I've never been to Sweden before. Ever. That said, if someone asked me what my favourite Swedish city was, without hesitation I'd answer in my best growly voice: "Gothenbuuuuuurg!!!" Well, actually I wouldn't because that's retarded, but Gothenburg is still a pretty cool city anyway. In the 90's it was a hotbed for all those melodic death metal-like bands such as In Flames and Dark Tranquillity. Eventually, the creative term Gothenburg metal was coined for bands with a similar background and sound. Both In Flames and Dark Tranquillity have since released some excellent albums such as The Jester Race (In Flames) and Character (Dark Tranquillity). But it doesn't stop there, as In Flames have also recorded other successful albums. One of them was 2000's Clayman. The album was recorded in, you guessed it, Gothenburg Sweden. The album contains some of the bands more popular songs, such as the catchy Only For the Weak.
Clayman is appears to be one of those albums that people seem to really like or really dislike, with the spectrum is pretty extreme including some who revere this album, and others who consider it a black eye on the genre. For me, I find myself closer to the former as opposed to the latter, but I wouldn't exactly call it my favourite In Flames release. With that in mind, I still do like Clayman quite a bit. One of the reasons I enjoy this album so much is the actual music. While not especially heavy, Clayman is dripping with melody. And damn it, I have to have my melody. So I am more than happy with the direction the band has taken. Though purists may cry out blasphemy with this release, I feel that the lighter sound works very well for In Flames. Clayman feels very focused, riff after riff, drumbeat after drumbeat. Listening to songs such as, again, Only For the Weak or Pinball Map, it is apparent that the band has put a lot of effort into their music. Enjoyable, concise, and consistent are all adjectives which can be used to describe Clayman, as many of the albums songs feature several sections in which this the case. Clayman flows together very nicely and is definitely a fun album to listen to.
In Flames has one pretty important aspect that makes them a ton of fun to listen to. And that rests in that of their two axmen, Jesper Stromblad and Bjorn Geloette. Though their names are difficult to pronounce, the energetic playing of the tandem is not difficult to digest. These two give the band their signature sound, the enjoyable melody, hypnotizing harmonies, the crushingly heavy sections (for the most part), and the staggering solos. You couldn't really ask for anything more from the two members, as they perform their roles exceedingly well, and very rarely do they disappoint. Two songs where the pair stands out the most are Swim and Suburban Me. Both songs are very guitar orientated offerings, and on both songs Jesper and Bjorn give what are arguably their best performances. The riffs are exceedingly strong, combining the desired strength and melody. Also notable on Clayman regarding the two guitarists is the production on the guitars. Like many of the band's early albums, the guitars' tones are very enjoyable and definitely enhance the music. Just as in The Jester Race, Whoracle, and Colony, In Flames' guitarists steal the show, and are definitely among the highlights of the album.
Though perhaps not as good as The Jester Race or even Colony, 2000's Clayman is still a marvellous album. It is home to all sorts of excellent material, such as the title track or Only For the Weak, which may very well be the catchiest song the band has ever recorded. Clayman, though not devoid of errors and mistakes, is an incredibly fun album to listen to, as there are not any limits to the level of melody and precision that is produced. The two catalysts of this sound, Jesper and Bjorn, have an impressive showing and definitely meet the expectations. Clayman is a very enjoyable record, and despite the mixed reviews, fans of Gothenburg metal should definitely not shy away.
Only For the Weak