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In Flames - Lunar Strain

1994 Wrong Again Records :: Reviewed by rofreason on 2005-07-07

An incredibly effective, experimental offering from one of the best bands in metal today. On their first album, In Flames blend Iron Maiden, traditional folk and metal to create an aural tapestry woven of the finest cloth (can't let all the reviews sound the same, can I). Seriously, Lunar Strain shows a young band willing to experiment, with the technical expertise to pull it off. Lunar Strain is pretty unpolished in parts, and they have quite a few guest guitarists in to fill in leads, but it is also unlike anything else out there. The first two tracks are real burners, with some traditional breaks thrown in. Everlost Part 2 features classical guitar with overlying female vocals. H?rgal?ten is a folky piece with strings. Yeah, you can sorta tell that this isn't for all tastes, especially Mikael Stanne's screechy vocals (even more intense here than on any Dark Tranquillity album), but it is well done, and if you can get into the experimental side of this disc, than go for it. Personally, I think it's great.

In Flames - Subterranean

1995 Wrong Again Records :: Reviewed by rofreason on 2005-02-22

Subterranean manages to accomplish what I believe is the true goal of an E.P., to act as an intermediary step between a major transition. True, In Flames was pretty much still a studio band here, using Henke Forss from Dawn on vocals, and both Daniel Erlandsson (Eucharist/Arch Enemy) and Anders Jivarp (Dark Tranquillity) on drums. Musically, it's a good continuation of what began on Lunar Strain, yet a lot of the more traditional elements are shed, retaining the melody and acoustic sections, yet not as "out of place" as they could seem on the debut. Some of the band's greatest tracks exist here as well, Stand Ablaze still a crowd favorite today. Only five tracks, but very important in understanding the progression of the Gothenburg movement. Recently reissued with LS on one CD as the original Wrong Again version is long out of print!

In Flames - The Jester Race

1996 Wrong Again Records :: Reviewed by rofreason on 2010-02-22

This, is a masterpiece. One of the best melodic metal albums to be put out, ever. In Flames here have found their mark with a new vocalist and drummer/guitarist who helped arrange and write epic songs. Anders Frieden (from Dark Tranquillity) has a voice which complements the music perfectly. They tuned down the guitars for this album (to C, I believe) and this gives the whole album a thick foundation upon which the melody can be built. Every song on the album is strong, which allows it to flow from start to finish. This is high on the top ten list of 1996, and is definitely worth checking out. There's just something about the melodies here that is great. This may go on the list of personal faves of time. Buy this record.

In Flames - Whoracle

1997 Nuclear Blast Records :: Reviewed by rofreason on 2005-07-07

This eagerly awaited follow-up is sure to please fans of The Jester Race. Let me say here that Whoracle is not Jester Race Two, as many people (including myself) wanted and almost expected. Instead, this is a slower, more mature offering from a band that continues to imporve with every release. This album is thicker and heavier than TJR, with a couple of excellent tracks (Episode 666, Food for the Gods, and a couple of slow spots, which breaks up the flow. In listening to both Whoracle and Jester Race back to back, I can't really put my finger on what makes TJR so "special". There does seem to be a lot of emphasis put on the production on Whoracle, giving a very thick, polished sound. I think this album is heavier, but not as aggresive, with less classical influence. The melody is still present, and the interplay between the musicians is excellent. I think that the main musical draws here slant more towards alternative metal (melodic pop tuned down to B), this may be proven by the choice of covering a Depeche Mode song. Whatever the case, In Flames again forcibly show that they are true contenders in the metal realm, and this is a highly recommended release, on the top ten for 1997.

