In Flames – Siren Charms

In Flames became one of my favorite bands back in 2009. I was at the library with my  classmates from school, and in that library there were CDs that you could borrow for free, just like the books. I got two albums by this band called In Flames that I had only heard a classmate talk about once before. I went home and put 2008’s A Sense Of Purpose in my CD-player and pressed play. From the first riff I was hooked. This was the band I had been looking for.

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In Flames is a Swedish metal band from Gothenburg, and in the  mid 90’s they became one of the pioneers within the Gothenburg melodic death metal scene with albums like The Jester Race (1995), Whoracle (1997) and Clayman (2000). Over the years, the band has constantly changed and evolved their sound towards a more modern and alternative metal sound, most notably by incorporating more clean vocals and electronic sounds, which has split the fan base in two. Siren Charms is their 11th album, and it’s by far their most diverse and experimental effort yet. It features mostly clean vocals, a heavy use of electronics and the same big, polished production as 2011’s Sounds of a Playground Fading. The album is also instrumentally similar to its predecessor; some riffs are almost too similar to those on the previous release! The biggest change, however, and where Siren Charms distinguishes itself from the band’s earlier works, is the vocal performances of singer Anders Fridén. With this album he has taken a completely different approach to the vocals by using mainly clean singing and creating huge melodic choruses, and using his trademark screams from the last couple of records only on a few songs.

Of course Siren Charms is not an album without flaws. The lyrics have never been Fridén’s biggest strength, and unfortunately that’s not the case this time around either. Some of the songs take a few listens to get into, and as mentioned before, some of the guitar riffs are very similar to other songs, especially on the previous two records. But the band’s ability to push forward and discover new musical grounds and the songs themselves are keeping me from giving a lower score! One of the biggest surprises on the album is the stand out track “When The World Explodes” which has heavy screamed verses, but a huge melodic chorus featuring hauntingly beautiful vocals from guest singer Emilia Feldt, whose high operatic notes at the end of the song are worthy of every goose bump! It’s these surprises and anomalies (especially for metal music), that I find to be the stand out moments of the album. Other examples include the electric intro to the opening track “In Plain View” and the superb outro to deluxe bonus track “The Chase” where guitars and synths fade seamlessly into a beautiful piano melody.

Naturally, it’s these same new elements and experiments that will make many fans cry out in disappointment on the Internet, but for me it just showcases a band that are still capable of going their own way, and who after more than 20 years are still evolving their unique sound, and fighting to be the band that they want to be. To me that is what this album is about. It’s a statement from a band that stands up with confidence for the music they believe in, even when many fans just want another Clayman. And I’m so grateful for that.

Best tracks: “Paralyzed”, “When The World Explodes”, “Dead Eyes”, “Filtered Truth”.

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