Since the Gothenburg metal scene ambushed the road metal was going down in the early 90s, In Flames, along with Dark Tranquility and At the Gates, pioneered a genre now known as melodic death metal. In Flames’ entrancing style, harmony ridden guitar riffs, and metaphorical and beautiful lyrics is what has given them their well-deserved seat on the throne of melodic death metal. On their ninth album, “A Sense of Purpose,” they’ve proven that after 18 years, these kings are still reigning.
After a major line-up change during their first album, 1994’s “Lunar Strain”, the quintet released “The Jester Race,” “Whoracle” and “Colony.” These albums are regarded as In Flames’ classics and often cited as influences on other bands. 2000’s “Clayman” marked the band’s attempt to play with their sound, often using clean tones and backing further away from the constant screaming. Their transition into their current sound appeared on “Reroute to Remain” where keyboards, vocal mixes, and intense alternative melodies were inevitably detectable.
“A Sense of Purpose” once again shows the ever-maturing sound dimensions that In Flames loves exploring. The ability to create music that is drastically different from, but still up to par with its original music is a talent only a few bands such as In Flames possess. Guitarists Jesper Strombland and Bjorn Goelette carry one another’s melodies until they break into a wrenching technical assault of harmony, while Daniel Svenson’s guiding drums and Peter Iwers thundering bass fuel vocalist Anders Frieden’s epic stories of apathy, rage and self-analysis.
Their brand of Swedish melodic metal expands and speeds up what Iron Maiden invented and replaces the singing with screaming. Out of this experiment comes a sound that was as much aggressive as it was emotional and talented. Though the walls In Flames stayed between were close this time around, the mix of minor scales and harmonic guitar pinches that nerve that metal didn’t know was there.
While most of the bands of the genre count on simplistic thirds-harmonies, In Flames has always found a way to contort them into something more unique. On “Alias,” the introduction and breakdown hold tight onto the ability to get ones head moving, while still appearing catchy. The intricate blues licks on “The Mirror’s Truth” give a good preview of the CD’s harmonic aspect, while “I’m the Highway” brings to life the soaring harmonies that are present among their other epic work. The Megadeth style solo in “Move Through Me” shows that maturity doesn’t come without talent, and In Flames have proven that they are long past puberty.