(2019) In Flames: I, the Mask

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Artist: In Flames
Album: I, the Mask
Release: 01.03.2019
Label: Nuclear Blast Records

 

It’s been 3 years since the release of Battles, and that means it’s time for a new In Flames album. I, the Mask is due for release on March 1st, 2019, and is noteworthy because it’s the first album since 1997 not to include bassist Peter Iwers, and is likewise the debut album performance of drummer Tanner Wayne.

I like to separate In Flames fans into three categories: those who liked the music up to and possibly including Clayman, in their heavier, growlier original Gothenburg days; the mid-range fans who like their music from Clayman or just before up until either Come Clarity or A Sense of Purpose when band founder and main songwriter Jesper Strömblad left; and the fans of the modern era, from approximately A Sense of Purpose onwards. I, myself, fall into the mid-range, as does the phantom, and Wille K., who both provided some insight into this album with me.

 

To get the elephant out of the room right away: if you want old In Flames back, be it mid-range or old-range, leave now, forget this album, and go on with your life. The clean vocals and slower rhythms don’t seem to be going anywhere, so if you want IF to be Gothenburg metal still… they aren’t really, and chances are, they won’t be again. Make your peace with it, and either give up on this band, or try to accept it as something else.

That said, this album was still… well, rather disappointing on the whole. The best songs on the album, like the title track, seem to be made up of recycled material from older, better In Flames material, while the efforts to try something new and original, like “(This is Our) House” are, quite frankly, complete garbage. The album has ups and downs, certainly, but the overall feel is more like there are two rhythm guitarists, as even though the riffs still sound like In Flames, they’re not nearly as creative as they were when they were written by Jesper Strömblad. The melodies are slower – this isn’t a band you can mosh to very much anymore. While “I, the Mask”, “Burn”, and “Deep Inside” are still pretty heavy, the rest of the album is better suited to waving your hands back and forth, rather than banging your head. Anders Fríden‘s vocals are evenly balanced between cleans and growls, if not more on the clean side these days. In fact, if I’m going to praise anyone on this album, it’s going to be Wayne. If nothing else, at least In Flames hasn’t descended into disco drums. I don’t think I could handle that. Wayne proves his salt and then some with his really good performance throughout.

The best songs, aka the heaviest songs, are (as I mentioned) “I, the Mask” and “Deep Inside”, which manage to have some rhythm and decent growls, though the first of those still suffers a bit from the poppier choruses. “(This is Our) House” is an absolute mess of crap, completely unaware as to whether it wants to be a battle anthem or a ballad; seriously, what’s with the use of the child choir at the end? It’s just a mish-mash of different sounds that don’t gel at all with each other. Some of the poppier songs are fine to listen to, like “I am Above” and “All the Pain”, but even if the guitar sounds good, it never really seems to go anywhere. The music feels basic and never gets very creative. It’s a lot of repetition of the same thing. “All the Pain” is a good example of this pleasant mediocrity, with the repetitive verses and choruses, but it still has some feeling. “I am Above” feels decent, but has such a dull, mild chorus. The wind-down too, “Stay with Me”, is not bad per se, but it’s very gentle and soothing, which are not adjectives I look for when listening to In Flames. If the guitar would just go somewhere, this would be a rather good closing song, but alas, it falls short, just like the album on the whole.

 

Ah, In Flames, what are we going to do with you? I hate to say it, but without Jesper Strömblad, this band is really suffering creatively. It’s also sad, in a sense, that Strömblad’s new band (CyHra, if you live under a rock), is pretty poppy itself. At least their guitars are great though. I digress… if you like the newer In Flames, this album is at least better than its predecessor. For me (and the phantom), there are a couple songs, 2-4 perhaps, that will make it onto our regular playlists, but for the most part, this album remains as forgettable as the last three. Sorry guys, your comeback hasn’t come yet.

Rating: 5/10, 2.5 stars

Tracklist:
1. Voices
2. I, the Mask
3. Call My Name
4. I am Above
5. Follow Me
6. (This is Our) House
7. We Will Remember
8. In this Life
9. Burn
10. Deep Inside
11. All the Pain
12. Stay with Me

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