In Flames

Picture of In Flames

The Jester Race

In Flames - The Jester Race ©1997 Nuclear Blast
1. Moonshield
2. The Jester's Dance
3. Artifacts Of The Black Rain
4. Graveland
5. Lord Hypnos
6. Dead Eternity
7. The Jester Race
8. December Flower
9. Wayfaerer
10. Dead God In Me

Although this Swedish band had released a couple well received and highly coveted albums before The Jester Race, this 1997 offering on Nuclear Blast is the one that really got the attention ball rolling for the group. Funny how wider distrubtion can help matters. The Jester Race is a very consistent and solid album, although lacking somewhat in variety and overall impact. Insofar as their style goes, the album did completely solidfy the formula the band would utilize for the future. Offering some melodic twin guitar leads mixed with occasional acoustic flavorings, the jaunty and vitalized numbers are fairly infectious. But as is the band's main problem, the formula is overused and by the tenth song on the album, you've heard more than your fair share of In Flames. Nevertheless, there are more than a few strong numbers here. The opener "Mooshield" has a folky rhythm, adding to its memorability factor. "The Jester's Dance" is a great instrumental that uses a heavy Iron Maiden styled twin guitar attack with a cleaner, melodic section in between.

The biggest problem this album (and band) faces is the predictable nature of their music. Yes, they do their thing very well. Yes, you will know the story before reading the book. It can still be a decent journey, but it's entirely possible that you will have felt like you've heard it all by the time you reach the middle of the album. Regardless, In Flames plays with finesse, heaviness and still retains some degree of interest to a listener for the mere fact that they are talented. As a result, they have become the old mutt band you keep around for the reliability and faithfulness.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/2000

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In Flames - Whoracle ©1998 Nuclear Blast
1. Jotun
2. Food For The Gods
3. Gyroscope
4. Dialogue With The Stars
5. The Hive
6. Jester Script Transfigured
7. Morphing Into Primal
8. Worlds Within The Margin
9. Episode 666
10. Everything Counts
11. Whoracle

By this point there's nothing on Whoracle that you haven't heard before. We're all very familiar with the Swedish melodo-death style now: the harmonious guitar leads, hoarse shouting vocals, etc. And to a certain degree, the style is becoming stagnant as lesser bands only serve to dilute the excellence of the better bands of the genre. Fortunately for In Flames, being one of those better bands, they are at least able to stand out simply on strength of songwriting. The Jester Race, my introduction to the band, never quite blew me away like it should have and frankly, Whoracle will not either. But it is a minor improvement overall that makes for a good listen. Though there are similarities between the other pillar of the scene, Dark Tranquillity, In Flames makes good use of snappy, to the point riffing as well as some sweet-as-honey leads. Naturally, as with nearly every other band in this style, the vocals are the weakest part of the project. At a certain point, some band is going to have to break out of the mold where the vocalist must holler and shred his vocal cords throughout the album. Anyhoo, it won't be In Flames on this release. Regardless, it still stands as a worthy find, with highlights popping up in "The Hive" and "Episode 666".

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/1999

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In Flames - Colony ©1999 Nuclear Blast
1. Embody The Invisible
2. Ordinary Story
3. Scorn
4. Colony
5. Zombic Inc.
6. Pallar Anders Visa
7. Coerced Coexistence
8. Resin
9. Behind Space '99
10. Insipid 2000
11. The New World

Upon reflection only gained through years of inner growth, personal wisdom and spending far too much time driving across the country playing CDs in the car, I look back upon In Flames' career a bit differently nowadays. In the past few years, the Swedish melodic death metal scene has seen an influx of clone bands, a veritable Colony of them. While some bands chose to attempt breaking out of their respective molds, such as Dark Tranquillity, other bands languished away doing nearly the same thing over and over. In Flames, though an early candidate for being one of the elite acts in the genre, unfortunately dropped the ball after The Jester Race and issued an extremely drab, unenthusiastic slab in Whoracle. That album was initially interesting on the first two listens and then became a serious contender for Shelfcore album of the year. So my anticipation of Colony was not too great. I admit being afraid the band would continue writing songs by number rather than trying to interject them with a bit more depth.

