Metal is a unique genre of music because it encompasses so many things. Some may think of metal as heavy music with demonic screams and driving riffs, and often, that’s the case; but, doom/death metal is unique. It’s a slower pace and more methodical, sometimes incorporating heavy vocals and grinding riffs, typically with defining harmonies and orchestral backing.
In Flames has long been a favorite of mine in the genre. The Swedish band released their 13th album I, the Mask on March 1 via Eleven Seven Music. 13 is a lot of albums for any band to put out, and like any group with that longevity, In Flames has greatly diversified over the past two decades.
This album is a lot heavier than what we have grown to expect from the Swedish veterans, and from the onset of “Voices”, the first track on the album, that was abundantly clear. The song caught my attention in a big way. The song explodes into a fast and heavy riff with piercing screams and intense progressions. The chorus is catchy and melodic, with clean vocals peppered in that give a glimpse of the In Flames I was expecting with this release. There’s an evolution on display that carries everything I have grown to love for this band and fused it with everything I love about the genre as a whole.
The lead singles off the album all have their own unique sounds and add diversity to the release. “(This Is Our) House” kicks off with a huge chant and has all of the typical In Flames signatures. It is a slower paced, yet still heavy track, that has an upbeat and anthem-like chorus. The orchestral backing that In Flames uses displays a full and robust feel, adding a guitar solo that is short and sweet, but incredibly proficient.
“Call My Name” is written in the same vein – a traditional death metal feel with a huge chorus, absolutely incredible guitar work and a dual solo that is perfection. On the other hand, the title track “I, the Mask” is an aggressive, uptempo track with double bass, orchestral backing tracks, heavy vocals and a chorus that is as big as it is catchy. This song is heavy and aggressive, which was unexpected the first time I heard it, but ties the album together so well.
My favorite track on the album is “I Am Above.” The song is heavy as hell and has so many musical pillars. There is a point in the chorus that the double bass, stringed instruments and heavy vocals all hit twice in perfect syncopation and then ring out with just a millisecond of silence in between. The guitar solo is understated, but fits so well. The last chorus starts with a cappella vocals leading into it that gave me chills the first time I heard it. Another song that really grabs my attention is “Burn” It starts out as a slow, deep, melodic track that slowly builds before it just explodes at the end. I really am a sucker for this format!
“We Will Remember” is one of the catchier songs on the album with a wider appeal. There is a melodic solo riff that has heavy stop beats behind it. The ballad-esque focus with solid clean vocals continues onto “In This Life” and the album’s closer, “Stay With Me,” that builds to a heavy finish, though at a slower tempo, with a big orchestral feel. Death metal at its finest!
I, The Mask absolutely blows my mind. To have 13 albums at the caliber of what In Flames has given us is astounding, but to put out what may be their best work to date at this point in their career leaves me floored. March 1, 2019 was an absolutely huge day for new music in metal and I am certain this album will be one that we talk about in December to recap the year.