|Album Title: Come Clarity|
|Artist: In Flames|
|Label: Ferret Records|
|Secondary: Melodic Death|
|Production: ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● (90%)|
|Songwriting: ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● (70%)|
|Muscicianship: ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● (80%)|
Comment: "Bringing the melody back to melodic death metal."
+: Delicious, melodic leads; catchy, palm-muted riffs
-: Continued use of down-tuning; some nu-metal elements; not a true return to form
It seems to be a trend for bands of yesteryear to make a "return to their roots". While In Flame's latest offering, Come Clarity is certainly not of the same caliber as such great albums as Whoreacle or The Jester Race, it is by no means as bad as many have undoubtedly anticipated. That being said, Come Clarity is actually quite good; a definite cut above 2004's Soundtrack to Your Escape.
I'll be honest, I want In Flames to make music as good as, or at least in the same vein of, their incredible earlier releases as much as the next fan does. But let's be honest with ourselves here. The band is 10 years older, with much more exposure, and existing in a different metal scene than the one that was around Europe during the early to mid-nineties. The guys, in my opinion, just don't have the drive to make that kind of music anymore, or at least don't think making that style of music will be the most profitable route. I don't really buy the whole "we have to change our sound because it is us evolving as musicians" excuse that is always given. Just because you're evolving doesn't mean you have to make bad music (see STtYE or Metallica's St. Anger).
Despite this, In Flames manages put out an album that, while definitely not recovering their sound of yore, is still recognizably "In Flames" and definitely riffy and catchy as hell. Anders was right in making the statement that the album would be a mix of In Flames past, present, and future. For one thing, Jesper and Björn decided they liked playing catchy solos and leads again. In almost every song on the disc, there is some kind of melodic lead break, embellishment, or, yes - solos, to be heard - a signature trait that was noticeably absent or in short supply on the band's past two albums.
The riffing is somewhat a mixed bag. While undoubtedly heavy and moshpit-inducing, the guitars still retain a largely down-tuned nu-metal-esque quality. This is not nearly as annoying or apparent as it has been previously, as the standard issue "chugga-chugga" riffs are much more catchy and varied, especially when intertwined with the aforementioned melodic goodness. Although at times it seems like the band tries too hard to be death metal again with generic blast-beat riffing (EX: opening riff on "Take This Life").
The vocals took some time for me to get used to. Although Anders appears to be coming out of his "look at me, I'm Jonathan Davis" phase in singing style, the vox are still not of the same brutality as they were on the bands first few albums, nor were they as well done as the cleaner vocals on Clayman. Anders, does however, frequently intersperse clean vocal breaks and harmonies (sometimes through use of distortion effects) throughout the music, and does it acceptably well. While I am definitely an advocate of not using screaming vocals in metal music, the clean singing does at times seem to have an almost "emo" sound to it (see title track) that may take a few listens to appreciate. (As an added bonus, for the first time since Lunar Strain, female vocals are used on "Dead End" by Swedish pop star Lisa Miskovsky).
The rhythm section, is well, a rhythm section in a metal band. Bass is as typically inaudible as it usually is and the drums are pretty much standard issue metal drumming. One comment I will make is that the sound of the drums is why the album didn't get an 100% in the production category. The snare and bass drums in particular still have that "fat" (IE: not staccato) sound that they had on Soundtrack to Your Escape, although not as pronounced. It doesn't take away much, but it can be annoying at times.
In any case, if Come Clarity is any indication, In Flames definitely seem to be heading back in the right direction. I've been spinning this CD in my car fairly constantly, each time appreciating the delicious melodic leads and muscular riffage of one of my favorite bands of all time. Jester Race this is not, but then again, it's arguable if anything they make ever will be.