In Flames

Siren Charms

Written by: AP on 29/09/2014 22:58:53

There is little in common between "The Jester Race"-era In Flames and In Flames anno 2014, and closing in on their 25th Anniversary as a band, one wonders if a single fan remains on board to remember that once, these Gothenburg legends were considered a pioneering force in the realm of melodic death metal? It is difficult to fault a band for their desire to evolve with the times, but inspecting the post-Millennial output of In Flames, it's hard to deny a petal has fallen off their withering rose with every attempt at transformation - an ironic statement to make, given "December Flower" off the aforementioned 1994 album remains one of the band's most accomplished tracks. Now, in the year preceding their 25th year as a band, what remains?

Certainly not the song writing prowess of Jesper Strömblad, who resigned in 2010 as a result of alcoholism, and whose contributions provided the lifeline at the beginning of the end, the group's 2008 album "A Sense of Purpose"; nor the slightest hint of melodic death metal. No, besting even the hellish electronica of 2004's "Soundtrack to Your Escape" and the ineffective arena ambitions of 2011's "Sounds of a Playground Fading", this latest outing "Siren Charms" may not hammer the nails, but it certainly spells the end of In Flames as a metal band with any sort of extreme character. Whether it's the nu-metal stylings of "Through Oblivion" or the starry eyed balladry of "With Eyes Wide Open", vocalist Anders Fridén leads his band of guitarists Björn Gelotte & Niclas Engelin, bassist Peter Iwers and drummer Daniel Svensson through a plethora of daring and, at times, intriguing ideas all of which betray a certain degree of potential, but falter when it comes to execution. That Disturbed and Bullet for My Valentine emerge as the most appropriate references for those songs demands no further comment.

Let's face it, clean singing never was Fridén's forté - don't be fooled by the overdubbed and gang roared chorus of opening track "In Plain View", which nonetheless claims the prize as the standout track here. Yet the production team behind the effort has insisted (or more likely, had it imposed on them) that the vibrant leads of Gelotte & Engelin remain firmly in the background on par with Iwers' & Svensson's rhythmic foundation, whilst Fridén's voice is given the pedestal. Try, for instance, to detect some semblance of riffs beneath the airy, sample raped chorus in the already mentioned "Through Oblivion", or to unearth from any of the 11 tracks guitar histrionics worth batting an eyelash for. It's all terribly uninventive, looking past the ambitious concepts upon which most of the songs are based. There's the odd cool bass lick (the start/stop dynamics Iwers employs in the title track have their charm), booming chorus (alongside "In Plain View", the best examples are waiting for discovery on the title track also, as well as on lead single "Rusted Nail", which also features an assortment of interesting and at times retrospective riff and solo work), and glimmer of past glory (the furious introduction and rolling drums of "Everything's Gone" bear a certain resemblance to the "Clayman" and "Come Clarity" albums), but such occurrences come few and far in between.

It comes across as a bit of a tragedy that one must acquire the deluxe edition of the album to gain access to another clear highlight, "The Chase", which as the lone survivor of a modernisation cleanse beckons with its vast arrays of riffs, and usage of Fridén's trademark growl. Still, as unresolved as the band's intentions here tend to remain, musicians with 25 years of experience just know how to make music sound acceptable even when it is largely devoid of inspiration. As such, it irritates me to conclude that the subtle palm muted main riff of "Through Oblivion", and the way its chorus transitions back into the verse could not have been performed with much more finesse; and despite the predictable structure, closing track "Filtered Truth" has the potential to take live concerts by storm by virtue of its melancholy staccato riffs and towering chorus.

The trouble is that for every prospect of brilliance, there is the synths of Muse's "Bliss" and an Emilia Feldt contributing mystifying guest vocals with no contextual relevance to the rest of the song in "When the World Explodes", or simply Gelotte & co. running dry of ideas halfway through a song. Indeed, virtually every song on "Siren Charms" is constructed around a unique idea, but then the material surrounding it sounds like a lazy afterthought; like the remnants of material from past albums for which place needed to be found. The result is an album so painfully average and unresolved it makes me sad. Sad, because there is no denying the capabilities of this band, and because they continue to make it increasingly difficult to be bothered with them.

5

Download: In Plain View, Siren Charms, Rusted Nail, The Chase (bonus track)
For the fans of: Mercenary, Raunchy, Soilwork, Surfact
Listen: Facebook

Release date 06.09.2014
Epic Records / Sony

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