REVIEW: IN FLAMES – “I, The Mask”
Melodic death metal pioneers In Flames have been at the center of an age-old conflict since their evolution took them in a more mainstream direction. Fans of the band, while not to an extreme extent, have found themselves caught either side of a noticeable divide between those who welcome this new direction with open arms, and those who can’t quite affiliate with it. On March 1st, In Flames are set to release their thirteenth studio album, ‘I, The Mask’, which sees the Swedish metallers attempt to embrace both their mainstream and brutal sides. And succeeding with great results.
Title track “I, The Mask” rips through any misconception that In Flames have “gone soft”, as shredding riffing carries the track from beginning to end. Similarly, opening number “Voices” takes no prisoners, ushering in the albums initial, crucial moments. Fans are then introduced to a clear album standout in leading single, and one of the more mainstream tracks, “(This Is Our) House”. Packed with violent verses and a recurring, singalong chorus by vocalist Anders Frieden, you would be lying if you said it hadn’t hooked you in the first time around. Throughout, this interplay between classic old school sounds and their newer evolution sees ‘I, The Mask’ achieving yin yang feel, something both balanced and contrasting, but with no notable signs of conflict or compromise.
Throughout ‘I, The Mask’ production values of an impeccable standard. Heavily due to enlisting renowned producer, Howard Benson (Motörhead, Sepultura, Papa Roach) and Chris Lord-Alge (Chris Cornell, Deftones) for mixing, as well as Ted Jensen (Machine Head, Muse) for mastering. With a team this strong there was little chance of ‘I, The Mask’ not sounding stunning. Which it does, elevating great songs to an even higher caliber.
There’s an inevitable level of scorn dribbled from the mouths of metal elitists toward any heavy band with mainstream aspirations. Just as there were with Metallica. But if elitism is all that is keeping you from expanding your scope of experience, you’re missing out in the case of ‘I, The Mask’, an album that balances both ends of the metal spectrums. A beast of a record with a heart at the center of it, In Flames triumph by making it a lucky thirteen.