In Flames

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author AP date 09/06/22 venue Stengade, Copenhagen, DEN

It’s strange that this concert only sold out a couple of hours before doors opened, considering that Jesterhead & the Swedish Soda Group is easily googled to be, in fact, the real In Flames, who use this moniker for their rare, intimate, warm-up performances during festival season. I for one had my finger on the trigger, ready to purchase a ticket as soon as they were released for sale, thus even foregoing the opportunity to watch my childhood heroine Alanis Morissette performing her classic “Jagged Little Pill” album in full the same evening, in order to catch my other childhood heroes — and the band that got me into more extreme forms of metal back in the early ‘00s — playing live at the 250 capacity Stengade for first and probably the last time ever. And when I arrive, I am pleased to find that the crowd seems to consist entirely of diehard In Flames fans, eager, like me, to hear a set that is certain to include a string of old and seldom aired material.

All photos courtesy of Jacob Dinesen / Devilution.dk

In Flames

At 21:15, Jesterhead and the Swedish Soda Group, all wearing Hawaii shirts, emerges from backstage rather unceremoniously to be thunderously greeted by an audience that is under no illusion about who these five musicians really are. Without uttering a word, the band kicks off with the crowd pleasing “Alias” from their 2008 outing “A Sense of Purpose”, bursting with energy and looking every bit as amazed to be playing in such a small venue as their fans in attendance here. This may be an intimate show, but the track earns an arena worthy singalong that, at times, overwhelms the vocals of Anders Fridén much to his satisfaction. Right from the get-go, he looks a different character compared to the band’s usual, larger concerts, high-fiving people upfront and making it obvious with his dance moves that he is feeling that groove, so to speak. “Alias” is followed in quick succession by “Everything’s Gone” off 2014’s “Siren Charms”, which is frankly my least favourite album by In Flames, but while the song does nothing for me personally, there is no let-up in the crowd’s headbanging and horn casting in general.

“Shake that ass. Start a f***ing circle pit!”, Fridén screams before his band airs “Call My Name”, one of only two songs to have made it onto the setlist from the band’s latest album “I, the Mask” from 2019 — and while the crowd does not oblige his request specifically, moshing does finally erupt to the tune of this pacy melodeath piece. Bassist Bryce Paul Newman puts on a pair of sunglasses, perhaps not only blinded by the enthusiasm of the audience, but also to underscore how much fun In Flames are having, playing this kind of show that, in Fridén’s own words, is not unlike a rehearsal session. I’m personally thinking this must be how it used to be watching these Gothenburg legends in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s when they still played local basement shows with their friends and peers in bands like At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity and so forth. It has that raw and unadulterated vibe that an arena concert will always lack. It is in the wake of these comments from Fridén that the band then unleashes a dream-come-true litany of classics beginning with fan favourite “Cloud Connected”, the hit single from their 2002 offering “Reroute to Remain”, which earns the loudest singalong yet and has all five musicians contesting with the crowd about who’s rocking out most madly.

Once that staple has rung out, Fridén & co. then start diving deep into their repertoire, starting with an intense rendition of “Behind Space” from their 1994 début album “Lunar Strain”, which they have not played live on European soil since 2007. It is a timely reminder that although the sound of In Flames anno 2022 is very streamlined and mainstream, guitarist Björn Gelotte and his session colleague Chris Broderick (formerly of Megadeth and Nevermore, etc.), Newman, and drummer Tanner Wayne are still perfectly capable of playing fast and brutal music tightly, and Fridén, somewhat to my own surprise, has not forgotten how to growl with menace either. My neck is aching, but there is no time to rest before another seldom played song in the dark and melodic “Graveland” from 1996’s “The Jester Race” is unleashed, enveloping the already hot and soupy venue in an atmosphere bordering on ecstasy and pushing my teenage self to the verge of tears — tears that damn near burst out when, for the first time ever, I get to hear those magnificent, neoclassical guitar solos in “The Hive” delivered to perfection right after. It resides on the oft overlooked “Whoracle” album from 1997, which was overshadowed by what is considered by many to be one of In Flames’ most pivotal albums, 1999’s “Colony”, the title track of which must have one of the best and most headbangable riffs in In Flames’ repertoire, as also demonstrated by the antics of the audience when it is aired afterwards.

The timeline continues with In Flames’ 2000 masterpiece “Clayman” in the shape of “Pinball Map”, which has that contrast between speed and heavy riffs on the one hand and a booming chorus on the other, to explain why, after more than two decades, it still remains a staple on the band’s concert setlists. Sweat is dripping off the ceiling at this point, and people’s throats are likely raw from singing and screaming along to all these classics, which is why the proggy and slowly building “Chosen Pessimist” arrives at exactly the right time to offer some respite. It is a divisive piece amongst the group’s fanbase, but tonight, Fridén decides to render its noisy climax into something that should please even the most hardened old-school fans, replacing most of the cleanly sung parts with growls so guttural you could be forgiven for thinking it was Frank Mullen of Suffocation spitting them out instead. “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!”, Fridén offers in its wake, “We couldn’t do this without you, our fans!”, looking and sounding genuinely taken aback by the dedication people here have shown thus far — and continue to show as the entire venue erupts into a bounce for the band’s mega-hit “Only for the Weak”, which is largely sung by the audience into the microphone that Fridén is gladly holding out to us.

Much of the final segment of the concert thereafter is populated by newer material, but while I have never had much affinity for anything post-“A Sense of Purpose”, it is nonetheless a sight for sore eyes to witness the five musicians playing those songs with so much gusto. There is also quite a bit of joking banter and even an impromptu funk jam interspersing them, further underlining this laid back, practice space atmosphere that I described earlier in this review. It is an aspect of In Flames we will probably never get to witness again, and in this light, it does not matter so much that certain staples like “Bullet Ride”, “Trigger”, “Come Clarity”, etc. are left unvisited tonight in favour of cuts like “The End” and “I Am Above”. There is no dampening the the fervour that reigns inside Stengade — but still all things must eventually come to and end. “Take This Life” off 2006’s “Come Clarity” puts the level of energy through the roof and brings this unique performance to a conclusion in spectacular fashion, with 250 people screaming “If I ever / If I never / Make me understand the thought whatever / Make me see / Make me be / Make me understand you’re there for me” with all their heart’s might.

Indeed — if you weren’t there, you should be full of regret.

9

Setlist:

  • 1. Alias
  • 2. Everything’s Gone
  • 3. Where the Dead Ships Dwell
  • 4. Call My Name
  • 5. All for Me
  • 6. Cloud Connected
  • 7. Behind Space
  • 8. Graveland
  • 9. The Hive
  • 10. Colony
  • 11. Pinball Map
  • 12. The Chosen Pessimist
  • 13. Only for the Weak
  • 14. Monsters in the Ballroom
  • 15. Deliver Us
  • 16. The End
  • 17. The Mirror’s Truth
  • 18. I Am Above
  • 19. Take This Life

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