Review Summary: With their third album, In Flames have produced a guitar masterpiece, featuring some of the most memorable riffs and solos in the history of heavy metal.
When In Flames formed in 1990, they were all about guitar. The founder, Jester Strömblad, was a guitarist; dual guitar passages and solos were a prevalent force in their music; and Mikael Stanne was only meant to provide session vocals, which showed that less emphasis was being placed on other parts of the band. By the time the band released their second album, The Jester Race, they were becoming known for their beautiful guitar solos and memorable riffs, and the guitar skills showcased in that album helped to make it the classic that it is today.
This focus on guitar showed itself even more in the following album, Whoracle. The opening melodies of “Jotun,” the beautiful acoustic chords that open “Jester Script Transfigured,” and the powerful riffs of “Episode 666,” played by Strömblad and Glenn Ljungström, remain some of In Flames’ best moments, even over a decade after the album’s release. In short, the album is a guitar masterpiece with the ability to appeal to people who have no interest in, or even openly despise, the metal genre as a whole.
Sadly, the amount of attention given to guitar does limit the impact of the bass, drums, and vocals on the album. In truth, there’s no real problem with any of them – they could simply be better. Like in many metal albums, it’s hard to hear the bass, although there are no problems with how Johan Larsson plays his instrument. Similarly, Bjorn Gelotte does a nice job with the drums, but he doesn’t do anything special here. Vocalist Anders Friden has a powerful growl that goes well with the album’s dark mood, but once again, it’s nothing outstanding.
Which is not to say that the album sounds bad in any way at all. In fact, it’s probably one of the top three metal albums of the 1990’s – the other two spots going to The Jester Race and Colony by the same band. There’s a variety of material presented here, and all of it is good. There are faster, heavier songs like “Food for the Gods” and “Morphing into Primal”; softer songs like “Dialogue With the Stars,” “Jester Script Transfigured,” and the title track, “Whoracle” (which includes some female guest vocals from Ulrika Netterdahl); and songs of average intensity like “The Hive” and “Episode 666.” Hell, they even put in a cover of Depeche Mode’s “Everything Counts,” giving it a unique Gothenburg sound. The result is a very pleasing mixture of brutality and melody – there’s a reason it’s called “melodic death metal.”
In terms of lyrics, this may be one of the best albums of all time. Whoracle is a concept album that describes the rise and fall of a utopian society, and nobody can tell the story better than Friden, who wrote the lyrics in Swedish to be translated by Dark Tranquillity guitarist Niklas Sundin. He uses a very advanced vocabulary, including some words that have been fused together like “electroheart” or “seismorgasmic” – even the album’s title, “Whoracle,” reflects this – to say exactly what he wants. The cover art, which was done by Andreas Marschall, is also quite impressive.
You’ll want to get the “reloaded” version of this album, which can be found on iTunes and costs the same price as the normal edition. The reloaded version features one bonus track, “Clad in Shadows,” which is a remake of the song from Lunar Strain, In Flames’ first album. Overall, the track is much better than its Lunar Strain counterpart, and it’s worth listening to. In particular, the guitar solo in this one is very well done.
Overall, this is an incredible album, hurt only very slightly by the fact that the guitarists are really the only band members given priority throughout the album. It’s very difficult to pick the three best tracks from this album, as every one of them is excellent. Just do yourself a favor and buy the whole album.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5