Review Summary: In Flames destroy their hypothetical world within Whoracle, whilst impacting greatly on the world outside its margin
Imagine that you are a member of In Flames in 1997. You have just released an album that many consider a masterpiece in The Jester Race, and you are now recognized as one of the major players in melodic death metal. There is no need to change your sound much because all your fans and critics are crying out for more, so all that is required is to re-evaluate the vocals and to slow things down a bit. Come up with a few classic songs, an apocalyptic theme and the usual incredible melodies, and there you have it: album #3...Whoracle
In Flames’ classic releases all have incredible openers, and Jotun
stands comfortably alongside classics such as Bullet Ride
. It opens with an ominous riff that will stick in your mind like superglue. It’s fairly heavy by In Flames’ standards, but that doesn’t stop Strömblad and Ljungstrom from playing melodies that make it sound as though their guitars are bursting into fire. Anders Friden is at the top of his game here and his spoken vocals fit perfectly with the doomsday concept. Like many good openers, it gives the listener a sample of what is to come by containing aspects of most of the other songs; in other words it is a superb song.
The album has many highlights, all of which are nothing less than classic. The solo at the end of The Hive
is an exhilarating listening experience (one of their best, along with Zombie Inc
, December Flower
and Coerced Coexistence
). Dialogue With The Stars
is a riff fest that takes Anders out of the picture for a while and lets the guitarists flaunt the spotlight even more than usual, displaying Jesper Strömblad’s writing talents at their best. Worlds Within The Margin
provides a much needed change of pace (especially since it follows the blistering Morphing Into Primal
) and captures the album’s concept better than any of the other songs with its creepy soundscapes in the verse and after the solo.
However, there are two songs in particular that deserve special mention. The first is Gyroscope,
which has all the ingredients of an all time classic song; it opens with a beautiful piece of acoustic work and then explodes into one of the best riffs that I have ever heard; it’s right up there with the climax of Opeth’s Black Rose Immortal
and Thrice’s The Artist In The Ambulance
. Fortunately, this riff is played through most of the song and when it isn’t, either Anders is belting out a fantastic chorus or Strömblad and Ljungstrom are playing bridges that add to the mood of the song. This is not a just metal song; it is something different...special...beautiful. If you have not heard this song, then please do so immediately, as I have never heard anything like it, apart from...
...Jester Script Transfigured.
Unique, epic, slow, giant, beautiful and even relaxing, which I would never have expected from a song with Anders Friden in it. There are no flaws in this song and I find it hard to pick words to describe it. The blend of acoustic and electric is executed perfectly and, since it is meant to represent the perfection of the utopian society in the concept, I can think of no way in which it could fulfil its purpose better. Absolutely mind-blowing. The only other comment I can make is that if it wasn’t for the brutality of Morphing Into Primal
, which is given the impossible task of following it, I could remain entranced by this song for hours.
Special mention must also be made for the lyrics. They were written in Swedish by Anders and translated by Niklas Sundin of Dark Tranquillity, and as a result they appear in slightly strange English. However, this is definitely a good thing, since they are futuristic, mythic and wonderfully poetic, all at the same time. Some of my favourite lines are in Food For The Gods
, for example,
“Cutting the bloodline
Re-tie the bleeding roots
To heavenly ship of glass
And let it drift in passive arrogance
In a one-word dialogue with the stars.”
Just as potent as the lyrics is the concept. Whoracle is written about the rise of a utopian society that rises on Earth, before it is broken apart by an apocalyptic event. Although the details can be hard to understand due to the unusual nature of the lyrics, the rough outline of the plot is that Jotun acts as a prelude by describing the Earth after doomsday, Food For The Gods and Gyroscope describe the evolution of society, Dialogue With The Stars contributes by kicking absolute ass, The Hive and Jester Script Transfigured describe the perfect society in all its glory, Morphing Into Primal and Worlds Within The Margin recount how everything goes wrong, Episode 666 describe how the world watches its own destruction on TV (only in Sweden, huh?) and Everything Counts points out how the creators of the perfect society realized their mistakes after they inevitably destroyed it. The title track acts as the perfect outro by being very simple and quite gentle, so that the listener has time to register how incredible the album that he/she has just heard is.
To see the influence that Whoracle has had, one only needs to listen to Atreyu
(who I accept as a decent band and have no intention of slamming; only pointing out areas of influence), most notably in the riffs in The Hive
vs. Right Side Of The Bed
, or the soundscapes in Worlds Within The Margin
vs. those in the intro of You Were The King, Now You’re Unconscious
. Whoracle is a masterpiece with a strong sense of coherency, thanks to the concept, which should be owned by any fan of metal.
Incredible guitar work
Classics such as Gyroscope and Jester Script Transfigured
It’d be great to hear more bass
A little more variety would be nice
There aren’t enough albums like this
Top 5 Songs
1. Jester Script Transfigured
3. Dialogue With The Stars
4. Worlds Within The Margin
5. The Hive