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Maintaining their sound while staying relevant in modern times is never an easy task for anyone, and for veteran Swedish metallers In Flames, they have found new ways to keep their sound growing after over two decades of existence.
They are on their co-headlining tour of North America with Opeth, and are about to perform at the Hollywood Palladium in Hollywood, CA in support of their latest album Siren Charms. Band guitarist Niklas Engelin appeared to be in good spirits about the tour.
“It’s doing good. We’re playing with Opeth and Red Fang. It’s a great lineup. It’s always good to hook up with Swedes as well. It’s always a rare thing. We always tour with American dudes. Great bands and everything’s great, and sometimes it’s nice to talk in your own language.”
The band spent the end of 2013 writing and recording what has become Siren Charms. Unlike past recording sessions, they chose to shake up the process by moving themselves to Berlin, Germany to record their new album.
“This was the first time we moved out of Sweden. By doing that, you are leaving your comfort zone, such as wife, family, kids and friends. Then we loved the whole recording to Berlin, Germany and it was during November and December (2013). During that period of time, it’s very gloomy and very moody, in Europe and Scandinavia as well.”
“We recorded our album at Hansa Studios, which is where U2, Devo and David Bowie recorded their stuff well back in the 70s. You can feel that vibe within the walls at Hansa,” he explained.
Recording at an iconic studio such as Hansa Studios pushed them to create a different type of an album. The location of the studio also brought out a different vive out of the band as well.
“Then we had two factors – the studio and being in Berlin during that period of time. Then you have the third factor – it’s such a historical place, because from where Hansa Studios is, it’s 200 meters from where the [Berlin] Wall used to be – east and west, and where the Holocaust and the second World War and everything. It’s still there as a memory. I’ll never forget this. Those elements shined through in the recording, because the album is very dynamic but very moody. It’s a melancholic album.”
Much like past records, In Flames has built their songs around various themes and the past few albums have been loosely based around societal themes.
“We’ve been touring all over the world and we meet people in countries and cities. I think that this album, from the beginning, is a creature who lived in water, maybe a mermaid or whatever – she was calling the sailors or whatever. She was calling the old sailors way back in time. ‘Come down to the water and I’ll give you eternal life…’ or whatever like that, and then she drowned them one after another. That’s a metaphor for vices. We’ve all got vices. I love soccer. There are all sorts of vices,” he explained.
Engelin spoke about the theme behind Siren Charms, as some of their past few albums have tackled various topics such as the environmental themes on 2011’s Sounds of a Playground Fading.
Some of the vices they tackled on this album became a bit too surreal in real life at times. “As I said before with this creature, this beautiful woman looking creature lurking underneath the sea – he was watching a lot of documentaries about drug addicts. There’s a place in Vancouver where they’re allowed to be there. You walk around here and you see that. How can a human being actually choose to live like this?”
“We were playing yesterday at The Warfield in San Francisco, CA and outside of that venue…my god! Never seen such decadence. We were taken by that and it came out that way,” he said.
While they have travelling around the globe and playing in front of a variety of audiences, they have experienced how each society handles its issues and how much of it they will make public.
“All cities have their addicts. Some cities hide it very well. I think yesterday at the Warfield, just those blocks around that area – that’s where they can be. That’s their central haven or whatever you call it. But if you walk a block from there, it’s all posh.”
“Back home in Gothenburg we have the drug addicts as well. You’re not seeing it like this. So this is something new to us,” he explained.
Another aspect behind Siren Charms is In Flames’ gradual shift towards more of a song oriented sound than their trademark guitar harmonies-sound of the past.
“I think it was a decision to do such a thing but sometimes you just go with the flow. I know it sounds corny but the music is supposed to take you somewhere. I think we never forced it. We just tag along for the ride, and that ride ended up with Siren Charms,” he explained.
As for 2015, In Flames appears to have a full plate of touring behind the new album. They are working on an upcoming live DVD filmed in Gothenburg, Sweden. This is their first since Used & Abused, out nearly ten years ago.
“We recorded a live DVD back home in Gothenburg. That will be out [in the first part of 2015].”
They have recently announced the next leg of their US Tour with Wovenwar and All That Remains, plus an appearance at Rock On The Range.
“We’re off for six weeks and then we start in the US again in late February. Then back home and then do the UK. Then we’re back here again and do Rock On The Range and radio festivals. Then it’s summer time.”
The summer time has them set for a number of European festivals, such as Hellfest in France and a number of others. Engelin sounded ecstatic about this. “We’re doing Wacken, which is always good, and doing these festivals is always nice to do. They’re very well organized. Always amazing bands on the bill and you get to know a lot of the band members. In some ways it’s like an old class reunion.”
Interview By Rei Nishimoto