In Flames have been force to reckon with since their inception as one of Europe’s most powerful Melodic Death Metal acts. Worshipped globally as one of the stimulus for the whole offshoot of early 2000’s-Metalcore acts, In Flames have evolved their sound with every passing album, not hesitating to incorporate tropes popularized by newcomers, and render naysayers obsolete every time with stellar albums like ‘Sounds of a Playground Fading’ and ‘Come Clarity’. However, In Flames have undergone two massive changes in their line-up. Does it do any favor for their recent detours in musical style? Let’s find out.
For a band that has released over a dozen studio albums, In Flames always have something fresh to offer, and ‘I, the Mask’ is not any different. You can still feel the same Swedish Heavy Metal organism huff and puff underneath the layers of core-influenced chants, in ‘House’. Most elitists will dismiss tracks like ‘We Will Remember’ as an Alternative feel-good number; but it takes a patient, thinking Metalhead to realize that nothing feels pretentious or half-hearted when you take the experienced songwriting of vocalist Anders Friden and guitarists Gelotte and Engelin into account.
‘I, the Mask’ introduces two new faces in the ranks of the band, with bassist Bryce Paul replacing Peter Iwers and drummer Tanner Wayne replacing Joe Rickard. Needless to say both new members seem to have fit in with the band like glove and a hand. The drumming particularly stands out right off the album-opener ‘Voices’. The title track follows next and stands out as one of the most memorable tracks in the list. Memorable choruses and a very Nu-age Bridge section give the track a hook to remember.
Even with two crucial changes to the rhythmic backbone of the band, In Flames ooze the dexterity of a well-rehearsed band in every composition on the album. It is both interesting and somewhat refreshing to a degree to see In Flames wander into melodic vocal territories that you are more likely to find on an Alternative Metal album. That being said, Anders Friden still wins you over on ‘I, The Mask’ with his usual skilled delivery that inspired so much of modern MeloDeath and Metalcore vocals across the globe. The tracks like ‘Call My Name’, ‘Burn’ and ‘In this Life’ are ample evidence of that!
To sum it up, In Flames are probably never again going to sound like they did on the 1998 MeloDeath gold standard, ‘The Jester Race’ or the somewhat thrashier ‘Clayman’. As far as the overall sound of the album goes, ‘I, the Mask’ is not hesitant to follow in the footsteps of ‘Battles’ and to some extent 2014’s ‘Siren Charms’. But, this sounds like an In Flames that is more comfortable and confidant than ever in its compositions.
Suffice to say, In Flames are not done bringing something new to the table for Modern Metal every time they have a record to release. There is a steady symbiosis between In Flame’s mature songwriting and modern sound elements. The lyrical approach is masterful as well. ‘I, the Mask’ makes for an interesting listen if you are willing to embrace the bands evolving ethos to Metal. The good thing about ‘I, The Mask’ is that it is 13 tracks long, so, there is a whole lot in it for fans from all eras of In Flames!