In Flames

support Wovenwar + While She Sleeps
author AP date 02/11/14 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

It is with mixed expectations that I make my way toward the nearby Vega tonight, fearing the worst having spied on the setlist used by In Flames on all of the dates on this current European tour thus far and concluded that no less than 13 of those songs are taken from the band's three latest albums. There's intriguing support on the bill though, and having watched In Flames countless times now, I also know they rarely disappoint in terms of staging a worthwhile performance. That the venue is sold out also speaks its own truth: far from all have given up on this Gothenburg great.

All pictures by Peter Troest

While She Sleeps

Impeccable timing ensures I enter the congress hall (the largest of Vega's concert rooms) just as While She Sleeps are walking on stage, and soon thereafter the opening riff to "New World Torture" engulfs the venue - that is, what little of it is audible beneath the extreme volume of Adam Savage's bass drum double pedaling. Mixologically, this is not a promising start, but the remaining members - Sean Long & Mat Welsh on guitar, Aaran McKenzie on bass and Lawrence Taylor on vocals - do their utmost to divert one's attention from the issue. While She Sleeps are in ferocious mood here, a flurry of violently swung instruments, deeply banging necks and Taylor roaming the stage as though he'd just enjoyed an adrenaline injection. Gradually, the audio aspect of the band's performance improves, too, allowing excellent songs like "This is the Six" and "Our Courage, Our Cancer" to divulge their worth.

The audience is absolutely loving it, and who can blame them? It's a delight to see an opening act greeted with such enthusiasm: a hefty moshpit-cum-circle pit is in operation for the duration of While She Sleeps' six-song set, and to this, Taylor reacts in the only feasible way. As "This is the Six" climbs toward its latter half, the man climbs the right speaker stack and then executes a courageous, dangerous looking jump down from it, following this up with a roam into the pit to high-five his many fans in attendance during the older "Crows". But although antics such as Taylor's would often focus the spotlight on that on person, this is not the case tonight; seldom does one bear witness to such purpose, intensity and expression as exudes from each of the five musicians. Unwavering in their commitment to delivering at the top of their abilities in each song, While She Sleeps walk off the stage triumphantly once they conclude the proceedings with the infectious fan favourite "Seven Hills" - backed now by a perfect sound mix as well.

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Wovenwar

Wovenwar, whose line-up comprises the embers of As I Lay Dying (all four members, sans the defamed and imprisoned vocalist Tim Lambesis) and Oh, Sleeper guitarist Shane Blay, reduce the level of energy a notch to better fit the hyper melodic nature of their music. It's metalcore, yes, but with very little hard or extreme in it, with the emphasis instead placed on the sublime vocal harmonies of Blay & bassist Josh Gilbert. The two sound divine together, giving the songs that perhaps lack some of the instrumental edge for which AILD was renowned a constant allure. With Blay wielding a third axe to complement those of Nick Hipa & Phil Sgrosso, the songs are rich in melody, yet this aspect forms merely the backdrop to the profuse amount of vocal hooks being lobbed at us in tracks like the standout "Death to Rights" and "Profane".

So despite the fact that the heaviness of metal is largely missing, loud and bassy though some brief sections are, it's nigh impossible to peel one's eyes off the vocalist duo, let alone the concentration of one's hearing. Doing so, however, reveals that Hipa & Sgrosso, as well drummer Jordan Mancino (whose monstrous beard I'm not sure is awesome or ridiculous), still got it when it comes to staging a performance worth watching. True they're not as confrontational as While She Sleeps just before, but certainly no one in this outfit can be blamed for not performing with passion. Wovenwar deliver a convincing transition from the extremity of the opening act to the more family friendly approach of the evening's headliner, the legendary In Flames.

In Flames

These Gothenburg icons have long since abandoned their death metallic roots in favour of an arena friendly, chorus based style of melodic metal (bordering at times on pop, I find), so even a long standing fan such as myself could not have been surprised to find that instances of melodic death metal grandeur come few and far in between tonight on a setlist dominated by material from the band's previous three albums: "Siren Charms", "Sounds of a Playground Fading" and "A Sense of Purpose". And one of my main worries, namely whether or not vocalist Anders Fridén would be able faithfully to deliver the predominantly clean sung material from "Sirens Charms" in particular, is swiftly negated by a note perfect rendition of one of the best songs from that album, "In Plain View", and indeed also by the following "Everything's Gone" which confirms that Fridén has no trouble singing or screaming this stuff live.

Addressing the crowd in his native Swedish, I have little idea about what Fridén tries to convey to us throughout the evening, but one thing does register: "If you do well, we'll do even better". His statement rings with truth, as the staggering enthusiasm and willingness to expend energy of the audience is continually reciprocated and amplified by the band, completed by guitarists Björn Gelotte & Niclas Engelin, bassist Peter Iwers and drummer Daniel Svensson. But although the good spells shine with splendour, such as is the case early on during the trio "Fear is the Weakness", "Trigger" and "Resin" (the oldest song played tonight), it remains difficult for me fully to appreciate these goings on when tracks as bland as the pompous ballad "With Eyes Wide Open", "Paralyzed" or the Disturbed-aping "Through Oblivion" are given an airing. No amount of wildness in the band's performance can quite redeem the anonymity of these songs, and I'd be lying if it didn't baffle me that something as uninteresting as "Where the Dead Ships Dwell" or "Rusted Nail" could be met with a reaction nullifying that to "Resin", or the newer songs "Ropes" (which features the best lead Gelotte has written since the "Clayman"-era, if you ask me) and "Delight and Angers".

One must commend In Flames in any case, for daring to include both "The Chosen Pessimist" - a long-winding progressive track and "When the World Explodes", for which opera singer Emilia Feldt joins the band on stage, on the setlist. While the latter is, in my opinion, the worst song on the new album for its total lack of coherence, it does bear testimony to a group of musicians who aren't that interested in people like me think; they'll play whatever they damn well please. And judging from the roaring response they're getting from the audience, not to mention the earth rattling jumping during the classic "Cloud Connected" & "Only for the Weak", or the enormous circle pit which erupts during "The Mirror's Truth", or the oceans of people surfing the crowd throughout the latter half of the set; they've certainly not alienated all of their fans just yet. Ignoring my own bias toward the post-"Come Clarity" In Flames of the past eight years then, there is hardly a finger to point at anything In Flames don't pull off with impressive bravado tonight, not least the breathtaking light show the pinnacle of which arrives during "The Quiet Place", and when "Take This Life" places a lid on the proceedings at 20 songs, I allow myself to confess that even if their songs don't speak to me anymore, In Flames remain an exhilirating live act when witnessed in an indoor venue of this size. I'd simply wish they'd balance their shows more, including material from all of their discography, even if just one song from each record.

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Setlist:

  • In Plain View
  • Everything's Gone
  • Fear is the Weakness
  • Trigger
  • Resin
  • Where the Dead Ships Dwell
  • With Eyes Wide Open
  • Paralyzed
  • Through Oblivion
  • Ropes
  • Delight and Angers
  • Cloud Connected
  • Only for the Weak
  • The Chosen Pessimist
  • The Quiet Place
  • When the World Explodes (with Emilia Feldt)
  • Rusted Nail
  • The Mirror's Truth
  • Deliver Us
  • Take This Life

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