In Flames - Colony

1999 Nuclear Blast Records :: Reviewed by rofreason on 2005-07-07

Is it me, or have all of Sweden's heavywights released albums all in the same month? While some have disappointed (Dark Tranquillity), I'm plesantly surprised by the return to form that In Flames have taken here. I say this for while I felt that Whoracle was a good album, it was a huge letdown for me after the brilliance of The Jester Race. Some of this may be that the band had less opportunity to work on the Whoracle songs, but I think that it was more the fact that Whoracle caught the band in transition, with longtime In Flamesians Glenn Ljundstrom and Johan Larsson leaving the band after that album's recording. Niklas Engelin from Gardenian stepped in, but left to be replaced by drummer Bjorn Gelotte, who was responsible for a lot of the new material. This change was for the best, as the band's intensity has been upped a notch by new skinsman Daniel Svensson (ex-Sacrilege). The movement towards the pop realm is still taking place, but I have to hand it to In Flames for keeping the faith in the vocal department, because to my ears, that's the main factor keeping this band from the mainstream limelight (well, and maybe that lightning double bass work). Changing the vocals could have made things "easier" for the band, but thankfully for us fans, they don't seem to have any intention of this is in the near future. There's no real point in trying to describe what Colony sounds like, for In Flames is one of those rare bands that you compare other bands to, not vice-versa. To attempt it anyway, I guess the core sound is an updated Iron Maiden/Judas Priest sense of axework, tuned down to B of course, Frieden spitting out his venomous vox with a sense of power and clarity. Which is a good thing, as his lyrics are once again as intelligent and thought provoking as we've come to expect. Expanding on his conceptual ideas given earlier, it's more like reading a book than a metal lyric sheet. Anders explains his ideas in the interview better than I ever could, so I won't butcher the points he's trying to get across. Another picture perfect Studio Fredman production doesn't hurt this opus either, all instruments strong and mixed well to clarify the attack. I have to say this much though, my immediate favorite song on the album is their 1999 rendition of Behind Space, an awesome song done justice by this confident new line-up. No doubt this is partially due to previous knowledge of the song, but it is a little scary to think that the older stuff may sound more powerful than what is more recent. The whole album grew on me exponentially though, and I have no doubts that this disc will be spun long after the cows have gone to pasture, an occurance which is becoming rarer and rarer as my album collection grows. So, while there are some interesting points in the album (a little organ line pops up at one spot), In Flames are back to business, totally ready to conquer the world this time around, and I for one wish them the best of luck.

In Flames - Clayman

2000 Nuclear Blast Records :: Reviewed by rofreason on 2005-07-07

Time does pass by quickly, for while it may seem as though Colony just appeared at my doorstep, it's been over a year, time enough for these ever prolific Swedes to have prepared and released another stunning album. It really is hard to just sit down and review an In Flames album, for the band exists on another plane apart from their contemporaries in my view. With The Jester Race still one of my favorite records of all time, each successive IF album is (unfairly) subjected to that snapshot of the band's career, with Whoracle and Colony not able to capture the emotion and spirit that TJR held. Linked in many ways to fellow countrymen Dark Tranquillity, In Flames have gone through some core personnel changes and core sound changes in the past few years. Whoracle slowed things down and split ideas into separate songs (where The Jester Race flowed as one complete boy of work to me), and Colony found the band experimenting more with a somewhat "alternative" flavor. Not my favorite direction, and a choice of covering Depeche Mode some albums back gave a slight hint as to the current influences. But as I've always felt, the best bands refuse to stagnate, and to hear TJR book 4 at this point would have not only been unwelcome, but would have effectively diluted the power of that album as well. And all this banter leads to one truth, that being that I'm finally ready to accept Clayman. Had this album come out at another time, believe me, you would feel my disappointment, but now, in the summer of 2000, I can accept the Depeche Mode-isms, the higher register vocals, the almost more accessible sounds of a once genre defining band. The move of Bjorn Gelotte from drums to lead guitar really didn't have as profound of an effect on Colony as it does here, Daniel Svensson able to really stretch out his performances, shining through on several spots on the album. The infamous twin axe attack is still here, and as the album begins, my first thoughts are of the overall heaviness in tone here. No, the angst and darkness of the first two albums has long since vanished, but I've come to terms with the new In Flames, and while I may not embrace the new sound with open arms (the track Only for the Weak is aptly named), there's a certain feeling of something akin to levity that I find uplifting, all coming together to make Clayman an overall more enjoyable release for me than last year's Colony.