In Flames
I, The Mask

Believe it or not, 2019 has delivered the best In Flames record since 2006’s Come Clarity with I, the Mask.  12+ years later, In Flames seems to be rediscovering themselves as a guitar and drums driven band. As a lifelong fan and someone who appreciates their entire catalog, albeit some albums much more than others; this is the first album that has made me excited as a fan in some time.

Before we get too deep, let’s address the elephants in the room. 1) Jesper and Peter are no longer in the band; it’s been over a decade for Jesper and 3 years for Peter, in my opinion it’s time to get over it. Their new band Cyhra put a good debut with “Letter to Myself” in 2017, and by the way that doesn’t sound like old In Flames Either. 2) This is NOT a return to what a lot of fans feel are the golden years of the band. This album retains the clean vocals although a lot less than previous efforts, catchy BIG choruses and the like; but guitar riffs ARE BACK and that is sweet. 3) Bjorn has been a principal songwriter since a Reroute to Remain and has been playing guitar in the band since 1999 and drums previously, and Niclas Engelin is a monster player in his right, but since he replaced Jesper, nobody will ever credit him being the beast he is. 4) I, The Mask is a fantastic record in its own right, not just in the framework of the bands already strong discography.

Truthfully, I didn’t have high hopes for this record. Not to say I wasn’t going to give a chance as I believe if you like a band you keep buying their records unless they continue to pump out garbage every six months. Every In Flames record has some great songs, although some are certainly better collections. To get a glimpse in the mind of Will, Colony was my first experience from the band and I loved it immediately. I went backwards and forwards picking up Whoracle and Re-route to Remain in my same trip to the record store. It took me a bit to find Lunar Strain as it hadn’t been reissued yet, but alas I digress.

In Flames is a band that continues to naturally progress through their discography. Each record feels like a natural evolution. Somewhere although the way became less “brutal” trading in more clean vocals for the signature screams of Anders Friden; but they always retained the Gothenburg sound with their guitar riffs and thrash influenced drumming. After losing Jesper many bands wrote them off despite writing great albums, many never gave a chance Sounds of Playground Fading being the best and Siren Charms being forgettable, sans a song or two. Battles went commercial, despite this, it was still a great album. I expected I, the Mask to continue in that vein; wholly anticipating ZERO dirty vocals as the trend has been less each album.

I was pleasantly taken aback when I heard the lead single “I am Above” filled with guitar riffs, a guitar solo and 80% dirty vocals. However, I have been duped before by labels getting people excited about records and just assumed this would be the heaviest song on the record so the label could print a sticker that say “In Flames return to their roots” to move a few more units. They DIDN’T return to their roots, but they have certainly come a long way to find themselves again. It’s their heaviest and consequently their best in in over a decade as noted above.

Strong opener “Voices” begins the album, feeling like something that could have been on Re-route to Remain, I was again pleasantly shocked. The title track “I, the Mask” was a second banger of a tune a la Come Clarity era In Flames. I was genuinely as a fan so excited to discover track after track of well written guitar riff laden anthems on this album. The only song that felt a bit contrived to me was “This is our House”. Can I just say I am over children’s sing-alongs on metal records? Can that trend die please? After the intro the song was cool though; so again, even the low point felt like home to me. “In this Life” is another STRONG In Flames offering and trend continues with “Burn”! and  “Stay with Me” bookends with opener”Voices”, ending the album in strong fashion.

I think the band did the right thing putting out a 12 track album vs the 14-15 song albums they have been delivering. Whether this was a coincidence or the fact they chose to really hone the tracklist this time, we will never know as fans, but something awakened within the band on “I, the Mask”. Maybe it was timing, maybe it was new members, maybe it was better riffs this time around, or maybe it was just TIME. “I, Mask” delivers!

12 tracks of great Gothenberg Mellowdeath compromise the best In Flames album in years. If you haven’t enjoyed their recent material, you still may not enjoy this one, but if you haven’t made you consider buying an album in a bit, this one may be worth your time. Go grab this!

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Will Maravelas
March 18th, 2019

Comments

  1. Commented by: Nick K

    Fantastic review Will! Welcome to the TOTD staff.. You did an excellent job covering the history of In Flames.. I want a new Dimension Zero album ( Go Jesper!) Keep up the awesome work!


  2. Commented by: E. Thomas

    man this is pretty good- best album is ages


  3. Commented by: gabaghoul

    Shocked by how not-awful this is – like a hybrid of Come Clarity and their more recent poppier stuff. Never thought I’d listen more than 1 song on a new IF album again but this is a surprise.


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