For the past decade or so, melodeath heavyweights In Flames have divided the worldwide metal community. After beginning humbly as a melodic side-project to Jesper Strömblad’s traditional death metal band Ceremonial Oath, the Gothenburg group went on to release a string of innovative albums throughout the mid to late 90s that earned them unanimous acclaim for pioneering a much cleaner, more NWOBHM inspired style of death metal. Alongside the likes of bands such as Dark Tranquility and At the Gates, this fresh approach took the metal world by absolute storm. However, the turn of the decade has seen the Swedes popularity tower to heights not often reached without musical compromise, a notion that most bands of their genre would never dare to entertain. In the case of Anders Fridén and co, they boldly made the decision to incorporate friendly grooves and alternative metal riffs into a core sound that was always considered to be its best when abrasive, off-putting and relentless.
Ghost Cult spent some time in New York City recently with Sharon den Adel of Within Temptation before their sold-out show at The Playstation Theater in Times Square, The band recently released their smash album Resist (Spinefarm) and came back to tour the US for the first time in five years. Sharon chatted with us backstage in a candid conversation about the new album, changes in the sound of Within Temptation over the years, working with collaborators like Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach and Anders Friden of In Flames, her 2018 solo album My Indigo, maintaining good vocal health on the road, and plans for the next Within Temptation release, honoring the legacy of the band, and a lot more! Videography by Omar Cordy of OJC photography. Continue reading
In Flames is a band, much like most of the daring few whoever made ground-breaking original art, that seems to be judged forever for their earliest success. While it’s true that that have departed from their original pioneering “Gottenburg sound” of melodic death metal, they are certainly never dull and always capable of solid releases with memorable songs. The chorus of angry, arms-crossed dudes that say “I don’t listen to those guys anymore” will always get drowned out by the die-hards, many whom the band picked up as they exploded in popularity. Once you get past the old narrative of the band that escaped beyond what was narrow sub-genre with four good bands, you can appreciate their entire career arc, which is still evolving on their new album, I, The Mask (Eleven Seven Music Group). Continue reading
Suffering from writers’ block after an exhausting touring cycle, Within Temptation singer Sharon den Adel found herself devoid of inspiration and worrying that she might not be able to write again. Eventually, she did begin composing once more, but on a smaller scale and for a more personal solo project released earlier this year. Continue reading
Nekrogoblikon aren’t doing this for critical acclaim, or good reviews, and as such, probably don’t give a Stench (sic – self released) what people think of their merits, or otherwise, instead doing this to have fun, stand out from a maddening crowd, and provide a platform for Goblin related buffoonery all to the backing track of some uptempo meloblack. If you’re looking for something progressive, epic, developed or overtly serious Heavy Meta (released on the band’s own Mystery Box label) probably isn’t for you. Swim in the shark-and-troll infested seas of Alestorm and Finntroll and you may have come to the right place, my fiends.
Crawling out of the underground cave where they undoubtedly concoct their foul brews, Scorpion, in his best Abbath croak, spits out “Babies, children, women and men, Get ready to implode on the count of ten. One… Two… TEN!” and we’re off into their stompy, earwormy world of melodic black metal and opener ‘The End of Infinity’. As the album progresses, keys dance and enhance over contagious songs, as the guitars chug and spray, hitting into Children of Bodom and more so (early) In Flames territory (for the choruses, Scorpion is reminiscent of Anders Friden) as accusations of a lack of technical proficiency that have blighted previous releases are well and truly laid to rest.
With both clawed feet firmly grasping onto the mid-90’s carnival world of the post-second wave – bands like Old Man’s Child, Borknagar, Arcturus and their ilk – this is catchy, theatrical and not a million miles from Dimmu Borgir’s more theatrical mid-paced moments, not afraid to open out into Gothic baroque tech metal territory (yep) on pairing ‘Snax & Violence’ and ‘Atlantis’, or just invoke a full on filthy party on the Andrew W.K. endorsed ‘Let’s Get Fucked’.
With elements of huumpa, Viking, classic, black, thrash and melodeath metal, Nekrogoblikon have a fair arsenal to bite, scratch and claw at your ankles and demand your attention. Ensuring each track is both memorable, likable and distinct from its predecessor, this is an enjoyable romp through a critter infested world that shows us just how these ‘gobli(ko)ns (black and) roll.
Originating in Thessaloniki, Greece, under the fleet-fingered generalship of Marios Iliopoulos (the bands only stalwart and ever-present) and six-string superstar guitarist Gus G. (Firewind/Ozzy), Nightrage have had a fair few well-known faces bolster their ranks and raise their profile throughout the years, including, amongst others, Per Möller Jensen (The Haunted) and Tomas “At The Gates” Lindberg. Yet, despite the constant turn over, through the sheer force of Iliopoulis’ will and personality, the band has maintainted both its sound and style.
