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Sunday Old School: In Flames

Photo of In Flames

Band Photo: In Flames (?)

Over the course of Sunday Old School, we’ve seen how genres, or indeed sub-genres can be pioneered or popularised by a specific group of bands. We’ve seen how the Peaceville three (Paradise Lost, Anathema and My Dying Bride) and Katatonia, helped launch the combination of doom and death metal, and of course everyone knows the Big Four of thrash (Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth in case you’ve forgot,) but another style we’ve seen spread was melodic death metal, which was brought to people’s attention by Carcass, At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity and one other group, today’s in fact, In Flames.

In Flames began life as a side project of Ceremonial Oath member, Jesper Strömblad, who wanted to add more melodic aspects to death metal. It wasn’t until he’d quit Ceremonial Oath that he was able to put together a lineup for his project though, recruiting guitarist Glenn Ljungström and bass player Johan Larsson, both founding members of the power metal band Hammerfall, another offshoot of Ceremonial Oath. After picking up another guitarist in Carl Näslund and hiring Dark Tranquility vocalist to be their session singer, In Flames recorded their first studio album, "Lunar Strain," which was released through Wrong Again Records at first and was notable for its inclusion of folk music, something which would not last long in the band’s style.

Following this, the band wrote and recorded an EP, "Subterranean," which this time featured Dawn vocalist Henke Forss. This record helped open doors for the band, allowing them to participate in a tribute album to Metallica as well as earning them a deal with Nuclear Blast Records. Knowing that they could no longer rely on session musicians to help prop them up, the group first recruited drummer Björn Gelotte and then vocalist Anders Fridén, who himself was a former member for both Ceremonial Oath and Dark Tranqulity. The first album the quintet recorded together, "The Jester Race," would turn out to be a huge moment for them, hailed by fans as one of their best moments and critics as a classic record in the death metal genre.

They promoted the album by touring with the likes of Samael, Grip Inc. and German thrash favourites, Kreator and soon after, the band entered the studio once more to record their third album, "Whoracle." It was another very well received effort, featuring a surprising cover of the Depeche Mode song, "Everything Counts" as well as being a concept album of sorts, mostly dealing with the end of the world. What was more surprising than the Depeche Mode cover was the announcement that Larsson and Ljungström were leaving to focus on Hammerfall, leading the band to recruit Niklas Engelin and Peter Iwers on guitar and bass respectively, first as touring members and then as permanent additions. Engelin wouldn’t last long however and after Björn Gelotte switched from drums to guitar, a position he was comfortable with having contributed guitar parts to previous albums, In Flames brought in Daniel Svensson to sit behind the kit.

The five musicians then recorded and released another classic in the In Flames catalogue, "Colony," which this time was more focused on spiritual matters, looking at the subject in both positive and negative light. It was also a much faster and tighter product compared to the previous album and produced a music video for the song, "Ordinary Story." Their name was spread further on the live scene after, touring not only across Europe, but also in Japan and for the first time, performing in the United States, taking part in the Milwaukee Metal Fest.

Only a year after "Colony" was released, In Flames released their fifth album, "Clayman." This, like at least two of the previous four albums, is considered to be one of the band’s strongest albums, featuring such staples as "Satellites and Astronauts," "Pinball Map" and "Only for the Weak," which was voted among then ten best death metal songs by Metal Hammer that year. Touring for the record proved successful too, as they performed with the likes of Testament and Dream Theater, as well as Slipknot and resulting in the band’s first live album, "The Tokyo Showdown."

What followed next was something of a surprising change, as for their sixth studio album, "Reroute to Remain," the band introduced clean singing to their music as well as catchier hooks. Though critics enjoyed it, many of their fans in Europe saw it as selling out to attract more American fans, which if nothing else, was successful, as the band grew in popularity in the States while "Reroute to Remain" also entered the Billboard Independent Albums Chart. Longtime fans were disappointed further with, "Soundtrack to Your Escape," which marked a shift more towards alternative metal and garnered a lot more success commercially, reaching the number two spot in their native Sweden and entering the Billboard Album Charts at number 145.

In what may have been an attempt to reach out to fans that were beginning to desert them, In Flames’ next album, "Come Clarity" featured something of a return to their older sound, while retaining the alternative aspects that had brought them commercial success. It was their first album to debut at the top of the charts in Sweden and their first to enter the top 100 on the Billboard Charts, peaking at number 58 and also received some very positive reviews. After touring with Sepultura and Lacuna Coil, the band was invited to take part in Slayer’s, "Unholy Alliance" tour, which also featured Children of Bodom and Lamb of God. They would then take part in Megadeth’s trademark tour, the Gigantour with High on Fire, Job for a Cowboy and reunited with Children of Bodom.

After so much time on the road, the group returned to the studio to record their ninth full length album, "A Sense of Purpose." It was another commercial success but saw the first glimpse of the band truly slipping away from the title of critical darlings, receiving something of a mixed response with some writers, as well as fans claiming it was not up to the high standards the band had set for themselves and that they were running low on ideas. Much more notably, it was to be their last album with Jesper Strömblad, as he took a break after to seek help for alcohol abuse, with former member Niklas Engelin filling in for him. Soon after, the guitarist confirmed his exit from the group on a permanent basis and so Engelin took over the spot officially.

After collaborating with Australian drum and bass act, Pendulum on the massively successful "Immersion" album, and signing with Century Media Records, the band recorded and released their tenth album, "Sounds of a Playground Fading," which was another effort that performed well commercially but let down longtime fans and many critics. It was to be their only album for the label, as following lengthy touring, the group signed with major label Epic, getting the news out about the deal, as well as their next album through a viral campaign that made it look like their website had been hacked. The resulting album, "Sirens Call," was released in September of last year. Though appearing on charts worldwide, it received some of the worst reviews of their career and those who were once die hard fans found more of the same. Whether or not the band can win back those fans who gave up on them and once again bring praise to a level of their commercial success remains to be seen, but they will forever be regarded as one of the most important bands in modern death metal.

In Flames - "Lunar Strain"

In Flames - "The Jester Race"

In Flames - "Dialogue With the Stars"

In Flames - "Ordinary Story"

In Flames - "Pinball Map"

In Flames - "Trigger"

In Flames - "My Sweet Shadow"

In Flames - "Take This Life"

In Flames - "Alias"

In Flames - "Deliver Us"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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2 Comments on "Sunday Old School: In Flames"

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1. americanpatriot1 writes:

A once great band. Now, they are butt.

# Dec 27, 2015 @ 4:29 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
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2. xFiruath writes:

Succinct and accurate - thank you AP1 :)

# Dec 27, 2015 @ 4:50 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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