In Flames
The Jester Race


3.5
great

Review

by Kyle Ward STAFF
December 15th, 2007 | 68 replies


Release Date: 1996 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Not all it's made up to be, but still a great Melodic Death Metal album.

If you ask me what I think of In Flames, one of Gothenburg's original Melodic Death Metal bands, I would probably mention their noticeable downfall from greatness into bland, uninspired mainstream trash. However, I would also probably mention their intense amount of input to the Gothenburg metal scene, and I would tell you that without this band, along with a few others, the metal scene as we know it today would not be the same. They were one of the first bands to take intricate melodies and slow, emotional bridges and intros, and combine them with the harshness and raw purity of Death Metal. Yes, they did it well. Yes, they played great music. Yes, their second full length album The Jester Race shook the foundations of the metal world. No, this is not a classic.

Hailed by many as the crowning achievement of Melodic Death Metal, The Jester Race certainly is a work of art. In Flames put years of thought and ideas into this album, and that really shows when you hear the first three tracks. However, just because they did this does not make this album a classic in my eyes. For an album to be classic, it has to breathe perfection in every second of every song. It has to be relentless in its genius, innovation and clarity. While this album is relentless in its genius, innovation and clarity, it is not perfect for every second of every song. The first three songs take you by storm, knocking you off your feet before you even have a chance to comprehend how great the tracks are you just heard. Then, we have a lull. Then, it’s back into that flawless coherence and pacing of the first three tracks. Did anyone else catch the lull there? While the majority of the tracks on this album are really, really good, by the end you are kind of sitting there listening to the last two tracks like a zombie, no longer excited by sweeping guitar leads, solos, acoustic passages or anything like that.

My main complaint, as stated above, are the few dull moments this album has. While they aren’t all too frequent, they take away from the overall captivating nature of this release. The song “Graveland” is pretty much useless and could easily have been removed for the benefit of the album. The second instrumental “Wayfaerer”, while good, is a few minutes too long and tends to drag on, something which can also be said about “Dead Eternity”. I’m not saying that these moments completely kill the magic of the album; it’s just that for an album to be hailed as a classic, there must be no points, and I mean none, where the listener may feel bored.

However, the parts on this album that are good absolutely shine. Right off the bat you are smacked in the face with riff after riff after riff of some of the best guitar leads Melodic Death has ever heard. The lead in the standout track “December Flower” is simply mind-blowing, and by one minute into the song you know for a fact you are listening to one of the best songs in the entire genre. Another tell-tale sign of genius at work is when you are completely unaware you are listening to an instrumental. The first time I heard this album a while back, “Moonshield” faded and “The Jester’s Dance” began without me really knowing that the tracks had shifted, and I simply thought I was listening to the solo of “Moonshield”. Seriously, when your instrumentals sound like a giant bridge and guitar solo, you know you have done something right. Also, when these amazing melodies are carried over into nearly every song on the album it adds more and more depth and variety to an already interesting lineup. “Artifacts Of The Black Rain”, “Moonshield”, “December Flower”, “Lord Hypnos”, and “Dead God In Me” all are introduced with simply insane guitar leads and melodies. Anyone with an ear for talented guitar players will be blown-away by the intricate melodies which In Flames has written for this album.

As with a lot of Melodic Death, guitar leads don’t make up the entire repertoire of melodies. Acoustic guitars are the first thing you hear on the album, as they string away on an extremely serene riff on the opening track “Moonshield”, something which always earns a huge plus for me for variety. Also, the way In Flames typically slows things down for a nice bridge before the guitar solo is something I notice, it makes the solo seem much more at the foreground since it blasts out of this calming tune of slow, meaningful electric guitar riffs.

The vocals though, aren’t nearly up to my usual standards. Much of the time, the vocals seem forced, and not nearly as strong and foreboding as I typically like to see with Melodic Death Metal. They lack the ferocity and bite of Mikael Stanne, they are missing the depressing rage of Niilo Sevanen. While some may disagree, Anders Friden simply isn’t exceedingly proficient with his Death Metal growl. It is under-produced slightly, not as throaty or deep and sometimes has a fairly irritating whiny-effect during the end of some of his screams. They aren’t terrible, and they are certainly bearable, but if they were more up-front, louder, and better executed then this album would be looking at a 4 or a 4.5.

I do give a lot of credit to In Flames for their input to what is now probably my favorite genre of music. Melodic Death Metal is a hard genre to get completely correct, because for me it must be full of different, interesting and emotional guitar leads, have meaningful lyrics and poetic, almost epic song structures, a lot of variety and innovation, incredible proficiency in each instrument, and deep, harsh vocals to set the atmosphere. While this may seem like a lot of criteria for one seemingly simple genre, it really takes all that to greatly impress me and hold my attention for a long time. With The Jester Race, much of this criteria is fulfilled, but also a few things are missing. Some of it I can’t really explain, but during some of the tracks it seems like my sense of awe diminishes. My jaw dropped to the floor in admiration during some moments, all In Flames needed to do was secure it down there by keeping their attention focused at all times, but this time they were one nail short.

