Review Summary: Whilst featuring enough acceptable content to not be genuinely unlistenable, the excessive focus on Anders' poor vocals results in this being the band's worst album.
In Flames has been speculated to be on a descent since Reroute To Remain, which is honestly pretty debatable; there has been no extreme or fatal lapse after their shift to their new groove metallish sound. Certainly the band's songwriting hasn't really taken too big a hit in a while even as their musical direction shifted into increasing commercial territory. Until now.
Regrettably, Siren Charms is probably the first genuinely terrible album by In Flames, and it's easy to trace the reasons as to why. The increased focus on Anders Friden's clean vocals has happened across the last decade but had never reached a point to which they critically hampered the overall quality of their material, but now the massively amplified commercial focus of the band's music has driven them to the forefront in almost every song present here. This is not a good thing because Anders is not a very good vocalist and never has been; his efforts have always been passable at best, and here his performance is among the worst he's ever provided. His clean vocals are poor and clearly show his lacking range, whilst his growls and screams have long lost their guttural power and all their energy.
What helped cover for Anders poor quality vocals in the past was the band's crispy clean production quality and the strength of the band's core songwriting, whereas on Siren Charms neither feature is present and accounted for. The mixing feels messy and excessively compressed, with the guitars possessing an awkwardly loud quality, and the drums occasionally clip and sound generally irritating; Anders hangs straight in front of both the mix and the songs. The guitar work itself is slower and gives a lot more space to Anders, whilst also featuring more clean sections than ever, which would be fine if it wasn't for the aforementioned poor vocals. The general quality of the songs as a result takes a major dip, as the album's heavier moments such as Monsters In The Ballroom
and Everything's Gone
are simplified and diluted, and the most commercial tracks, the title track, Paralyzed
and the legitimately terrible Through Oblivion
all sound alike and painfully underdeveloped. Despite a fairly decent variety of verses and some legitimately good (albeit sparse) riffs present, nothing is given much of an opportunity for progression as the more commercial direction causes the vocals to take precedent over anything else in the choruses, leading almost all the songs to suffer from Anders' homogeneous vocals. Additionally, the songs all seem more formulaic than ever, with several of the choruses being practically the same and completely unmemorable, and an overuse of bland synth driven verses.
It's regrettable that In Flames have taken this direction, as even here it's clear that the songwriting capability of Bjorn and his peers is pretty strong at points, but the misguided focus on the vocals has led to their talent serving only as a slight embellishment to a largely poor work. Whilst not a release that will topple the band, it's likely that this will go down as their worst effort. Best left avoided.