Review Summary: A true siren song
Taken in context, it is easy to see that Siren Charms
was exactly the kind of album that In Flames were looking to make. In that regard, the catchy, accessible licks that spill from the guitars do work given that the album was intentionally meant to be a radio-friendly romp that is quite simply an easy listen for seasoned metal fans. It isn’t a heavy album, despite what the abrasive riffing of “Everything's Gone” appears on the surface to be, but it also isn’t as dynamic as the soaring female vocals in “When the World Explodes” would lead you to believe. Siren Charms
rather chooses to use these attributes as a veil to hide that fact that In Flames simply do not have anything left in the tanks to drive an entire song from start to finish. It’s all a garnish that attempts to mask charred, lifeless songwriting and a very acute awareness that In Flames are so far past their prime it is becoming more worrisome than humorous.
Sure, the band has managed to pull off some breathtaking numbers in their more recent years, including the throwback “A New Dawn” from their 2011 record Sounds of a Playground Fading
, but the simple fact is that there is nothing to lift up the dreary verses of Siren Charms
save half-hearted melodies and solos that are both scattered and short, fleeting attempts to inject life in a sound that flatlined years ago. An important thing to point out is that the band doesn’t seem to notice the fact that the loud synths in the opener “In Plain View” are nothing more than a noisy, abrasive humming or that “Monsters in the Ballroom” relies on only a simple chugging verse that contains no emotion or creativity to hold the entire song together between the half-hearted choral swells. These oversights show that In Flames are simply becoming lazy, because despite their ability to craft many brief but powerful melodies they somehow refuse to address errors that are repeated throughout the record. Amidst all of this creatively barren wasteland is Anders Fridén, who once again sets the low watermark as quite simply a completely inept vocalist in all aspects, retaining a flat, wailing scream and equally screeching cleans. More often than not during Siren Charms’
many soaring choruses, Fridén forms vocal melodies that differ noticeably from what the rest of the band is doing, creating a feeling of vocal-driven music in a genre that should not be structured that way.
It all comes together to create an album that voluntarily chooses its own shallow bag of tricks while gleefully repeating the same tired gags over and over again in anticipation of a different reaction from the audience. We’ve seen it all before – just listen to any of In Flames’ last three records – but on Siren Charms
things appear to be the most dire. Rather than taking the evolution shown within “With Eyes Wide Open” and realizing that a formula that reinvents itself on the back of shifting, evocative guitar riffs is the best way to approach this “radio metal” style, they instead opt for the simpler path of tossing around chords and hoping they fall into some sort of intelligible order. What makes it worse is that there are moments within Siren Charms
that prove to be extremely enjoyable, and when the chorus of the title track confidently throws around its weight, or when the guitars unfurl a clean solo to introduce “Rusted Nail” it makes you feel like there is some semblance of what once was left within In Flames, they just either refuse to or are unable to acknowledge that it exists.
That’s fine, though, I understand that In Flames are no longer what they were 20 years ago. In fact, I think it’s entirely unfair to compare new In Flames to old In Flames simply because the two sounds are so utterly divergent. Comparing to what the band has done in recent years though, Siren Charms
is still an unforgivable misstep containing oversights in both songwriting and execution that such a veteran band should be able to spot and correct. They’ve had some truly excellent songs come together on their past few albums, but Siren Charms
contains no such diamonds in the rough. Instead, we are aptly left with what amounts to a true siren song: a strangely appealing piece of simplistic, melodic metal that may be hard for fans to resist, but if they take the bait and dive in head first, Siren Charms
will lead to nothing but savage, bitter disappointment.