So this was my first taste of the melodic death metal giants In Flames, although I’m sure many hardcore fans of this band would say I should start elsewhere, it is what it is. I first listened to In Flames on last.FM when I heard Swim off of this album, and was transfixed. Unfortunately, this album was a tad difficult to procure, as i Tunes thought it would be a great idea to take all the old In Flames off and the leave the not-as-good newer stuff, such as A Sense of Purpose.
In Flames takes a very mainstream version of melodic death metal and brings in aspects of modern rock and speed metal, yet remain true to that original idea. Examples are clear with the extensive use of clean vocals on Only For the Weak and Satellites and Astronauts. The length of songs and also the way they are arranged and written along with the use of the occasional synthesizer tell you that this is main stream, but far from in your face about it, which is difficult to do.
Guitar melodies on this album vary greatly from the infectious and brutal riff in Bullet Ride to crazy solos such as those on Swim. Songs also take slower tempos, and these carry the same weight as the speed demons featured here. Songs also transition and take on two distinct parts in certain cases, such as Pinball Map and the title track.
The vocals are simply what you expect from Anders Friden, and I personally like the clean vocals. They do attribute a lot to In Flames being main stream, but they are used appropriately and are not over used or under used. Lyrics offer interesting social commentary (Pinball Map) and also delve deeply into human emotion (Only For the Weak).
In Flames also flashes us a few moments of progressive writing. Square Nothing has some very interesting aspects that separates it from the rest of the album. Bullet Ride also gives us a breakdown leading to the climax of the song, which is absolutely beastly and knocks down everything effortlessly.
This album unfortunately features a lot of fluff that hides the gems of this album. There is just a lack of anything catchy or a really good head-banging riff on these songs. They are not terrible, they just pale in comparison to other parts of the album. These are: …As the Future Repeats Today, Brush the Dust Away, Suburban Me, and Another Day in Quicksand. Also, the drumming as a whole is rather bland, but it does suit the music and is far from bad, but there are simply a number of opportunities where it could have been improved.
But what shocked me the most about this album is the song Only For the Weak. As you can tell from the title, I find this to be a remarkable song. In all honesty, it is my all time favorite song. That chugging riff is infectious and within 20 seconds of listening to it it is impossible to not head-bang. The clean vocals are used quickly and well and are phased out by screaming and guitar solo styled melodies with that lead into the chorus. The solo is nothing special but is just right. The songs fades out on the chorus with a short synthesizer bit. Wow. The guitars are great and this song contains in my opinion the most complex drumming on the album. However, what really sold me was the impeccable lyrics. They are entirely realistic (unusual for a metal band) and amazing in every way. Best moment in the song: when Friden is screaming at the top of the lungs “The tale of a bitter man, here I am” and the music behind it also reaches a climax. Just all around amazing.
As a whole the album is all right, but I require that anybody who reads this at least somehow get Only For The Weak. In Flames gives you a decent listening session with the obvious gems and those songs that are just bland, not terrible. For mainstream listeners, this is a must buy, as it shows In Flames during their transition to more mainstream music. However, they remain true to themselves and that is certainly difficult to do under that sort of heading. If I did not already make it clear, buy Only For the Weak (other cool tracks are Swim, Bullet Ride, and Satellites and Astronauts).