Latest release: Sounds of a Playground Fading (Century Media/EMI)
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For long-time In Flames fans, bashing the metallers’ post-millennial creative direction has almost become an Olympic sport in recent years. While the Gothenburg, Sweden crew has won over legions of new fans during the past decade, those enamoured with the ground-breaking melodic death metal of records such as 1996’s The Jester Race and 1999’s Colony have almost relished in deriding their later albums.

This bashing culture reached laughable heights recently though, when someone posted a fake audio clip on YouTube. The poster claimed the song playing was the band’s latest single ‘Deliver Us’, whereas in fact it was ‘Episode 666’, from 1997’s Whoracle. Vocalist Anders Fridén picks up the story.

“All these people were posting these comments like, ‘I hate the way you play now’, ‘your old stuff was so much better’ and ‘you suck now’,” he laughs. “It was playing ‘Episode 666’ and people were still complaining about how much better we were in the past. It shows how much some people’s attitudes won’t change. It’s funny how some people phrase some of these things.”

After more than 15 years fronting the vastly successful act, Fridén has heard all the criticisms before anyway. This includes the regular abuse from that one guy at the back of the room at shows who makes his thoughts on their newer material known to all around him and repeatedly calls for an obscure earlier song.

“I’ve been hearing that since the day I joined the band – it’s part of the game,” he says firmly. “I don’t really get bothered by it. People can like what they want to like and there’s nothing I can do about it. We still have a sound; it might be a little different (these days), but it’s the same ideals and intentions. We didn’t do a country album. If people like one song of ours, great. If they like an album or the whole catalogue, that’s fucking awesome. Sometimes you’re in a trend and the next day you’re out of a trend, you can’t do much about it. I don’t like comparing old versus new, back and forth. Let them be what they are; they are different albums, different periods and we are different people.”

Even last year’s departure of long-time guitarist and songwriter Jesper Strömblad didn’t sway the band from their long-utilised approach to writing when working on new album Sounds of a Playground Fading.

“Björn (Gelotte, guitars) and I had done it before, so as we always do we went in to write a great heavy metal album. It’s not so different… It’s the same intentions every time we go to write an album. We aim to write the best album we can at that time. It may be a little different each time, but the essence remains.”

The new album has not surprisingly already polarised opinion, although some critics (including the folks here at Loud) have praised the band for taking their music to new territories. The album title itself is a little puzzling though, which Fridén quickly elaborates on.

“It started on a program I saw on television. It was about that we’re running out of places that are untouched by man. We’re running out. In the Western world, we just take, take, take until we can’t take no more, and then we move on to the next place. At some point, we will be wiped off this earth because of the way we act. How will that change our behaviour now? That was one of the main inspirations for the lyrics. Who am I to say how things should be (though)? It mainly poses a lot of questions; asking the questions that somebody needs to answer or people need to discuss. The title fit very well with the lyrics. It’s written in a way that it has meaning for me, but it’s open for interpretation. It’s always been that way; it’s never wrong if it means something to you. It’s written for me, but if it touches someone’s heart, that’s great.”

As indicated earlier, Sounds of a Playground Fading is also In Flames’ first album without Strömblad. The vocalist is decidedly open when discussing this sensitive topic.

“The songwriting didn’t change that much; it’s Björn and I writing instead of three of us. We’ve been doing it since The Jester Race. It was really bad the way everything ended, but it’s not musically as big of a deal as some people have suggested. The way we were (previously) doing it (was) as a unit, but the problem was the unit didn’t work anymore and we had to make a change. He had a problem with alcohol and that affected all of us. You have to be able to trust each other if you do what we do, touring all the time and being in a band. He’s still a good guy – I played him some new tracks a few weeks ago… I think that was difficult for him. We didn’t part ways because of musical differences or being enemies, it was because of addiction. I wish him the best, and I want him to get better. It can be really tough… It’s a disease and if you have to treat it or it goes to hell.”

In wrapping up our phone conversation, which takes place while Fridén is standing in the rain outside a police station, awaiting the delivery of a new passport (“The life of a rock star, you know?” he chuckles), talk moves to touring plans for their latest platter. The frontman reveals the band may be on the road as long as two years in support of the new release.

“Australia is on the horizon somewhere, but this year is booked (out),” he reveals. “We’re doing a bunch of European festivals, then we go to America for the (Rockstar) Mayhem Festival. After Mayhem, we’re back in Europe until the end of the year. We had an awesome time both times we went to Australia… Australia is in the near future.”

Soundwave Festival 2012 dates-
Saturday 25 February – RNA Showground, Brisbane- SOLD OUT
Sunday 26 February – Olympic Park, Sydney- SELLING FAST
Friday 2 March – Showgrounds, Melbourne- SOLD OUT
Saturday 3 March – Bonython Park, Adelaide
Monday 5 March – Claremont Showgrounds, Perth

In Flames also appearing with Lamb of God and The Black Dahlia Murder at the following dates-

Tuesday, February 28- Eaton Hotel, Brisbane (Licensed All Ages)

Thursday, March 1- UC Refectory, Canberra (Licensed All Ages)