Luckily, Colony has reaffirmed my faith in In Flames. While not being the best album ever (nor was I expecting that), Colony is at least stronger in the songwriting category. The band still isn't venturing too far beyond their established roots, but at least they are doing their niche well. I figure a band has two options: progress or do one thing very well. Nothing is worse than hearing a band repeat themselves, only doing it without much grace. In Flames isn't doing much to challenge themselves, but I will give Colony points for being the first worthy successor to The Jester Race.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/1999

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In Flames - Clayman ©2000 Nuclear Blast
1. Bullet Ride
2. Pinball Map
3. Only For The Weak
4. ...As The Future Repeats Today
5. Square Nothing
6. Clay Man
7. Sattelites And Astronauts
8. Brush The Dust Away
9. Swim
10. Suburban Me
11. Another Day In Quicksand

Okay, fine...I'll give In Flames points for consistency. The band is obviously quite content playing songs from their well tested, tried and true formula of rehashing Maiden-esque riffs. Now several albums deep into their style, it's safe to say this is what In Flames is content to do. I'll stop bothering them to even attempt to break out of their mold because they certainly aren't in any hurry to break new ground.

Clayman, like Colony before it and Whoracle before even that, is a standard melodic Swedish death metal release which relies heavily on those twin guitar riffs and leads. This time around the band does throw in a bit more keyboards than I recall them using in the past, but they're very understated and hardly the focal point. Anders Friden still barks out his lines while the rest of the band comes to the office to do their part. There are a couple very catchy numbers in here: "Pinball Map" particularly. Fast songs nestle next to slower ones. You certainly can't fault In Flames for not being good players and efficient at that.

The main problem some might have with In Flames is that they're becoming the AC/DC of their scene. Yes, they are consistent and predictable. Some of you might not have any problems with that. However, if you have found your interest in the band waning with the previous two releases, there is little on Clayman that'll make you rush out to find a copy. It's definitely solid, well done and honestly not a bad album at all. However, necessary listening? Probably not.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 09/2000

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The Tokyo Showdown: Live In Japan 2000

In Flames - The Tokyo Showdown: Live In Japan 2000 ©2001 Nuclear Blast
1. Bullet Ride
2. Embody The Invisible
3. Jotun
4. Food For The Gods
5. Moonshield
6. Clayman
7. Swim
8. Behind Space
9. Only For The Weak
10. Gyroscope
11. Scorn
12. Ordinary Story
13. Pinball Map
14. Colony
15. Episode 666

Considering how much touring In Flames has done in the past few years, I suppose a live album was inevitable. Apparently someone in the band's label or organization thought so as well and put together this package, recorded in Tokyo, Japan, during the tour for Clayman. Appropriately titled The Tokyo Showdown: Live in Japan 2000, this live offering summarizes In Flames on stage but does it in such a unenthusiastic way that the album sounds more like the band rerecording fifteen songs in front of a dozen yawning, mildly interested buddies in the studio.

The song selection is mostly from the band's last three studio releases, with only one selection from their breakthrough The Jester Race and just one from their early Lunar Strain. This is not an unusual choice of songs since most bands do like to promote their newer material in a live setting. The production is solid, making the CD sound as clear and sharp as their studio counterparts. The performance is adequate, with the band occasionally sounding slightly different trying to cover acoustic guitar parts with electric. The audience sounds very distant and very small, almost as if cheering was piped in. Singer Anders Friden is fine raspy form, although his clean singing sections make him sound very much like Midnight Oil's Peter Garrett.

