In Flames is obviously a very important band in the melodeath scene. They were also a favorite band of mine for several years shortly after I discovered them.
In Flames's debut full-length is the only one in which Mikael Stanne appears as vocalist. In a bizarre coincidence, Stanne's longtime band Dark Tranquillity featured later In Flames's vocalist Anders Friden on vocals for their early material. That's not the only difference between this album and the band's later material though. This one also featured some almost folk metal moments with string instruments playing a role at times. This is a very impressive debut.
THE JESTER RACE:
The first album with Anders Friden as vocalist is a melodeath masterpiece. It is still not my favorite album by the band, but it is certainly up there. This is for the most part death metal with a melodic sensibility. It was at this time that the moniker melodeath was really accurate. Some of the earlier folk elements were still present, but this was basically the first real In Flames album.
In Flames continued to streamline their sound on this release from the last one. This is much more representative of the style that the band helped popularize and showed the band's ability to write catchy songs that still had a strong death metal influence. Their Iron Maiden-like riffing style had been perfected with this release and the band would continue to improve.
This is my favorite In Flames album. Everything was working perfectly on this release. The music was clearly death metal based with strong influences from much more melodic styles of metal. The songs were all infectious as hell. The instrumentation was impressive and Friden sounded amazing. This is the perfect In Flames album.
At this time, In Flames was beginning to see some increase in popularity. This is something of a transition album. The music was still clearly on the melodeath side of things, but the band's pop sensibility was beginning to take over quite a bit. The band was making a conscious effort to reaching as vast an audience as they could. But this is still an impressive release.
REROUTE TO REMAIN:
My first In Flames album is seen by a lot of people as their sellout release, and in some ways it certainly was. Gone for the most part was a lot of the death metal influence. In Flames kept their catchy songwriting ability intact, but this album was far closer to nu metal and alternative metal styles. It is still not a bad release because the songs were still very good. As my first release by the band, I have kind of a soft spot for this release.
SOUNDTRACK TO YOUR ESCAPE:
Pretty much exactly the same as their previous album, only this time In Flames had gone even further away from death metal. Their exposure to the mainstream had given them a taste of major success and In Flames definitely wanted more. The songs were even shorter and tighter this time around, leaving very little room for experimentation of any type. I still kind of like this one though.
On this release, In Flames made a conscious effort to try to recapture some of the old melodeath feel. What resulted was an album that basically combined Reroute to Remain with Clayman. It was an admirable effort and there are certainly some impressive songs on this album. However, some of the magic was gone. It felt a little uneven at times. It was clear that In Flames was really beginning to lose it.
A SENSE OF PURPOSE:
And there it went. This is the album that caused me to give up on the band. I had heard leading into it that it was a further step in the right direction. I do not remember who told me that, but they were delusional. This is basically modern rock. Even the band's logo and artwork reflect a desire to sound like the crap heard on modern rock radio. There were only a couple of salvageable songs on here. Too bad.
I have not yet summoned the desire to hear their newest release. I am not sure I want to. The one song I have heard takes all the bad things from their last one and amplifies them. I am not sure I want to hear that.