If ever there was a band to endure, IN FLAMES would hold the title. Having started as a harsh and growling Gothenburg entity in the ’90s, to adding more melodic elements in the ’00s, and the modern era that’s taken inspiration from lighter, poppier styles as well, it should come as no surprise that this band’s fanbase has been in constant flux. With this all in mind, the announcement of “Foregone,” the band re-signing with Nuclear Blast Records, and the steady stream of surprisingly heavy singles have resulted in deep curiosity regarding this new release – will they sound like their old selves, mid-era selves, or modern selves? The answer will become clear on February 10th, 2023, as to just what kind of album these Swedes are releasing this time around.
Check out our interview with vocalist Anders Fridén here!
If you’ve read any of my reviews in the past, you’d know by now that I approach new IN FLAMES with cautious optimism, assuming that they won’t sound like they did when they were one of my favorite bands, but also assuming that there will still be a few good tracks worth finding. As such, IN FLAMES‘ last four albums have been pretty hit-or-more-likely-miss. “Sounds of a Playground Fading” had some great material, but also some baffling inclusions. “Siren Charms” took a little too much influence from pop metal and failed completely in its low-end, while “Battles“ had some potential but maintained too much of a hold on that same poppy sound from “Siren Charms,” ultimately falling flat despite one or two solid singles. “I, the Mask,” showed potential in its title track, but only had one or two real winners in its tracklist. This means that – with four albums I generally didn’t like under my belt – whatever came next was truly a roll of the die as to whether it’d pass my stiff expectations.
The album opens surprisingly on acoustic guitar notes in “The Beginning of All Things that Will End,” creating an ambient guitar soundscape that really does not belong on the album, as – while it does objectively sound like IN FLAMES‘ guitar sound – the transition into the speedy banger, “State of Slow Decay,” is about as subtle as dropping a nuclear bomb on a row boat. This weird move aside, the album’s first full track did prove to be perfectly solid, in the same way Windows users were able to unclench when Windows 7 came out. The song has some remnants of the poppy/melodic style that they’ve absorbed in the chorus, but have actually put it to good use with their regular sound, keeping the verses harsh and growly, making for a surprisingly decent first single.
There’s an interplay of clean and growling vocals in “Meet Your Maker,” giving it a rather metalcore vibe, but that works pretty well. I had mentioned in the review of “Battles” that many of the newer IN FLAMES songs would work better if coming from a metalcore band, and perhaps that’s how their new sound simply expresses itself. Now that I’m “over” old IN FLAMES (meaning that I think that sound is gone and don’t expect it to come back) and am willing to take anything I can get from them, maybe metalcore IN FLAMES isn’t so bad? The melodic chorus is quite slow but actually sounds rather decent. There’s a mid-tempo, chuggy intro to “Bleeding Out,” which leads into a fairly headbang-able part before Anders comes in. It’s definitely in keeping with the current IN FLAMES sound, but the harsh growls help to even it out, with a very melodic chorus (though I’d never say no to more growls if they were to offer). The solo is also quite fiddly, which is fun.
The album’s title track comes in two parts, interestingly (and unusually) squatting in the middle of the release, with “Foregone pt. 1” starting on a thrashy, heavy, blast-beat filled note, making for one of the heaviest (and, one might argue, best) songs on the album. “Foregone pt. 2” has an intro that distinctly throws back to the sound from “Clayman“ (2000), which is always nice. It has a new-age IN FLAMES vibe, yet doesn’t come across as aurally offensive, as there’s enough going on in the music to keep it interesting, even if Anders is mostly singing cleans. This song would be a bit of a blend from the melodic feel of “Siren Charms” with the melodic vibes of “Clayman,” and it’s not the worst thing you could imagine.
“Pure Light of Mind” is straight-up melodic metal, with Anders singing cleans but with what seems like growling in the vocal mix backing him up – not a bad idea, if he prefers clean vocals these days, as it gives a lot of texture to those cleans. This one isn’t fully slow enough to be a ballad, but the very high vocals are unusual… still, it’d be a lie to say that I hate it. It’s fine and again, if I think of this as a different entity from the old IN FLAMES that I love, a more metalcore IN FLAMES… this might actually work for me. Meanwhile, Anders screaming “the sky is on fire and the angels cry” in “The Great Deceiver” felt so familiar that I had to check that this song wasn’t a remaster or cover or something. It turns out that I probably heard the song as a single and it just left that big of an impression that it stuck in my subconscious. Well, if so, good call, because it’s one of the heaviest and strongest tracks on the album! Then “In the Dark” keeps a slower tempo but is otherwise very heavy, with pretty relentless drumming, a balanced chorus, and an overall good push/drive forward.
Some of the most melodic material makes its appearance towards the end, as “Cynosure” has little-to-no growling, with Anders‘ radio echo (is there a phrase for that?) making regular appearances. “End of Transmission” is one of the most intriguing songs, as it’s got some good old heavy growling with a bit of a chugging tempo (just a hint), a stark bridge, and then a rather groovy chorus – very unusual for IN FLAMES, but actually makes for kind of a cool outro.
On the whole, I tend to go into new IN FLAMES material expecting the worst and hoping for the best and… maybe I’m “over it” or maybe I’m just tired of being a hater, but for whatever reason, “Foregone” did not rub me the wrong way in the same manner as the rest of the modern-era albums from these guys. Part of that is because I’ve gotten used to their sound being a little lighter and a little poppier than it once was, but part also seems to be that bassist Bryce Paul, drummer Tanner Wayne, and guitarist Christopher Broderick have breathed a little bit of new life into an otherwise rather stagnant band. I no longer have complaints about a lifeless low-end, meaning the album’s sound is much fuller – especially with all the textured growls mixed in with the cleans – growing from “I, the Mask,” where it seemed like it wanted to make a comeback but couldn’t quite get there. If I were to compare to another band, it’s a bit like WITHIN TEMPTATION – many people couldn’t forgive the poppiness of “The Unforgiving,” but after “Hydra” and “Resist,” it’s been easier for us to accept that the poppiness won’t go away but can be integrated into the previous heavy sound, creating something new and not bad at all. Hell, if this was the album I discovered IN FLAMES with, I’d likely only experience greater joy going back through their discography, so if you’ve been living in a closet or just haven’t given these guys a shot yet… this isn’t a terrible album through which to finally get into IN FLAMES.
Written by Bear Wiseman
- The Beginning of All Things that Will End
- State of Slow Decay
- Meet Your Maker
- Bleeding Out
- Foregone pt. 1
- Foregone pt. 2
- Pure Light of Mind
- The Great Deceiver
- In the Dark
- A Dialogue in b Flat Minor
- End the Transmission
Anders Fridén – vocals
Björn Gelotte – guitars
Chris Broderick – guitars
Bryce Paul – bass
Tanner Wayne – drums
Nuclear Blast Records