Formed in the Gothenburg underground in 1990, In Flames quickly became one of the preeminent forces in melodic death metal. But since 2000, the band have gradually ditched their deathly ways in favour of more commercial arena metal. It’s been a giant shift, but does it actually mean the band have gone downhill, or are genre elitists just overreacting? Join us for a whistlestop tour through all of In Flames’ albums to find out.
13. Battles (2016)
Armed with only one good song (that being the taut The End), Battles is the bottom of the In Flames barrel. The controversial Howard Benson both produces and co-writes every track – yes, the man that has called people that don’t use Auto-Tune “nuts” and composes for pop-rockers like Halestorm. Unsurprisingly, his only album with the formerly extreme crew is a hard rock dud, containing none of the fury of the band’s finest moments.
12. Siren Charms (2014)
The main problem with Siren Charms is that it’s a lifeless experience. Everything about it feels flat, from the riffs to the choruses to Anders Fridén’s vocals. It’s a toothless continuation of its predecessor Sounds Of A Playground Fading, which in itself was the less interesting follow-up to A Sense Of Purpose. If you can find something here worth writing home about, you’re doing better than us.
11. I, The Mask (2019)
After the lacklustre Siren Charms and Battles, many lost faith in the post-melo-death era of In Flames. However, I, The Mask proved there could be slight value in the middle-aged men’s radio rock phase. Although (This Is Our) House is as cringy as can be, there are some worthwhile moments: Voices and I Am Above are fun anthems, All The Pain boasts some captivating singing and Burn’s verses are joyously rowdy.
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10. Lunar Strain (1994)
The band’s debut album is an anomaly in their back catalogue. Created before both the band and melo-death as a whole had a clear identity, it mixes future genre mainstays (adrenaline-pumping compositions, acoustic guitars and enrapturing harmonies) with bizarre bits of black metal and Scandinavian folk, as well as the only appearance from singer Michael Stanne, on loan from their friends in Dark Tranquility. Despite some stellar riffs in Behind Space and Upon An Oaken Throne, this is a fascinating history lesson more than a cohesive album.
9. Sounds Of A Playground Fading (2011)
The deck was stacked against Sounds Of A Playground Fading. It was the first In Flames album without found Jesper Strömblad, leaving the five-piece without a leader as they explored their new, clean-cut direction. In the end, it’s not as engaging as A Sense Of Purpose, but its gothic groove metal makes it a decent offering. And “decent”, sadly, is the best In Flames would ever be in the 2010s.
8. Reroute To Remain (2002)
After introducing elements of arena rock on Clayman, In Flames started tasting serious success. They cracked the Top 20 in Sweden before being offered a tour supporting Slipknot. So, the natural next step was to take the user-friendliness even further on Reroute To Remain. This gave us songs like the Korn-esque System and the electronic Cloud Connected, which angered allegiant followers but also got the band touring the US, so what do they know?
7. Clayman (2000)
2000 spelled the beginning of the end for In Flames the death metal band. With Clayman, their melodies were upped to the nth degree; not only was more emphasis placed on accessible hooks, but synth playing was included for the first time on an In Flames album and Anders Fridén’s clean singing became a regular feature. Still, the musicianship lost none of its intensity, resulting in enduring beloveds like Only For The Weak and Bullet Ride.
6. A Sense Of Purpose (2008)
As the first album with no death metal hallmarks whatsoever, A Sense Of Purpose has a rough reputation; for many, it marks the start of In Flames’ “sell-out” era. Yet, despite paving the way for stinkers like Battles, …Purpose is an eclectic treat. Disconnected’s metalcore picks up where Come Clarity left off, Delights And Angers has a great hard/soft dynamic and Alias is among In Flames’ best songs ever. Period.
5. Soundtrack To Your Escape (2004)
If Reroute To Remain was the scalpel that split the In Flames fanbase in half, then Soundtrack To Your Escape is the stitches that temporarily reunited them. While not ditching the nu metal and electronic flourishes of its predecessor, it certainly de-emphasised them in favour of a more consistent flow. The album isn’t talked about much today, largely because it sounds more like a bridge between Reroute… and Come Clarity than its own beast.
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4. Come Clarity (2006)
In Flames’ early work was a quintessential influence on the melodic metalcore movement. So, you can only imagine how Trivium and Killswitch Engage felt when, in 2006, In Flames actually made their own metalcore album – and outdid most of the bands they inspired in the process. Come Clarity remains their most vicious and concise offering of the 21st century, hammering with thirteen tight anthems more surefooted than anything they’d done since 1999.
3. The Jester Race (1996)
In Flames’ second album is Lunar Strain’s streamlined successor, condensing the album’s sometimes conflicting elements into a coherent opus. The band’s melodic guitars gel perfectly with the high-octane performance of new drummer Björn Gelotte, while the acoustic elements are emphasised only to ramp up the excitement of the next riff. Plus, choruses like those of the title track hinted at a future of large-scale success for the Swedes, feeling catchier than any of their contemporaries.
2. Whoracle (1997)
Whoracle is In Flames’ heaviest album, venturing far closer to all-out death metal than anything else in their back-catalogue. Its production is raw, it boasts a plethora of guitar solos and the songwriting is much more direct in its aggression. Still, there’s just enough diversity to keep things interesting: Jester Script Transfigured is a fucked-up kind of ballad and cover of Depeche Mode’s Everything Counts shouldn’t work as well as it does.
1. Colony (1999)
Colony is an undisputed fireball of an album. It’s a melo-death masterpiece with a consistently fast pace, never letting up over its forty minutes, but able to add so much to that thrashing backbone. While Scorn and Embody The Invisible are no-nonsense genre jams, Ordinary Story juxtaposes intense growls with clean guitar-work and the title track hints at the grooving bounce that would later fuel Clayman. It really doesn’t get better than this.
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