Nearly thirty years into their career, Swedish metallers In Flames have touched on a variety of sounds and genres. Not content with staying within the melodic death metal of their early work, or the metalcore stylings of their mid-career peak, thirteenth LP ‘I, The Mask’ sees the Gothenburg quintet hold their ground.
‘Voices’ opens with sub bass notes and electronic instrumentation as guitarists Bjorn Gelotte and Niclas Engelin showcase the trademark dual harmonies before a stomping groove dominates the track. Bridging the gap between the blast beat led early work and the experimental leanings of their later offerings, ‘Voices’ gives an insight to what the rest of the record has in store.
The most notable change to the group’s sound is that of Anders Friden‘s range. Heavily relying on cleans throughout the record, Friden creates a stark contrast between his gruff vocals and anthemic hooks, and by utilising his diversity and the array of techniques the group has to offer, what we have hear is In Flames arguably at their career best.
Considering that the record is rooted within alternative metal, with a strong emphasis on groove riffs and large choruses, the band do bring out their heavier side from time-to-time. Tracks such as ‘I Am Above’ sees a distinct black metal influence flowing through its verses, whilst ‘In This Life’ plays with the melodic death metal that they helped popularise.
Keeping within this theme, new recruit Tanner Wayne hammers the drums with fury, pummelling through blast beats and double kick heavy patterns to push the tracks past the chorus heavy compositions.
That being said, Wayne does display nuance and restraint on tracks such as ‘Deep Inside’. Highlighting the new chapter of the group, a strong middle eastern influence is present in its melody, heavily accented muted guitars weave around screamed vocals before giving way to acoustic finger picking and intimate vocal performances.
As the record reaches its end, In Flames reach their vision of a new sound, with ‘Stay With Me’ taking them to a new avenue. Acoustic finger picking cuts through lush pads, using a percussive pattern to bob and weave around Friden‘s high vocal notes. Slowly building, it erupts into a swelling and distorted coda.
Not content with relying on their legacy to coast on through until the end of their days, In Flames have continued to push themselves on ‘I, The Mask’.