Review Summary: In Flames crowning achievement and possibly the best Gothenburg Metal album...ever.
On the cover of the album is what appears to be a towering castle emitting a light blue glow surrounded by a desolate landscape. This structure “is” Gothenburg Metal. A construct of darkness bound together by a strange but beautiful light that shines through the outer exterior of evil. Just as Gothenburg seems to be the promised land of melodic death-metal this album is the pinnacle of said genre. Maybe that isn’t why In Flames put the fortress on the front of their album but that is certainly an overtly romantic perspective on its origins…that I happen to like.
Aggression is too often the key force behind metal. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very much the metal fan, but too much emphasis is placed on making music faster, louder, and more br00tal. Some sweaty guys spend all their time trying to shred there brains out and slam the ears of the listener with “head-banging” music without giving a single thought to harmonies, melodies, and aesthetic qualities that even the most aggressive music should portray at times. This IS what In Flames did with The Jester Race. They found the perfect balance of all the qualities mentioned and incorporated them with the more viscous qualities of metal. Even the solo’s have a more melodious quality too them and yet display plenty of technical skill. Though plenty of bands do the exact same thing, it was In Flame’s perfection of the concept that makes this album so great.
The album’s opener really sets the tone for this melodious musical composition. It starts with a beautiful acoustic set which has quite the epic feel to it. Even when the song erupts into a heavier electric riff it holds the melody and carries it through a powerful, and yet slower pace. Metal bands don’t need to thrash away incessantly all the time.
Harmonized riffs are obviously what make this album great. Every track has its moments but one of the better tracks, which utilizes them the best, is Artifacts of the Black Rain. The album also never throws away that heavier aggressive quality which makes metal…metal of course. Lord Hypnos is a brilliant track, which thrashes away at you and of course keeps melodic harmonies to spice up a generally “Evil” sounding song. There is a great acoustic breakdown too. December Flower is another wonderfully hardcore track that contains a few solos.
The overall mood of the music often has a very epic feel to it. Wayfaerer is a perfect example of this adventurous feel. Really the best way to describe the song is that it seems like the perfect song to end an epic RPG game with. It just has that “feel”. You’ve vanquished your enemies and you return home in glory. The Jester Race is another good example of this feeling. It has a great clean guitar intro that really builds you up for a generally fast paced track.
It should also be noted that the majority of the tracks are not very long. This is a good thing imo because metal bands sometimes have a bad habit of making tracks too long for the sake of either showing off or being pretentious. At the same time the tracks are all long enough to never leave you hanging.
This album truly runs the gambit of all the things good metal should have. In Flames truly made a practically perfect album. They utilized every technique at their disposal and made something that sets them apart from every one else, even within their own genre, a genre they certainly helped popularize with this album.