Fans clamouring for melo-death giants In Flames to return to the groundbreaking and hugely influential sound of their earliest material will likely remain ambivalent to their thirteenth full length, ‘I, The Mask’. That being said, while the Swedes are still leaning on a predominantly more melodic emphasis these days, this album boasts a stronger synthesis of their genre-defining origins with their recent evolution in a manner which 2016’s ,‘Battles’, fell somewhat short.
There are certainly a few quirky moments to be found here. The children’s gang vocal choir and Anders Fridén’s David Draiman impersonation make for a interesting listen on ‘(This Is Our) House’. Elsewhere, ‘Follow Me’ feels like an attempt to recapture the melancholic ballad style of the title track on ‘Come Clarity’.
That’s not to say that In Flames have entirely eschewed their savage roots. Opening track, ‘Voices’ bears a downright beastly riff courtesy of Björn Gelotte and Niclas Engelin, while both ‘I Am Above’ and the thrashy title track allow for an intensely spat vocal delivery from Anders. And yet, many of the standout tracks are when the band deviates from their tried and tested melodic death metal template. The anthemic harmonies of ‘We Will Remember’ soar in a way that wouldn’t sound out of place on a latter day Trivium record. The Middle-Eastern lead lines of ‘Deep Inside’ prepare for one of the biggest chorus hooks on the album, and ‘All The Pain’ manages to balance the overwrought sincerity of its lyricism with the modern metal bounce of the instrumentation.
As already stated, those who are looking for spiritual sequels to ‘Clayman’ or ‘The Jester Race’ face disappointment with this one. Hell, they’ve probably already given up on In Flames anyway. But for those who have stuck with the band over the years, ‘I, The Mask’ is a mostly successful exploration of their sound with sufficient nods to the past.
1. Voices 4:47
2. I, The Mask 3:41
3. Call My Name 3:33
4. I Am Above 3:49
5. Follow Me 4:55
6. (This Is Our) House 4:18 7. We Will Remember 4:04 8. In This Life 3:52
9. Burn 3:43
10. Deep Inside 4:21
11. All The Pain 4:29
12. Stay With Me 5:16
In Flames will be touring the UK in April,
April 3rd – Glasgow, QMU
April 4th – Manchester, Ritz
April 5th – London, Roundhouse
April 6th – Nottingham, Rock City
April 7th – Bristol, SWX
April 9th – Norwich, Waterfront
with support from Light The Torch