Latest release: Sounds of a Playground Fading (Century Media/EMI)
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While their detractors continue to bemoan their recent, more accessible direction, Sweden’s In Flames remain one of the biggest names in heavy metal. Latest album Sounds of a Playground Fading has received mixed reviews, but hasn’t halted their momentum as their fan base continues to swell. Guitarist Niclas Engelin, who became a full-time member of the band last year after previous stints in 1997-98, 2006 and 2009 (at times filling in for now-departed founding member Jesper Strömblad while he battled alcoholism), gave Loud a quick update on all things In Flames, including their upcoming appearance at the Soundwave Festival.

Q: In Flames are heading back to Australia in a few weeks as part of the Soundwave bill. I believe this is your second visit to our shores?
A: Yeah, we’re coming over for Soundwave, it’s my second time there and second time playing the festival as well. There’s tonnes of good bands on that festival; but I’m especially excited about Steel Panther (laughs), they’re pretty good. I hope to see them.

Q: What can Australian fans expect from In Flames this time around?
A: Well, we are playing some really cool songs and we’re going to deliver a 100 per cent, really cool show. We’re going to make sure that everyone who watches the show leaves the festival afterwards, thinking, “ah, In Flames, that’s a really good band; I would love to see them again” (laughs).

Q: How has the material from the latest album been translating live?
A: The fans are really into it, definitely. I have noticed quite a change when it comes to the audience age, because we tend to be getting a little bit younger people to the shows, which is weird, because I wouldn’t think some of them would be into this kind of music.

Q: The band has a whole new generation of fans who were obviously very young or not even born when albums like The Jester Race and Whoracle were released.
A: Yeah, maybe it’s their parents who are introducing them to this stuff (laughs).

Q: It seems like the new album has been well-received by newer fans, but many of the older fans have the same complaints as every time In Flames release a new record. Does it concern the band at all these days?
A: No, I think it sounds fresh, which keeps us on the move. Of course, as I said we’ve noticed a slight change in the audience to younger people, the younger generation, which is really good. The old fans are still there, but maybe a little bit (towards the) back of the hall, you know? Taking it more easy nowadays (laughs). I mean, this is a natural progression for the band on this new album. It’s more guitar-driven, there’s more solos, more harmonies and things like that. It’s just… In Flames. It’s the same kind of music; but we need to progress a little bit. There’s nothing wrong with that. It stays fresh and I think you can hear it in the songs.

Q: You’ve only been a permanent part of In Flames since last year, but you’ve had a few other stints filling in on the road as well. How does it feel to be a fully-fledged member now?
A: It feels good, definitely. I didn’t do anything on the last album, I became a member afterwards. But the thing is I’ve known some of the guys in the band since ‘88 or ’89, so it’s a long way back. Me and Jesper went to high school together, we played in a band called Poltergeist (laughs). So for me and the rest of the guys, it’s just natural to have me in the band I guess. It all works fine and it’s a natural thing; we’re having fun and we like to play music together. It’s very healthy, it’s very good. We’re really enjoy being out touring and playing live is the main thing; we want to deliver 100 per cent. We’re right in the middle of the touring cycle, so we need to really be focused on doing great shows.

Q: Have you still kept in regular contact with Jesper since his departure?
A: Yeah, we do, on and off. He’s got his new band, it’s called (pauses)… what is it called? (Pauses again) He has this new band with Marco Aro (ex-The Haunted) called The Resistance, and it sounds really good.

Q: Changing topics, what have been some of the highlights of your tenure with the band?
A: There’s been a lot of highlights, of course. We did the Wacken (festival), that was a real highlight and we’re going to do it this year again. The highlight can be playing in a small club when you feel like the audience and you are one, that’s one of the highlights. Going to Australia again is another highlight. I love the country.

Q: As someone who is still fairly new to the band, what are some of your favourite In Flames songs to play live, and even your favourite record?
A: Whoa. I really like the classic songs. One I really enjoy playing is “Cloud Connected”, because it’s such a great song overall. I really like playing “Where the Dead Ships Dwell”, that’s a cool song as well. Oh and the classic stuff that people like to sing along to; “Come Clarity” is a good one. I like everything… I really enjoy playing the new stuff – the new album is really cool.

Q: Any famous last words?
A: Yes, of course – come out and join us at Soundwave Festival. Have a lot of fun and watch us. And please do check out Engel, that’s one of the bands that I’m in, we have a new album coming out that’s going to be called Blood of Saints. See you in Australia!

In Flames will be touring with Soundwave 2012 on the following dates-
25/2: Brisbane Showgrounds, Brisbane QLD (SOLD OUT)
26/2: Sydney Showground, Sydney NSW (SOLD OUT)
2/3: Melbourne Showground, Melbourne VIC (SOLD OUT)
3/3: Bonython Park, Adelaide SA
5/3: Claremont Showgrounds, Perth WA

You can also catch them with Lamb of God and The Black Dahlia Murder on the following dates-
28/2: Eaton Hill Hotel, Brisbane (Lic. A/A)
1/3: UC Refectory, Canberra ACT (Lic. A/A)