(2000) In Flames – Clayman: Anniversary special

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In the year 2000, Swedish melodic death metal group IN FLAMES released a record named “Clayman” through Nuclear Blast Records. The album was their fifth studio effort, and it would go on to become one of the quintessential records from the legendary Gothenburg melodic death metal sound. Like their previous work, the album was recorded with legendary Swedish producer Fredrik Nordström, an important figure in the Gothenburg metal -scene.

The album is remembered by metalheads for many things, one of which is its legendary guitar tone, achieved by placing two Shure SM57 -microphones, the first one facing the middle of the speaker directly, and the second next to it at a 55 degree angle towards the cab. This resulted in a phase-cancellation effect, which took out some of the frequencies that are unpleasant to the ear. As a result, you get a guitar tone that is very pleasing to the ear and sounds full.

The guitar tone is also quite scooped in the mid-frequencies, which sets the record apart from a lot of records released after the early 2000s. Later on, it became more common to have a lot of mid-range present in the guitar tone. One of the biggest talking points in metal today is the argument that a lot of new records sound the same due to the same production style. Clayman stood out, sounding different from these records.

Depression and mental battles are a very common theme in the songs on “Clayman.” Singer Anders Fridèn has stated that he wrote the lyrics for the title-track of the album about himself.

The album starts with a song “Bullet Ride.” It works very well as an opener and gives listeners a taste of what’s to come. Commercially “Clayman” sold more copies than the band’s previous effort “Colony,” in just the first few months, therefore, “Bullet Ride” was probably the first taste of IN FLAMES for many people. It gives a very good impression of the band for new listeners, featuring a great balance between heavy chugs and melodic clean guitar.

Pinball Map” is one of the strongest cuts on the album. It is great to see how IN FLAMES utilized many experimental elements in their music, which were not really present in death metal at the early 2000s. This song features a lower distorted vocal harmony, giving the cleaner vocal performances more depth. There are also some synth sounds, which in turn give the instrumental side more depth.

“Clayman” really showcases how the melodic death metal sound the band pioneered was getting honed and perfected. Coincidentally, “Clayman” was the band’s last release featuring the classic melodic death metal sound. Later they went on to experiment more with different sounds and stylistic elements. This absolute classic in the IN FLAMES catalogue is still very enjoyable to listen to 20 years later and for anyone seeking that heavy-yet-melodic and undoubtedly unique Gothenburg-sound, this album is one of the best cuts the western side of Sweden has to offer.

Written by Saku Lintala

Tracklist

  1. Bullet Ride
  2. Pinball Map
  3. Only for the Weak
  4. …As the Future Repeats Today
  5. Square Nothing
  6. Clayman
  7. Satellites and Astronauts
  8. Brush the Dust Away
  9. Swim
  10. Suburban Me
  11. Another Day in Quicksand

Lineup

Anders Fridén – lead vocals

Björn Gelotte – guitar

Jesper Strömblad – guitar

Peter Iwers – bass

Daniel Svensson – drums

Label

Nuclear Blast