So while everything is properly in order, there's little about this disc to suggest a showdown did indeed take place. Chances are neither Japan nor Sweden won here. The Tokyo Showdown may serve as a quasi "Greatest Hits" package for the band's recent efforts, but it'll do little to impress anyone outside their realm of ardent fans. It's competent and clean as a whistle, but it's really only meant for hardcore In Flames fans.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/2001

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Reroute To Remain

In Flames - Reroute To Remain ©2002 Nuclear Blast
1. Reroute To Remain
2. System
3. Drifter
4. Trigger
5. Cloud Connected
6. Transparent
7. Dawn Of A New Day
8. Egonomic
9. Minus
10. Dismiss The Cynics
11. Free Fall
12. Dark Signs
13. Metaphor
14. Black & White

In Flames has been one of those bands who doesn't age well. They're the type of band that sounds good upon first initial listen of any given CD but any further investigation will find that they're really not terribly interesting. Their past three albums, Whoracle, Colony and Clayman, have not survived the test of time after their initial releases. Fact of the matter is that In Flames was not presenting very many new ideas since The Jester Race came out years ago and rehashing those old ideas wasn't getting them very far. So what better way to get attention once again than by trying to update their style a bit with the use of clean singing, more electronics and letting rumors of a "nu-metal" influence cascade around the internet? There is one problem with all this. Despite all the changes and attempts at updating their sound, In Flames is still one of the most dull of the prominent bands.

In Flames really hasn't done a complete about face with their music. Unlike, say, Ulver, In Flames sticks to their base formula of updated, melodic thrash. The mix of 80s thrash with harmonious guitar leads has been their staple for quite some time and Reroute to Remain sticks to that for the most part. There are moments where they attempt cleaner passages with non-growled vocals (let's just say In Flames will never be known for soaring, majestic singing). All that accomplishes is a momentary raise of an eyebrow as the listener realizes this isn't a complete rehash of the last studio album. But In Flames forgets the most important part of good music: strong songwriting. Inserting new elements does not immediately make for a great record. There are a couple songs that stand out a bit, but not enough to warrant a busload of positive response. This style of music has become generic, stale and tedious over the past few years and In Flames should accept much of the blame for that.

Reroute to Remain is indeed a typical In Flames record. It's entirely uninteresting and a pale shadow of the few bands who can still pull of the melodic death-thrash sound. Soilwork is still riding the wave the highest out of all their contemporaries.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 11/2002

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Trigger EP

In Flames - Trigger EP ©2003 Nuclear Blast
1. Trigger (single Edit)
2. Watch Them Feed
3. Land Of Confusion
4. Cloud Connected (Club Connected Remix)
5. Moonshield (C64 Karaoke Version)
6. Trigger (Official Video Clip)
7. Cloud Connected (Official Video Clip)

Hot on the heels of their entirely inane Reroute to Remain, In Flames continues their tradition of releasing entirely useless filler material in the shape of Trigger EP. Featuring five audio tracks and two video clips, there's little to get excited about. In fact, someone should put an injunction out on these guys so they can't release any more lousy material until they shape up their songwriting. A court ordered chaperone will be required of them in the practice room to inform them when a melody is weak and a riff is blah. That might be the only way to salvage this band.

Trigger features an edited version of a Reroute to Remain track, one new song, a cover, and then some entirely unnecessary remixes of a couple of other tracks. "Trigger" just represents exactly how uninspiring Reroute to Remain was. The new tracks, "Watch Them Feed", shows the band trying to harness older frenzy with limited results. Possibly the most offensive track on the album is the horrendous cover of Genesis' "Land of Confusion". Without a doubt, this band wouldn't be able to pull off covering something like "The Return of the Giant Hogweed" so they obviously went for something a bit easier. Now although "Land of Confusion" was taken from the period of time where Genesis had long descended into pop blah-ness, the song itself is actually one of their better pop tunes. Unfortunately, the approach In Flames takes shreds away the majority of the tunefulness that made the song enjoyable in the first place. Like many covers, it's simply dreadful and a bit offensive to those of us who appreciate the original. The two remixed songs are superfluous. In the case of the video game music edit of "Moonshield", the novelty wears off within three seconds, but you still have to drudge through another two and a half minutes of it.

In case your comprehension skills are a bit rusty today, it should be obvious that I dislike this EP. There is absolutely nothing of merit that deserves a hearty recommendation. Some bands can effectively create stopgaps between full length releases, but apparently In Flames is not going to be that band.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/2003

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