You always pay attention when melodic metal giants In Flames bring out a new album. In the past their work has inspired many a band, often showing the way metal will develop.
It’s quite a cross to bear being a bellwether for more than one musical genre so any change of style or dip in form is magnified compared to that of less well revered acts. In recent times the band has come in for some criticism as they moved in a more melodic direction even though their intrinsically heavy sound has always remained at the heart of their music. Siren Charms holds onto that core mentality while at the same time allowing the band to vary things enormously. In a way they seem to be trying to keep fans old and new happy and while the idea is sound, the methodology is surprising and risky.
As you’d expect from seasoned professionals like In Flames the writing and performance of each song is immense with the years of experience showing clearly in tracks such as Rusted Nail, a throwback to the Reroute To Remain days which saw the Swedes embark on their initial makeover. Regardless of your thoughts on how the band has changed you can’t deny their technical ability which could be considered as almost prog, just not in the traditional sense. The thing that really catches the ear above style though is the production.
While the music presses all the right buttons the way it’s been produced smacks of commerciality. The whole thing sounds like it was produced to be more accessible which given the direction taken by the band anyway is a surprise. It’s a bit like expecting to get a nice broth and being served consommé instead. It’s still tasty but hasn’t got the body to it you were expecting. It’s fair to concede there are places where it works quite well, on the quieter moments it lifts the keyboard and gives it a new dynamic. I just wished they’d not neutered the whole thing. Even the thin sound can’t diminish how well put together the music is though.
From Nu metal flavoured Everythings Gone with its chugging bass line to alt metal belter Monsters In The Ballroom you get a sense that the pride and passion are still there.
In trying to write an album that has a little bit for everyone In Flames have moved even further from their original sound than they might have intended. Gone are the growling vocals as is the brutal edge that many fans love. Instead we get a mature well balanced metal album that some might find a tad insipid but many more I’m sure will love.
It’s always been the case that over time acts develop and refine their sound, often becoming so different from the original as to be almost unrecognisable. Here Gothenburg’s finest are still true to their roots but have branched out and grown into something much more impressive than merely another (albeit very good) melodic death metal band.
In Flames might not be a wildfire but they still burn brighter than most.