And so to opus number six, The Puritan (Despotz), and yet another line-up change with Ronnie Nyman grabbing the poisoned chalice-shaped nettle of the microphone stand, his early Anders Fridén stylings slotting in seamlessly with an assured and aggressive voice snarling over another dose of the confident melodeath we’ve come to expect from Nightrage. Steeped in the fast riffing, melodic leads and off-beat snare snaps that define post Slaughter of the Soul (Earache) Melodic Death Metal, The Puritan displays all the expected genre trappings, with Nightrage comfortable in laying out a heavily In Flames and At The Gates influenced sound.
Yet, this was the sound of the late 90’s… in the lead up to the turn of the millennium, you couldn’t swing a cat without it picking up the print ink of review upon review comparing bands to the main protagonists of the NWOSDM sound and nearly two decades on it’s disappointing to hear respected outfits slavishly reproducing a style that belongs to yesterday. There were too many bands doing it back then to need any more doing it now.
Iliopoulos knows how to do this melodeath thang til his fingers bleed, and The Puritan is an effectively crafted slab of Gothenburg jagged riffing, harmonized guitars and throaty vocals. For a band that has rubbed more than shoulders with some big hitters and genre-definers, while the proficiency is there, that extra dose of depth of thought and invention in song-writing that would move Nightrage from just A.N.Other band to genuine players, is lacking.
Even seventeen years ago this would have sat as one of the pack alongside your Withering Surface’s, A Canorous Quintet’s and Crown of Thorns as follower, not leader.
Reaching 25 years of creating Swedish metal is milestone for In Flames, as they have made their mark within the heavy music scene. Siren Charms is the band’s eleventh full length album and they continue to reach new fans on every tour stop.
Niklas Engelin has seen the progression of In Flames throughout his many stints in the band. Originally joining in 1997, he originally replaced guitarist Glenn Ljungstrom (now in The Resistance) and later filled in for founding guitarist Jesper Stromblad over the years. He finally rejoined as a full member in 2009 during the Come Clarity touring cycle, replacing Stromblad once again.
He shares his observations on the growth of the band over the years, from the musical shifts from their trademark guitar harmonious sound with death metal growls to a more synth driven, alt-metal oriented sound.
“I think we as musicians, doesn’t matter if it’s In Flames, Opeth or RUN DMC back in the day, I think consciously write music in your mind. Of course I practice my guitar. I have to. I really enjoy practicing, but I feel I have my way of playing, my kind of sound and I know how to write a song. So it’s more I digest everything.”
“As for today, I went for a walk for three hours to embrace everything. It should be interesting. I get home from this tour and then I have six weeks off. I will write some new stuff. Let’s see what’s happening after all of the travelling. I think we’re writing consciously in your mind all the time,” he said.Bjorn Gelotte of In Flames. Photo by Hillarie Jason.
While he did not participate on the recording of 2010’s Sounds of a Playground Fading, he took a supporting role on Siren Charms.
“Bjorn (Gelotte, guitars) did the writing. I was there for the structure of the songs. My way of playing the guitar shined through a little bit. But it’s mainly Bjorn and Anders [Friden] who writes all the stuff.”
Being that Engelin has unofficially held the role of In Flames’ version of “The Sixth Beatle,” he has held a front row view of the ups and downs of the growing pains behind the band.
“I always feel comfortable. I quit and started Gardenian back in the day (in 1996). Me and Anders did the Passenger album (in 2003). They called me in ’06 to fill in. From then on, I’ve been there when Jesper was falling off the wagon. So I kind of saved a lot of tours.”
Engelin has proven that he is the perfect fit for In Flames a role player. He shares how much of a bond he has with the members and it goes back a ways prior to becoming members of the band.
“I know these guys. I’ve known Anders since ’88. Me and Bjorn grew up in the same suburbs. Me and Jesper went to the same high school together. For me it’s natural. I know everything. I know exactly things like ‘he’s going to do it like that.’ It doesn’t differ back too much. So it’s easy for me to get into. The mentality of the band is easy to get into.”
Lastly, being that Siren Charms is their eleventh album and having a wealth of songs to choose from for a set list, In Flames has the undaunting task of piecing together songs that will somewhat please the crowd.
As each record passes by, it only get tougher but Engelin has an interesting perspective on this much debated topic.
“That’s tough. There’s always going to be those people in the audience ‘hey “Upon an Oaken Throne’ or ‘Episode 666.’ Great songs – I’d gladly play them, of course, but when are we playing those songs? People are standing like birds.”
“I saw a really cool gig by ZZ Top. At first the camera zoomed into the band. It was in a huge arena. Anyways, ‘next song what do you want to hear?’ ‘I want to hear (name of a song)’ – can we do it?’ ‘Of course we can do it.’ Then they played it, into the next song. The crowd contributes to the songs. It was really, really cool. That would be something. But then we would have to rehearse for ages! Then it would make sense.”
Interview By Rei Nishimoto