Enough to keep you coming back, but for how long?

I have previously made it clear that I believe In Flames have  gotten worse over time, reaching an end with 2016’s overly clean and polished Battles album that saw the removal of the final traces of their melodic death metal roots, and the transition to boring predictable formulaic metalcore complete.  In the lead up to this, their 13th album In Flames gained a new drummer and bassist, leaving only vocalist Anders Friden and guitarist Bjorn Gelotte as original members.

I, the Mask starts off fairly well. ‘Voices’ has a slow burning build up with a riff that repeats enough to worm its way into the ear, and Friden’s harsh vocals come through with far more energy than it has had in sometime. The cleans feel less polished, and with more oomph. This new found connection of grit and melody, while formulaic, isn’t as overwhelming as the previous album. Here through tracks such as ‘I, the Mask’, ‘Call My Name’ and ‘I Am Above’ all keep your attention and the album feels like a return to an earlier time.

Sadly, this power is lost at a great rate. The middle sags under the weight of such a good opening. The fair-to-standard ‘(This Is Our)House’ sees them falling back into the polish and over-reaching of the Battles album that was such a low water mark.  ‘Burn’ brings back some much needed bite towards the end, but it feels too little too late.

These songs would have been far better suited to the EP format so the initial bite  doesn’t get so sugar coated and lost in the middle. This is a far better effort than In Flames has put forth for a few releases, and  is at least a step in a direction that makes more musical sense given the pedigree on offer. By the same token, if modern half arsed metal is your thing, this album will land bang in the centre of your radar.  There is enough to keep you coming back, but for how long?

  1. Voices
  2. I, the Mask
  3. Call My Name
  4. I Am Above
  5. Follow Me
  6. (This is Our) House
  7. We Will Remember
  8. In This Life
  9. Burn
  10. Deep Inside
  11. All the Pain
  12. Stay With Me