In Flames – I, The Mask was released on the same day as Demon Hunter’s War & Peace. Which is why its taken me a while to get around to listening to this one. Priorities, right? Well, had I four more ears and twice as much time, I would have absorbed this album just as much as War & Peace. It’s. Just. That. Good! Seriously, go listen to it right now!

Who doesn’t like vinyl?

In Flames was a band that I found due to my best friend and wing-woman at the time – Candice. You see, In Flames is her ultimate favourite band, and at any chance she got, In Flames would be playing. Candice lived in a state of either In Flames being played, or about to be played. And I am sure we can all relate. We used to go to our metal club-slash-dive-bar where we would rush up to the DJ – Matt when it was called Burn, Jamie when it became Red Door – and yell out our requests in between beers and jumping around like maniacs. Those were great times – the world was waiting for us to figure ourselves out, and we absolutely refused. It was the here and now. It was the live in the moment that only your early twenties can provide.

Candice requested In Flames so often, a good few of their songs made it onto the Friday night playlist, and each and every time, I’d be pulled onto the dance-floor-mosh-pit when Cloud Connected or The Quiet Place or Touch of Red or any of their other songs would come on. After a while, I found myself listening to them more and more. Now I am a fully grown fan of In Flames.

With each of their albums, In Flames has shown artistic growth in a way few bands manage. They have their signature sound, but each album shows a band that is maturing, and pushing what they do. Personally, I think ‘I, The Mask‘ is the biggest push forward from this band in their whole career. Not to say its a complete 180 – where they are now doing hard EDM. No, they remain solidly in the melodic death metal camp. The song writing, lyrics, musically, everything has stepped up in a massive way, and I applaud a band willing to push forward, especially this late in their careers. Their first album came out in 1994 after all…

In Flames seem more willing to mix a bit of electronic with their signature sound on this release, but you really have to listen for it to even notice it. Almost every song has a great catchy chorus, which might make you think they are playing it safe on this album, though I think its due to a mature song writing process and a complete understanding of their sound.

After a few listen throughs of this album, and there have been many – just ask Simone – I remarked how it sounds a lot like a breakup album. Maybe not a breakup album, more of a coming to terms album? The song Call My Name is a great illustrator of what I mean.

Why don’t you call my name?
Let it bounce between the walls through the halls of time
A sign for me to go by
So find me the wormhole so that I can be by your side

Call My Name – In Flames

The title track is some of the best New Gothenburg Death Metal ever put to vinyl. Punishing, chugging, breaking out into a super catchy chorus while I am sure the drummer is having an aneurism. If you have time for only one song, make it this one. This is quintessential In Flames. If I didn’t have to sit down to type this, I’d be circle headbanging and scaring the cat. This song cries out for you to move with it.

The other song that begs you to move, with all your best emo and goth moves, is I Am Above. Another breakup teamed song by my ears… The push and pull of this song on the ears is straight up incredible. And something I have learnt writing these reviews is that describing music is quite hard. You’ll either have to take my word for it, or listen to it and make up your own mind.

I, The Mask is split into two halves. The aggression, anger and heaviness makes up most of the album, up to track 7 or so. And then it mellows out, with more melody over death. The last song on the album – Stay With Me – is a hauntingly beautiful acoustic song that takes its time on the build up. Solidifying in my mind the fact that this is a breakup album. I just hope its not In Flames breaking up. To end after this album would be a tragedy. I am looking ever forward to what these guys put out next. Its sure to blow my socks off. 

In Flames have not only delivered with this album, but have shown why they are one of the stewards of the melodic death metal scene. This album may not appeal to every one of their fans – some may say they have pushed too far, or tried to be more catchy, or changed their sound too much – but I see it as growth. We can’t expect a band to be the same forever. And In Flames seem to have matured along side their fans.

I wonder what Candice thinks?