Review Summary: Subterranean is a hidden gem within In Flames catalogue. It is, for some reason, overshadowed by the album that came just a year later. I consider it nothing less than essential for anyone who enjoys early In Flames or Melodic Death Metal in general.
In terms of Melodic Death Metal, In Flames was, and will probably always be my favorite band, despite the fact that I don’t like anything post Whoracle that much, and that I horribly despise everything post Clayman. The reason I love them so much, is their first three albums.
The Jester Race is their absolute classic, it probably have had influenced the whole Melodeath genre. Lunar Strain is an excellent effort, but it still lacks some major elements that later In Flames album had. Subterranean is where the sound evolved. In Flames perfected their sound, combining their Scandinavian roots with obvious Thrash and Power Metal influences.
The album starts with Jesper's dark and emotional piano riff, building a great mysterious atmosphere for the album. Immediately after that, you would experience what will probably be the most Thrashy and melodic twenty minutes of your life. The band embraces their Thrash influences beautifully, with riffs like Biosphere's verse actually sound like they are taken off Rust In Peace. On the melodic hand, Biosphere's intro and Stand Ablaze's outro are clearly some of the best Melodic Death Metal riffs ever written. Subterranean is definitely some of Jesper's greatest work.
Another important part of the EP's success, is actually the infamous vocalist, Henke Forss. The current-Black Metal singer is perhaps the best singer In Flames ever had. He sounds somewhat similar to Mikel Stanne, but he tops his performance in Lunar Strain, where his voice still sounded immature. Forss's emotional screams emphasizes the melodic riffs - you can easily smell the air of 19th Sweden. Henke Forss also wrote excellent lyrics for the album. The title track, for example, is almost a poet.
The drumming here is also worthy of a mention. The guest drummers Daniel Erlandsson and Anders Jivarp play in a way that may even put Bjorn Gelotte to shame. The second track, Everdying, is a great example for that. The passages are extremely accurate and the beats are almost as intense as in Black Metal.
Despite being tremendously Thrashy, Subterranean also contains three acoustic pieces, just like almost any early In Flames album. Two of them are in Everdying and the other is Timeless. Besides being beautiful, they play an important part – letting you breathe between the tracks.
As for the bonus tracks, the early versions of Dead God In Me and Dead Eternity, which is my all-time favorite In Flames song, top the later versions; mostly thanks to their raw feel and the great vocals. The covers of Metallica and Iron maiden are pretty much fun, and they also prove what I said before – In Flames were highly influenced by Thrash acts like Metallica, and probably every Melodeath band was influenced by Iron Maiden.
All in all, Subterranean is a Melodeath masterpiece. It combines all the elements; ancient mysterious atmosphere, fast melodic riffs and emotional singing and lyrics to produce one magnificent album. If you even slightly enjoyed The Jester Race or Lunar Strain go and get this unknown masterpiece as soon as possible.
Subterranean was released in 1994. The record label is Wrong Again and it is 20:50 (38:36 remastered) minutes long.
In Flames - music
Henke Forss - lyrics
Jesper Strömblad - guitar
Glenn Ljungström - guitar
Johann Larsson - bass
Daniel Erlandsson - drums on "1 & 2; 6-9" (although he is pictured with the band in the album pictures, he was still a guest)
Anders Jivarp - drums on "3 & 5"
Henke Forss - vocals on "1-3 & 5; 9"
Jocke Gothberg - vocals on "Dead Eternity"
Robert Dahne - vocals on "Eye of the Beholder"
Per Gyllenbäck - vocals on "The Inborn Lifeless"
Oscar Dronjak - backing vocals on "Stand Ablaze"
Produced by In Flames.
Engineered by Fredrik Nordström.
Mastered by Staffan Olofsson.
Cover art and photos by Kenneth Johansson.
Layout by Dennis Jernberg.