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In Flames

In Flames, How People Change

The Sound of Gothenburg

In Flames is an interesting band. For many (including me), this is the greatest example of the melodic death movement of the 1990s in the Swedish city of Gothenburg. Their first four albums, Lunar Strain, The Jester Race, Whoracle and Colony are some of the best the genre has to offer. During that era, In Flames was invincible. They gradually developed their unique style and their guitarists progressed significantly in the technical department.

The First Crack

Clayman, their fifth album released in 2000 was the first sign that In Flames wanted more. Just as they were finding the traditional death metal becoming boring in the early 1990s, they were finding the melodic death metal scene approaching the same path. This is the first album that has more elements than just melodic death metal. Only for the Weak, the most famous track is a lot more palatable and poppy than say all the tracks on Colony. It was a new direction for In Flames, they are to become more mainstream.

Metal and Mainstream

Metal always had a strange relationship with becoming mainstream. In the eyes of metal purists/orthodox, metal is an expression of rebellion and becoming popular degrades this quality. They especially cannot tolerate bands adopting more poppy elements to appeal to the masses. The view, however, is problematic. If the work is well-liked, then more people will naturally want to enjoy it. Regardless of whether it's "watered down" or not, it still takes a lot of work for even the most "watered down" metal to be popular to those who think hard rock is heavy. Metal bands trying to be popular is nothing to be sad at.[1] We have egos, and sometimes, we want to exercise them.

People want to like you. Let them!

Reroute to Remain

Reroute to Remain was the first album that In Flames heavily deviated from melodic death metal. The tuning was lower, the importance of bass is enhanced and drums play a significant role. To many, this is a metalcore release.

As the album name implies, In Flames felt the old melodic death metal scene needs new blood. However, the opinion was split. Some fans liked the new direction and some fans hated it. Unknown to those who hated the new direction, more is to come.

Come Clarity

In Flames improved their album naming after Clayman. Come Clarity doubled down on the new direction, more heavy low end and rap style dirty vocal delivery. The split that was present in the Reroute to Remain was even more present. Nevertheless, it is an awesome album.

A Sense of Purpose

This was the turning point of the band's history. It was blindingly clear at that point that In Flames isn't the same band from the 1990s anymore. They are more polished, mainstream and eager for more.

Battles and I, the Mask

After some forgettable albums after A Sense of Purpose, the band released Battles in 2016. This was an album that pissed off many people. The band opted to work with the producer, Howard Benson. This is the man who said that people who don't use auto-tune are "nuts". True to his words, the vocals of Battles are extremely polished, too polished for most fans. To go with the over-polished vocals is the lack of metal, the entire album sounds like a typical commercial rock album.

Needless to say, it was not received well in the metal community. I once saw this being commented to the post-melodic-death-metal In Flames.

The band can do whatever they want and somehow it only becomes more popular.

The following album, I, the Mask in 2018 is perhaps an improvement in some eyes. However, by most definitions, it's a hard rock album at best.

Metal is a Young Men's Game

Let's be honest, metal is not the most inclusive genre. Most of the musicians are young white men.[2] While older bands are still performing, most bands' prime age lasts about 10 years. When Clayman was released, the band has been in existence for about 10 years[3], when they deviated heavily with Come Clarity in 2006, most of the members were in their 30s. In metal, that's not young anymore.

By the times of Battles and I, the Mask. They are in their 40s. Are we honestly surprised that they no longer want to write riff and solo jammed songs anymore? People in metal like to forget that musicians are people too, it's unlikely a band can produce the same style of materials forever[4]. People change, deal with it!

  1. Even admitted I sometimes feel the same. ↩︎

  2. Although since lots of metal musicians are from Western Europe and especially the Nordic countries, I don't know what to expect any other. ↩︎

  3. Although Lunar Strain did not come out until 1994. ↩︎

  4. Well... Except for bands like Amon Amarth and Cold Tranquility, which you can fall asleep listening to most of their "new" releases. ↩︎