a matured, wise In Flames at home with this style. Song number Six however, is where things start to decline. “(This Is Our) House” starts off with what sounds like a bunch of children shouting, something which this band has done before on their previous effort “Battles” and something which didn’t work then and really doesn’t work here. Its not that its bad, its just that it attempts to set the song up for something and falls short. The guitar riff is very bare and almost non existent sometimes,the vocals are more on the Melodic talk instead of singing and shouting and the song just feels very empty. “We Will Remember” and “In This Life” follow a similar disappointing track although “In This Life” is a bit more on the sing along side so it’ll be interesting to see it played live. “Burn” goes back to the heavy verses and light chorus and on the chorus goes, weirdly pop punk, but it works on the song and works with the instruments and layout so counting this track as a win. The rest of the tracks though are more or less the same thing with disappointing song direction and instrumentals that sink, in particular I feel like the drumming on this album just doesn’t match the songs and could benefit with something more fast paced.
“I, The Mask” is a marked improvement over their 2016 album “Battles”, songs like “I Am Above”, “Voices” and the title track “I, The Mask” show the band is still in touch with their heavy roots. However songs like “This Is Our (House”, “Deep Inside”, “We Will Remember” drag the album down and it suffers from not knowing which direction to go in. The first half feeling like a call back to old times and the second half feeling like its catering to people just getting into Metal.