In Flames – “Siren Charms” (Sony Music)
One of the pioneers of the famed Gothenburg sound, and certainly the most famous having sold close to 2 million albums worldwide, In Flames took me through the turn of the century with classic albums like “Whoracle”, “Clayman” and “The Tokyo Showdown” before they burst through the commercial bubble and pretty much fell off my radar. Then in 2009 came the shock announcement that founder guitarist Jesper Stromblad had left the band and many wondered if that pretty much spelled the end of this greatest of modern Swedish metal bands. Yet amazingly the band bounced back with “Sounds Of A Playground Fading”, written by guitarist Björn Gelotte, and going gold in Sweden and Germany. Now with Niclas Engelin taking a permanent role as Stromblad’s permanent replacement comes “Siren Charms”, the band’s 11th release. Recorded at the famed Hansa Ton Studios in Berlin, haunt of artistes like Iggy Pop, David Bowie, U2 and Killing Joke, rather than previously in their hometown, another difference was an actual collaboration (rather than the usual collision) between Gelotte and vocalist Anders Fridén, undoubtedly pressured given this album took only 6 weeks to record in comparison to the 6 months for “Sounds Of A Playground Fading”. It was not without toll however, with Fridén suffering total collapse shortly after. The album title refers to the female creatures from Greek mythology who lured sailors with their singing, only to watch their ships crush against the cliffs and sink. It is perhaps with subtle reference to Fridén’s own voice, whose traditional screams and growls have given way to powerful singing, along with intimate drawls and emotional cries. In fact, the whole album has a dark and slightly melancholic tone that is no better captured than on ‘Paralyzed’ where keyboard-wizard Örjan Örnkloo once again contributed his brilliance in futuristic tones, powerful ambiance and superior melodies both big and small, but all the while brilliantly interconnecting with Gelotte and Fridén’s compositions. Despite the ‘alt’ elements what really impressed me on this album was the number of classic In Flames sounds incorporated into songs like ‘With Eyes Wide Open’, like those traditional two harmonized guitars and not only that, but melodies that harked back to the 90s that evoked personal memories of me sharing a beer with Stromblad and Gelotte at Roskilde. With the boundaries being pushed to the point where some songs were in the rock rather than metal genre, I did wonder if In Flames still could burn but ‘When The World Explodes’ soon quelled that notion with its djent aggro metal opening – almost as angry as Sepultura thanks to the amazing one take drums of Daniel Svensson – before calmly giving way to a tranquil but emotionally powerful male / female dual harmony vocal passage courtesy of Emilia Feldt that faded away majestically – it was almost like listening to an opera! With ‘Rusted Nail’ continuing the amazing fusion trend of the band’s signature sound while breaking new ground, it was left to ‘Dead Eyes’ to take old fans like myself back to the very beginning with a twin guitar riff that must have been a leftover from “Whoracle”. Now into their 40s like myself, In Flames is not cranking out the same music I knew when I was in my 20s, but rather they have risen to a higher evolution although there’s still enough of that old band to warrant the saying ‘In Flames We Trust’.