Pros
+ Amazing Guitar Leads
+ Excellent Atmosphere
+ For It’s Time, Tons Of Innovation
+ One Of The Defining Albums Of A Genre
+ Solid Instrumental Work
+ Good Amount Of Variety

Cons
- Vocals Are A Bit Choppy
- A Few Boring Moments

Recommended Tracks
December Flower
Moonshield
Artifacts Of The Black Rain
The Jester’s Dance



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user ratings (1864)
Chart.
4.2
excellent
other reviews of this album
1 of

Comments:Add a Comment 
Crysis
Staff Reviewer
December 15th 2007


16470 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

To be honest, I think "Whoracle" is In Flames' best album.

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
December 15th 2007


16470 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I see what you're saying, while I was writing this I was questioning my rating a little bit, not sure whether I think this deserves a 4 or a 3.5.... I might change it later, it's really hard for me to decide definitively.

Also, can I ask why you capitalise the genre names?

Not exactly sure, it's just something I'm used to doing.

Zoo
December 15th 2007


3759 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

[quote=Crysis]To be honest, I think "Whoracle" is In Flames' best album.[/quote]
I agree wholeheartedly. Beautiful review, one of my favorites from you.

Thor
December 15th 2007


10202 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'll agree with you that I don't think this is as classic as everyone makes it out to be, but I think it deserves a bit more credit. It's still a kick-ass album.

And where is Lord Hypnos? That's definitely my favorite song on the album!

Wizard
December 15th 2007


19618 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

For an album to be classic, it has to breathe perfection in every second of every song. It has to be relentless in its genius, innovation and clarity.

This album, DT's The Gallery and ATG's Slaugther of the Soul were pretty much the defining moments of the Gothenburg scene for this time. That is why I disagree with your rating on this album. However, you back yourself up well and that is the tipping point between me agreeing with you and me knocking your opinion. Excellent review.

Digging: Hans Zimmer - Interstellar

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
December 15th 2007


16470 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

And where is Lord Hypnos?

That would probably be my 4th or 5th favorite song, I think there are others which are better than that song.

Thanks for the positive feedback, I wasn't sure if people would be angry because I openly criticized the "classic-ness" of this album.

Wizard
December 15th 2007


19618 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

You've been taking some stabs lately at other great albums ie. Enslaved's Isa and its really making me cry. You back yourself up well and I think at this point in time, considering In Flames downward spiral depending on who you talk to, In Flames has lost alot of momentum over the years that would have had fanboys ripping you to shreds. This Message Edited On 12.15.07

Zizzer
December 15th 2007


915 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Excellent review, though the rating seems a bit low. I think the guitar melodies more than make up for the lacking vocals.

It's also a bit surprising that nobody has yet reviewed this album as a classic.This Message Edited On 12.15.07

Yazz_Flute
December 15th 2007


18855 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

What Thor said. Lord Hypnos is my favorite here. I believe the title track and Dead Eternity deserve to be mentioned as well, both are album highlights imo.

Very good review, my pos vote, even though i disagree. This is my top album of the genre, at least from the 90s (The Gallery would come close but it didnt impact my taste in music the way this did) I could say Above the Weeping World is almost as good as well, i ay like that more than "The Gallery."

I do agree with Anders' vocals not being too exceptional though. However, i believe they fit in with the epic qualities of the music perfectly.

Digging: Kenn Nardi - Dancing With the Past

Eakflanderyof
December 15th 2007


2143 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Personally, I think the vocals are amazing because his voice is actually unique unlike many in the genre. I like the high-pitched sound in his growl. Flawless voices are usually very boring to me.

While I highly disagree with this review, it is very well-written.

This is a classic in my eyes. It's one of the few albums that never gets old and never drags a bit. Even the bonus tracks kick ass.

My favorite tracks are probably Dead Eternity, December Flower, and Artifacts of the Black Rain. Lord Hypnos was my favorite for a while. On a side note, December Flower has the best guitar solo ever in my opinion.

This Message Edited On 12.15.07

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
December 15th 2007


16470 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

December Flower really is an amazing song.

Pebster49
December 16th 2007


2993 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I agree, the two after this album were better but this layed the foundation.

Aeksis8745
December 16th 2007


448 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I still see this as the best of their catalog. Very well done review, though I can't see Dead Eternity as boring, its one of the highlights of the album for me.

Crimson
December 16th 2007


1935 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I agree with Anders not being a very good vocalist, and this was where he was half-decent. Marvellous review, I almost agree completely.

Altmer
December 16th 2007


5652 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I've never liked Anders' vocals, not here and not on any other album.

kalkal50
December 16th 2007


2386 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Spot-on review, although I agree that your review is a bit inconsistent since you established that the album has been heralded as a classic. This Message Edited On 12.16.07

rasputin
December 16th 2007


14555 Comments


Great review, and I agree with your stance. I like Whoracle much more, and this one not as much.

Altmer
December 16th 2007


5652 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Whoracle is more ass than this. Whoracle has like, four good songs. Five max. This is much more consistent.

rasputin
December 16th 2007


14555 Comments


I think The Jester Race has a whole bunch of pretty average songs.

Aeksis8745
December 16th 2007


448 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I'm going to have to agree, lot more filler on there.



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