Review Summary: Gothenburg's favourite songs bust out a fine return-to-form.
Being pioneers of the Gothenburg Melodic Death Metal sound has got to count for something right? Ten years ago, In Flames were being hailed in some circles as the new Iron Maiden, with albums like "Whoracle" and "Colony" proving that they knew their way around a harmonised riff or six. The future seemed bright... So what if 2000's "Clayman" and its follow up "Reroute To Remain" were a little less well-received? There's always a certain few who will profess to hate their favourite band as soon as they start to get a bit of mainstream success, right?
Then it happened... "Soundtrack To Your Escape." Gone (for the most part) were the magically intertwining guitars we all loved; in their place, "atmospheric" synth sounds. Even Anders himself had adopted a nasty vocal habit, reminiscent of a certain bagpipe-toting nu-metal moaner who shall not be named... It was supposedly the end of In Flames' reign as kings of melodic death...
...Ah ye of little faith!!! "Come Clarity" makes up for all that and more! It may be cliched to say it, but this is the best record of their career, with a more melodic feel than their recent albums, and a much heavier edge than their older material.
In truth, the only real problems with "STYE" were the simplistic guitarwork, and the way the band would build up a promising intro and verse, only for chorus to completely fall short... in almost every song. Well, one listen to "Take This Life" will cast away any doubts you may have had about IF's ability to make face-shatteringly amazing metal. The harmonised guitars are back (yay!) and the chorus is ***ing immense; its obvious that Anders has vastly increased his vocal capability.
These two traits are hammered home even further by "Leeches," which is host to a soaring chorus and a pant-soilingly brilliant lead section, yet also manages to incorporate the odd synth effect, albeit much more subtly (and to greater effect) than the overbearing synth presence on "Soundtrack..." "Reflect The Storm" showcases the guitar harmonies yet further, while slowing things down a little for another amazing chorus, and some more great solo work.
As always, In Flames have experimented heavily (it's fair to say they've never made the same album twice). Some good examples are the vocal trade off on "Dead End" between Anders and female guest vocalist Lisa Miskovsky (whose vocal style is reminiscent of Sharon from Within Temptation), the gang vocals and almost metalcore style of "Scream", particularly in the chorus (I know metalcore seems to be a dirty word these days, but make no mistake, these guys pull it off better than most, by integrating it into their own sound).
The largest departure would be the title track; it truly is an epic masterpiece. Beginning with some acoustic guitars, gentle basswork and slightly echoey drums (overall, quite reminiscent of some of the acoustic parts from the "Whoracle" days, but more atmospheric), Anders then joins in with almost pained-sounding vocals. Suddenly with a scream, the chorus erupts with a wall-of-sound of powerchords, driving drums, soaring synth line, and some of Anders' best vocal work yet. Then it happens... Jesper and Bjorn set the guitars on fire and churn out a long, slow, emotional, and truly ***ing epic dual guitar solo that is guarunteed to raise the hairs on you neck and make your spine tingle. Put simply, this song is a power ballad with huge balls, and quite simply what speakers were made for!
The six tracks that follow bring back the speed element into play, and all feature yet more amazing guitar and vocal work (I'm not trying to take anything away from the equally amazing drum, bass, and occasional synth parts, it's just that its the guitar and vocals which seem to define the songs, and are even more striking, considering the vast improvement in both since the last album). For example, "Crawl Through Knives" features some great vocal harmonies (and brutal screams too, I might add), and "Vanishing Light" is also notable for yet more amazing guitar work, particularly the frantic, jumpy lead section in the middle.
Closer "Your Bedtime Story Is Scaring Everyone" is more of an outro than a full song, beginning as it does, with a few minutes of synthy noise and piano tinkling, with the faintest hint of some muffled drums, before breaking into a short, but not unimpressive main section of melodic vocals and crashing guitars. Hell, there's even an Iron Maiden reference in there, as Anders whispers "you make me understand the evil that men do."
Its hard to pick highlights from "Come Clarity." For one thing, every track is amazing without exception, and all are very memorable, thanks to some very distinctive melodies carrying each one. The lyrics are a vast improvement on what's come before, and the whole album seems propelled forward by some vast invisible rocket (even the slower parts pack a hell of a punch).
In conclusion, this is a storming return to form for In Flames, it's all we could have hoped for and more. I would do a pros and cons section, but it would be entirely pointless, as there's been such an improvement here that there are almost no cons to "Come Clarity."
If you don't like it, you are in my opinion, a cloth-eared fool.
i may have been a little harsh on the guitarwork, but the matter of the choruses was definitely an issue. one great example is "borders and shading." great prechorus (with some of the only harmonising on STYE), but the chorus ("you're so far behind me..." etc.) just seems to flail about in nothing. the only really great choruses on that album were "The Quiet Place" and "Touch Of Red" IMO.
i felt it necessary to compare CC to STYE, as it was STYE that caused a lot of fans to write off the band somewhat (just look at some of the comments on the STYE reviews). i was merely demonstrating how they've avoided making the same album again.
thanks for the feedback though, i'm always open to criticism, my reviews are far from perfect lol!
oh yeah, good point, i forgot about "my sweet shadow"! to be honest, the other songs hold their own with some of the other melodies, or sheer brutality, but the choruses i felt were a letdown for the most part on STYE. thats partly why i rate CC so highly.
out of curiosity, which songs did they make into videos/singles? i remember seeing videos for "the quiet place" and "touch of red" but i heard there were more...
Good review, aside from just a little bit of what I see as slightly unwarranted raving. Otherwise, I liked your style.
I like STYE a lot, and this album proves to be very good as well. I do need to listen to it more, though, especially given that I'm seeing them on Tuesday.
Some of the guitar work, though, sucks. Like at the beginning of Take This Life (I think), where the guitars just chug almost arhytmically. Sounds really bad to me. The good melodies are still there, though, so not a terrible loss.
I havent heard the whole album yet (only the 3 songs offered on Ferretstyle.com) but they were utterly amazing tracks. I can't give a rating on your review yet but I'm sure when I buy the album on Tuesday, your review will get a good rating from me hahahahaha. Ive been playing guitar for about 6 years, and I would like to disagree with you and say that STYE has barely any easy guitar parts. Listen to the song 'Dead Alone'. The bridge has such a nice dual lead in it and than it breaks off into a heavier bridge with the guitars still dualing. This is just an example of the many great guitar pieces on STYE. Some of their tightest, but I will agree you, 'weakest' songs came off that album.
Dude, i love this album.... every song (put aside Your Bedtime Story is Scaring Everyone) is amazing.... i think this is In Flames' best album. I personally like Come Clarity, Crawl Through Knives, and Vanishing Light the best, but just listening to every song theres always that part that makes me go "damnnn, this is a really good song!" I cant get enough of this
I got a lot of these songs a while ago by some means or another, and i never liked songs like Leeches or Reflect the Storm, but after a while I find myself appreciating every aspect of this album! Maybe im praising this album a little too much for what it is, but i still love it
Anders is definitely better then Jon Davis, but lately his vocals have been sliding into somethng similar. His screaming was much better back in the days of The Jester Race and Whoracle, as was his clean singing. Now his scream is decent, but his singing is awful.