“My momma always said life was like a new In Flames album. You never know what you’re going to get”. Okay, so opening with a paraphrased Forrest Gump quote might seem a little harsh but, considering the Swedish melodeath act’s somewhat less than consistent form since the early 2000s, not entirely without cause. Without a single original left member to their name and being unable to keep a steady line-up since 2008, it’s not entirely surprising to find In Flames has gone from the brink of global domination to struggling to keep themselves near the top of the pile.
Having made a rod for their own backs early on with records of such indisputable high quality, it’s been difficult to maintain those same towering standards, causing many fans to jump ship over the last ten years or so. Regaining listeners is a notoriously tough, near impossible task but records like 2011’s criminally underrated Sounds of a Playground Fading and their more recent and highly convincing return to form I, The Mask prove it’s certainly not an accomplishment beyond their capability.
With the mission once more to re-establish themselves at the top, the latest album Foregone (Nuclear Blast) should go a long way to achieving that goal. With its inflections of Scandinavian folk, acoustic intro ‘The Beginning Of All Things That Will End’ acts as a launch pad for the rip-roaring ‘State Of Slow Decay’, an opening cut worthy of any of their earlier albums. ‘Meet Your Maker’ is a perfect choice for the first single. Aggressive but melodic, the urge to sing along while gripping a large invisible orange becomes almost irresistible after only a couple of listens.
More melo than death, ‘Bleeding Out’ possesses a jaunty swing offset by a melancholic chorus that probably shouldn’t work but absolutely does. Split into two separate tracks, part one of the title cut features blistering riffs and quieter sections backed by atmospheric keyboards while the second part is probably best described as a death metal power ballad.
‘Pure Light Of Mind’ showcases the band’s more commercial side, especially during its instantly catchy chorus before ‘The Great Deceiver’ blasts the band into more fast-paced territory with furious, gravel-throated intent. ‘In The Dark’ boasts an insidious chug-driven crawl that explodes into an expansive, ridiculously hook-laden chorus in much the same style as ‘A Dialogue In b Flat Minor’. The catchy bassline of ‘Cynosure’ isn’t exactly a million miles away from Tool before the infectious ‘End The Transmission’ ends the album on another high.
Despite In Flames having more American members than Swedes now, Foregone still manages to capture the band’s early Gothenburg sound as well as incorporating more US influences. The newly formed axe partnership of Bjorn Gelotte and the seemingly omnipresent Chris Broderick produce some characteristically razor-sharp riffs and harmonies while long-serving frontman Anders Friden sounds as formidable as ever, the chunky mix allowing the rhythm section of Tanner Wayne and bassist Bryce Paul Newman to drive the songs forward with a sense of purpose (terrible pun definitely intended).
It’s understandable to a point, but disappointing nevertheless, that so many older listeners made their minds up about In Flames a long time ago. Old schoolers are nothing if resolute in their ways. Once an opinion, always an opinion. Set in stone forever. However, for more devoted fans, or just anyone who enjoys loud European riffs, Foregone stands as one of the band’s finest achievements from the last couple of decades.
Buy the album here:
8 / 10