Having listened back on SOILWORK‘s fabulous 2002 album, “Natural Born Chaos,” for its 20th anniversary earlier this year, it would have been sacrilege to then ignore the 20th anniversary for another legendary Gothenburg album that came out of Sweden that year: “Reroute to Remain” by the already-then-established IN FLAMES. Having shed their harsher sound a few albums back, this album was around the pinnacle of the band’s second era, where they dabble in clean vocals and melodic guitarwork. Depending on your favorite timeframe, this could be a favorite or least favorite release.
“Reroute to Remain” boasts an impressive fourteen tracks for its 51+ minute runtime, starting with its absolute killer of a title track. Keyboards play the opening notes to the album, wantingly alluring, as they set the first stones down for that sweet, sweet Jesper Strömblad riffing to layer overtop. If you’ve read any of my more recent IN FLAMES reviews, it is the lack of Strömblad‘s strong riffing styles and the chronic punch-in-the-face on all instrumental fronts that is so wonderful on re-listening to these older albums; this is also what I miss on their newer releases. Gothenburg songs didn’t always need to be fast to be heavy back in the day, and “Reroute to Remain” proves that, as it is fast enough that one could mosh to it, but the chorus is so laid-back that it almost requires more of a groove ‘n’ sway than a headbang. In fact, melodic death metal might be the more appropriate title, as fans of the old IN FLAMES may argue that the melodic qualities of this album already put their “Gothenburg-ness” into question.
Full-blast we go into “System,” one of the faster and more aggressive tracks, as the ferocity assaults the ears from the first notes. Yet, never to be boring, they slow things down for the bridge and vocalist Anders Fríden switches to clean vocals, leading into an astonishingly melodic chorus that manages to be utterly beautiful, despite the sheer shredding that supports it. However, on listening via a good sound system, the mix does show its age, as the cymbals are mushy and it doesn’t feel properly balanced on the whole. There’s also some really nice modulation, creating an almost spacey vibe in later parts of the song. The album then pounds right forward with “Drifter,” which seems to be planted at track three just to punch you repeatedly in the face. If they wanted to save some face in the Gothenburg style, this traditional 1-2-3 riffing holds tight to the band’s tradition. The trade-off of a short spurt of clean vocals that precedes the growls in the chorus is surprisingly fun for such a bashing song.
“Trigger” is a clear household favorite, as everyone perked up instantly (cats included) when the familiar riffing set off. What a masterpiece of shred! Anders has some of his harsher, feistier growls in this track; yet again, the band takes a turn for the charming by giving a wildly melodic and catchy chorus. Perhaps this is a pinnacle song of IN FLAMES at their most balanced between harsh and melodic/catchy. No fancy production or poppy autotune are needed to make this song heavy and gritty, yet equally danceable and moshable. The music cuts out at one point to give you a little breath, but it’s only a brief respite to give you some oxygen so you can lose your shit extra hard when the band drops back in like a bomb. Let’s throw a little love out to Daniel Svensson on drums too – he keeps this shit lit up!
The synth intro to “Cloud Connected” is legendary for a good goddamned reason. It leads up to the most deliciously heavy riffing, before the chugging sets in, and a rather twisted version of Anders‘ vocals enters play for the first time on this release. This was an old personal favorite that helped get me into the band, so it’s a bit hard to be objective. That notwithstanding, if you’re a budding metalhead who’s still getting used to the idea of growls… songs like this, that are full of such fabulous riffing and glorious melodic power, are the ones that make you think, hey, maybe you don’t mind those growls so much anymore. In fact, maybe you’re even starting to like them!
If you were hoping for a rest… nope! The low end on “Transparent” is one of the dankest on the album, with gritty vocal layering to really make a point. The hint of radio-twisted cleans is an unusual hint of flavor that works very well in the context of the grittiness of the rest of the song. Add some classic heavy metal riffage in the solo slot, and you end up with yet another pretty solid track. The dropped bass sound in the chorus makes Peter Iwers one of the standout performers on this track.
The riffing in “Dawn of a New Day” is wonderfully layered, with the song ebbing and flowing like the tide – in moments, it’s fast and pushing; at other times it’s slow and emotional. They were quite creative with the use of effects on the vocals back in 2002, seemingly not willing to commit to a clean sound, so each song has a variety of different ways that they change the sound of the cleans to help them melt perfectly with the riffs and growls. Another wall of sound hits with “Egonomic,” like canon-fire into your earballs. For the thrashers out there, this was likely one of the best mosh tracks, as it hardly lets up at any point, not even the chorus. This is one of the more straightforward tracks, no real surprises, just sheer, relentless… perhaps even campy force.
Knowing that it’s finally time, IN FLAMES turn it down – just a little – for “Minus.” I’d be loathe to call it “slow,” but they chill out and allow more melody to sneak into this piece. Some of the cleanest vocals are thus far found in this track, alongside thunderous rolling drums. “Dismiss the Cynics” is another perfectly good song that doesn’t quite stand out against a lot of the better material on the album. It does a nice job balancing riffing with melodic lines, but the album is quite long and this one fails to leave a lasting impact. The short, smooth breakdown before the soloing is worth keeping an ear open for, however.
“Free Fall” starts with a huge power chug, with a variety of vocals sounds and a bit of synth twinkling with pounding drums and riffs. As another pleasant but straightforward song that takes few risks, it again doesn’t quite stand out against some of the more excellent earlier tracks. Luckily, “Dark Signs” has some exciting riffs to shake things up, as the drums will make your speakers rattle. The melodic chorus works well, if feeling a bit familiar, as it changes up the overall pace of the album at this point, when it feels necessary.
The album begins its wind-down with “Metaphor,” which starts on a smooth, groovy intro that adds a surprising shake-up towards the end. Cleaner vocals introduce the lyrics, with a strong bass line that guides the guitars along between verses. Of note, there are no growls here whatsoever, lulling you into a sense of security before they blast you one last time with “Black & White.” While the latter is not one of the best songs on the album, but it’s got a catchy note to the chorus, making sure that it still leaves an impression as the last song of the album.
Ahh, now this was a walk down memory lane that was well-enjoyed and perhaps a bit needed. When bands take a new direction, it’s easy to get salty and forget why we loved them in the first place. “Reroute to Remain” is definitely one of the pinnacle albums of IN FLAMES‘ second era, and having a close listen back on a great album was a breath of fresh air. The older IN FLAMES albums have been sitting dusty on my shelves for too long since I haven’t been enjoying their newer material, and this album is a good throwback to some of the band’s greatest riffing, coupled with their best earlier melodic experiments. While the mix is a bit murky at times and there is a bit of filler that could’ve been trimmed from the album, ultimately, “Reroute to Remain” keeps its status as one of the best melodeath/Gothenburg albums of its day!
- Reroute to Remain
- Cloud Connected
- Dawn of a New Day
- Dismiss the Cynics
- Free Fall
- Dark Signs
- Black & White
- Anders Fridén – vocals
- Björn Gelotte – lead guitar
- Jesper Strömblad – rhythm guitar
- Peter Iwers – bass
- Daniel Svensson – drums
Nuclear Blast Records