Yep, they’re still legends.
Thirteen albums later, the greatest Swedish melodic death metal band, In Flames is still crushing it. Releasing worldwide on March 1st, 2019, ‘I, The Mask’ breaks new ground as In Flames constantly tweaks and evolves their phenomenal sound.
Grammy-nominated producer, Howard Benson (Motörhead, My Chemical Romance) worked with In Flames for the second time after 2016’s album ‘Battles’ to help create I, The Mask.
After a long, dramatic introduction to build the tension, In Flames flips the switch into their very recognizable sound on the song “Voices.” From there, I, The Mask continues with a bang as In Flames cranks out several heavy, but not harsh songs. The singles “I, The Mask,” “I Am Above,” and “(This Is Our) House” are featured in the first six songs on the album. After this point, the album takes a slight turn into a new softer direction. The heaviest songs on I, The Mask are “Burn” and “I, The Mask,” but as a whole, the album is most similar to In Flames’ previous albums ‘Battles’ and ‘Sounds of a Playground Fading’.
The tone of In Flames’ music has softened over the years while maintaining a consistent musical heaviness that keeps the band in the “melodic death metal” genre. While still used, screaming and harsh vocals appear less on this album than on previous albums. Blast beats and screaming guitars like in “Trigger” and “Take This Life” have been dialed back in exchange for a few slower, more groove-based parts like in the new songs “We Will Remember” and “In This Life.”
In Flames has created more relaxing moments in this album than in previous albums. These sensitive moments, typically shown through clean vocals and clean guitar fingerpicking, can span several minutes or can be used to transition into heavier bits. Both uses of dynamics are welcomed changes to the classic In Flames sound. The clean guitar intro on the song “Follow Me” reminded me a lot of “Sleepless Again” on their 2006 album A Sense of Purpose. The key change near the end of the song was wonderfully placed and it increased the intensity of the song.
Beautiful guitar licks constantly sweep through In Flames’ new songs in between Anders Fridén’s dramatic vocals. Anders Fridén has greatly expanded his vocal capabilities on ‘I, The Mask’. His wonderful voice ranges from sounding broken and hopeless like at the beginning of “All The Pain,” to the classic heavy metal Anders in “I Am Above.” Although Anders’ clean singing capabilities have improved album by album, the range and control of his voice truly shines on I, The Mask.
Even in their vulnerable sounding songs like, “All The Pain,” In Flames manages to quickly transform the song from sad to another heavy In Flames classic. These transforming moments are proof that In Flames has reached a healthy level of musical maturity. The final song on the album, “Stay With Me” is a perfect example of excellent songwriting. The song begins with a beautiful acoustic guitar intro that eventually mixes with Anders’ highly expressive clean vocals. Near the three-quarter mark in the song, the drums come in and bring a much-needed rock vibe to the already awesome song. In the songs final moments, Anders belts out a wicked scream that consistently sends chills down my spine. Its placement and feel are absolutely perfect for the song and for the end of the album. “Stay With Me” is easily my favorite track on ‘I, The Mask’ because of how the song continuously builds similar to In Flames’ earlier song “The Chosen Pessimist.”
Album after killer album, In Flames, manages to change their sound for the better, progressing into new musical territory each time. While the heaviness is still engrained in their music, this album has pushed In Flames’ sound closer to hard rock rather than death metal. Purist In Flames fans may not respect the changes In Flames has made over the years, insisting on old albums like The Lunar Strain and The Jester Race but the true fans are absolutely going to love this album.