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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.