ALBUM REVIEW: In Flames – Clayman (20th Anniversary Edition)

Release Date: August 28th 2020
Label: Nuclear Blast Records


2020 is a pretty important year for In Flames. Everyone’s favourite Swedish melodic death metal pioneers have been a band for a commendable thirty years, while their seminal fifth and major breakout album, ‘Clayman’, celebrates its twentieth anniversary.

No release has arguably been more intrinsic to the group’s success, so it figures that it would be marked by their first stab at a re-issue/re-release. Now, this may not be the first time the highly influential record has been doctored, but it’s definitely the most complete and realised version yet.

The newly remastered tracks add a major clarity and crisp edge to the material, restoring nuance that you might not have initially noticed was even absent. The vocal layers have more space to swell and add more depth and variety to Anders Fridén‘s original performance, with classic cuts like major single ‘Only For The Weak’ sounding equally seething and hurt as they did two decades ago, but with far more menace.

Björn Gelotte‘s guitar work is equally treated, exuding the exact precise compositional confidence that originally inspired countless melodic death metal and metalcore acts alike, whether or not they were aware of it. The anthemic riffs, complex leads, and the unique imbuing of melody are cornerstone performances within the entire genre, not simply their discography.

Far from a mere cash grab, the band have made their fondness for the material evident by offering five bonus tracks in the guise of the instrumental medley, ‘Themes And Variations In D-Minor’, as well as fully re-recorded versions of some of the strongest cuts, including the aforementioned ‘Only For The Weak’, phenomenal opener ‘Bullet Ride’, the chaotic ‘Pinball Map’, and the title-track.

These new recordings offer an intriguing studio level insight into how the group tackle their older material in the present day, with newer members and a vocalist now twenty years removed from the original takes. Less brooding with more positive passion, songs that originally showcased Fridén in the deepest throes of despair, now feel more like anthems of purpose, a reaffirmation of making it through those dark times and becoming empowered by the hurdles thrown up throughout the years.

Offering a subtle, nuanced retooling of a genre staple album, without dismantling or undoing any of the original potency, while adding modern versions of some of the most essential tracks; In Flames have succeeded with every aspect that an artist must confront when handling a re-issue.

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