In Flames
Foregone

Imagine, if you would, finding a way to beat the odds and make a legitimate career for yourself in music. Dope! You’ve already lived out the dream of myriads of artists around the world. But not only are you making a living, you’re literally spearheading an entire musical movement – laying a foundation and becoming the forefathers of a sound that will resonate and influence musicians for decades. We’re talking a stretch that produced arguably some of the most influential metal albums ever made. But another 20 years go by, and in that time you’ve done what artists are wont to do – you’ve experimented. You’ve followed your own musical journey to expand your sound and keep from just rehashing the same thing over and over and over again. But you’re musical pioneers! Modern day metal legends! Surely you’ve earned the right to follow your path and create the art you want to make, right? Nah, not so much. Instead, you become the butt of jokes, a seemingly endless eye roll with every new release from fans clamoring for the “glory days.”

No good deed, right?

Look, after 30+ years, I think maybe it’s forgivable if some of the work you’ve done is maybe… less than inspired. Capturing lightning in a bottle time and time again is a daunting task, and the double-edged sword of creating timeless records early in your career is that, inevitably, you’ll always be compared with your own perceived greatness. Call it a good problem to have – but I’d imagine it can be exhausting to have the world want you to stay in their preferred lane, especially after putting so much creative genius out into the world already.

In a perfect world, an artist can block out the noise and the nonsense and just continue to make the art they want to make. In the real world, you have very real people trying to make a very real living (in a world becoming harder and harder to do so), and record companies trying to maintain a bottom line. So what’s an artist in this position to do? The easy thing is to just appease fans and make the record they’ve been clamoring over for two decades. The hard thing is to do that and actually have is sound genuine.

Thus – we come to the genius of Foregone. For all the talk prior to the album’s release about this being the band’s “return to form” and In Flames getting “back to its roots,” what this record truly represents is simply In Flames in 2023 – a band who has grown confident enough in its current lineup to certainly make nods to its past, but also forge ahead with an altogether new sense of renewed vigor and focus. Lets not forget, In Flames may be well into its 30s, but two of their members have only been around for less than 5 years, and their lead guitarist, despite his untouchable pedigree (former Megadeath and Jag Panzer axe man Chris Broderick), has only been with the band for a minute. Growing pains were probably inevitable as the band struggled with itself a bit through the last few releases. But straight away, its apparent the band was determined to make a more urgent statement this time around – certainly through their songwriting, but also notably with Foregone‘s production. As soon as first proper track “State of Slow Decay” drops, you’re hit with a brick wall of sound that has been missing from recent efforts. The guitars and drums particularly find themselves much more prominent in the mix, making for a very punchy, attack-heavy delivery that makes the band’s rediscovered sense of heft, speed and epic melody hit even harder. Honestly, I’d bet if recent works like I, The Mask and Battles had gotten this production treatment, they’d have likely been received much more warmly – but alas, we can just appreciate the effort now, as certified bangers like the aforementioned opener, “Meet Your Maker” and “The Great Deceiver” sound absolutely massive, worthy of a band as huge as this.

And these riffs deserve nothing but the best possible technical backing – at times borrowing as much from the likes of Melodeath legends like At The Gates and Metalcore masters like Unearth as they do from their own back catalog. If you’re truly in need to call this a throwback, you’ll find no shortage of examples to stake your claim. The acoustic intro, along with breaks and stretches on songs like the duo of “Foregone  Pt.1 & 2,” “Pure Light of Mind” and “Cynosure” no doubt recall some of the magic laid out on The Jester Race and Whoracle, the former pair perhaps sounding as close to anything from that era of In Flames’ history that the band has created since those albums first began setting the metal world on fire. That said, the band’s later-day sense of groove and dedication to sing-along hooks still remains an integral part of their modern sound, with every track steadfastly refusing to go by without a big chorus swooping in to take center stage. For some I suppose this may come as a bit of a disappointment, but lets be real – Anders has a knack for it, so why should they throw that out the window? This gets to the crux of what really makes Foregone so successful, because the band seems to really be letting the best parts of their individual strengths shine through. Aside from the big choruses, Anders turns in the best performance of perhaps his entire career – maintaining a really good balance of cleans that, for once, never get to the point of sounding like a lesser Jonathan Davis (KoRn) ripoff, instead sounding confident and sure of himself. The cleans are backed by some really powerful screams and low growls that hit with as a big an impact as any he’s ever deployed. I’ve already spoken highly of the riffs Bjorn Gelotte has been able to string together here, but the addition of Chris Broderick has resulted in what are, hands down, some of the best solos ever put to an In Flames record – and perhaps more impressively, does so while being able to weave them seamlessly into the In Flames sound. And where I think drummer Tanner Wayne was always an upgrade to longtime drummer Daniel Svensson, he and bassist Bryce Paul Newman finally seem comfortable in their roles – not just anonymous stand-ins for the old guard. Wayne especially seems free to really flex his muscles on the album, not only keeping the band fully on attack mode, but picking and choosing where to add his own personal touches to the tracks and make his presence truly felt.

That said, I wouldn’t say Foregone is a flawless record. From an energy standpoint, the album is a bit front-loaded. Nearly all the tracks preceding the album’s release, the ones that seemed to get everyone on board with the idea that this would be the all-out throwback so many were desperate to hear, are found on the front-half of the album. This isn’t to say the second half is full of fillers, but there’s a noticeable turn in the tone of the album, with these tracks perhaps more willing to embrace their recent efforts a bit more tightly. But with every listen, tracks like “A Diologue in B Flat Minor” and “End The Transmission” continue to grow more and more on me – especially once you’re willing to meet the band half-way between the band you once worshiped, and the band they’ve become in recent years. A dedicated ear will still pick up some of the material you’ve been craving, and frankly, it can pair really well everything else the band is still trying to push forward with.

So no, Foregone is not The Jester Race vol. 2 or the natural successor to Whoracle (What would that even be? Slut-seer? Not sure I love the sound of that anyway…) – nor is it Ceramicman. If you desperately need to make a comparison, I guess Foregone is closer to Come Clarity than it is Colony. I guess take that for whatever it’s worth to you. But instead of clinging to past glories or wondering how this stacks up to The Halo Effect‘s latest work, I instead encourage you to approach Foregone with the same sort of fresh perspective and open-mindedness the band themselves seem to have taken here – and appreciate this album for everything that makes it its own thing entirely, because it deserves its own recognition. For a band that’s been at it as long as In Flames, it’s pretty damn cool that they can still accomplish that.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
February 13th, 2023

Comments

  1. Commented by: Aaronius

    Good review, I agree with most everything you said. Haven’t really listened to In Flames last 3 albums (just jamming Colony and Clayman occasionally). Had a chance to see them with Megadeth last year and was surprised how heavy they came across in the live setting (Anders in particular whose growls sounded much deeper and aggressive). Time will tell but I think this one might be more of a “return to form” than Come Clarity.


  2. Commented by: fred

    A band has the right to do what they want too their music, but as a former fan I have the right NOT to buy them.


  3. Commented by: alvaro

    We want the Erik Thomas review of this one


  4. Commented by: Steve K

    Sorry alvaro – you’re stuck with me on this one


  5. Commented by: Erik T

    FWIW- I agree with Steves’s excellent review 100%, . The ‘return to form’ was a bit overstated prior to release, but there’s definitely some old school Clayman, whoracle era vibes


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