Hello again!

Today we will talk about the album, the release of which I was waiting for, because its singles gave hope that after the alt-metal and alt-rock releases, we still can be given for listening something as close as possible to melodic death metal, albeit without a significant emphasis on heaviness, speed and maximum rawness of the instrumentals and vocals. In fact, this actually happened, because this album is not a continuation of the style of Siren Charms and Battles releases, it is rather a continuation of the albums like A Sense of Purpose and Sounds of a playground fading. To my taste and hearing, this is rather good rather than bad, because it doesn’t fit for this band to sound light and “rocky”, although I recognize the fact that many would like to keep on listening just to such a sound. And many more would like to return the sound of Colony or Clayman and they already dashed off  comments that the group had slipped once again, not realizing that we would most likely not get that “old” sound in the nearest future anyway.

So, as you understand, this is In Flames – just one of these groups that was not afraid to take the risk of sounding differently from one album to another, which earned the indignation of the “metalheads” of all times and peoples, and rightly, I think . On the theme of the old sound of many metal bands and their rising degree of lightness, we can talk forever, but I am glad that In Flames did not allow the audience to kick the dead horse’s corpse called “melodic death metal”. Clearly, if a group is not eager to do a certain genre, then all the same, nothing worthy will come out of music, even if the listeners force it. Therefore, yes, I am glad that with each album the group tried to sound differently. And even taking into account that something sounded better and something – worse, it’s not the main point here, I hope you understand. The main thing is that the album, released a few days ago, again sounds a bit different, despite its similarity to the early works.

It is called “I, the Mask”, and on the cover we see a dubious personality in a hefty mask – the symbol of the group since the time of the album The Jester Race. I think not so much is hidden in terms of meaning behind the cover. I only see that this is a certain picture of the current and contemporary sound and style of the group telling “we are looking and sounding like this today”, and the album name correlates with the track of the same name, which tells how the hero of the track has to live without removing the mask, but changing it depending on the situation. Maybe this is the same reference to the career of the group, which each time appears in the “new mask”? I do not know, but in any case, the very dark style of drawing and the gloomy image of an evil dwarf (or a child, by the way) in a mask already pleases the eye, for which I thank the band.

Again, I cannot say that with this album you can clearly trace the concrete and integral conceptual message, all the more, taking into account the fact that the text of the album, its presentation and style has changed just a little bit. These are all the same dark-depressive reflections of the hero of the album with or without reason, with no tears and drama, with the desire to “rally and confront” and achieve a bright future not only for themselves, but also for their close ones. By the way, this is probably one little thing that slightly separates this album from the previous ones – expressing some care and excitement for the outside world and loved ones, because almost 90% of the heroes of the previous albums were surrounded by enemies and/or abusers. That is, frankly speaking, the guys from the group didn’t do anything supernatural, which is also good in its own way.

We continue with the lyrics of the album. As I said above, it is still gloomy and doesn’t tell us much directly. It consists of short phrases that more and more and more we find looped to create a memorable effect in the track. So, do not be surprised if, purely from a structural point of view, you will hear the names of the corresponding tracks the most. Not to say that there is some outstanding symbolism and artistry, but there is still the same sincerity and honesty with which In Flames always told about anxieties, internal conflicts, emotional fatigue and other troubles. However, for the first time in a long time, we heard the socially-oriented track This is our House, which indirectly indicates the importance of keeping your house clean and safe (read, the importance of the ecology and cleanliness of the land) and that only we can and we must do this, because this planet is our home. You must admit that the “green” messages are far from what we would expect from the group, but they still look organic. There is also an appeal to old listeners in the track We Will Remember, where in the text of the track the names of old albums and cult tracks of the group are inserted, and the song itself tells how the group remembers and appreciates the old, but does not want to dwell on it, but wants move forward. In total, yes, the keynote of the entire album is again the desire to confront external obstacles (tracks I, the Mask, I am Above, In this Life), along with the desire to lead you to a better future (tracks Call my Name, Follow Me, Stay with Me).

On the musical side, I have only one big problem with it – most of the guitar instrumentals sound obscenely deaf and you really need to focus your hearing in order to distinguish something other than low-string grooves. I’m not against them, I really liked the grooves in most tracks, and I believe that this way of constructing the instrumental just saves the group from completely becoming pop-rock, but it would be worth adding a little more expressiveness and sound of open strings just on melody or metal melodies. . To my ear, it seemed that they were played on muffled strings, which did not allow them to be distinguishable for the ears, as was the case with past albums. Perhaps this choice was made intentionally, although I think that the emphasis on additional heavy roughness and maximum expressiveness of solo parts would be much more advantageous because the current instrumentals become bland easily and quite sub-par to the vocals that deliver the biggest majority of melodic content here.

Frieden is one of those vocalists whom I really appreciate and respect just for his authentic vocal performance. I’m really pleased with his screaming parts and his clean vocals when they work. But they do not always work just at those moments when he takes the highest possible notes – it often gives the impression that they were tuned automatically to needed tonality by plug-ins, because in the end of many tracks of the album he sings really very, very high, which does not seem as a too wise of a solution for me, especially when it comes to live performances. However, whatever it was, I didn’t have a hint of irritation or cringe, which happens often when I hear inflated tones in vocals.

In the end, I am pleased with the album. I can’t say that this is the best for what the band was capable of in their career, but I think that today there are not so many groups with a melodic-death foundation that can represent albums that are really decent in terms of music and content. Yes, I would like to have some better mixing and more heaviness in the sound, but be that as it may, In Flames gave that combined and balanced sound that can really unite both old and new listeners. For me, it’s 4 from 5.

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