Looking to some of In Flames’ more recent metal releases – namely Soundtrack to Your Escape
and Reroute to Remain
– you may have spent a fair amount of time pondering just how a band like In Flames could possibly be considered the godfathers of the Gothenburg metal genre. To fully understand this theory as well as the immaculate material In Flames used to create, this is where your journey should began; back in 1995 with their second album, The Jester Race
. As the first Flames album to feature Anders Fridén behind the mic, the band seems to have refined their sound to a faultless presentation of emotionally crushing, viciously melodic metal. Every aspect of Gothenburg that you may have envisioned in your mind is present here. Harmonies are beautiful, melodies are memorable, vocals are savage, and the riffs are ***ing metal. Quite honestly, The Jester Race
is the ultimate Gothenburg album.
When the bleakest of powders…
The most noticeable high point of early In Flames is just what Gothenburg is rich in: melodic harmonies. Every song, from beginning to end, is absolutely packed full of entrancing guitar passages. Lead guitars are entwined to create a very musical guide through the fields of chugging riffs and carnivorous shrieks. Wondrous clean guitar interludes and smooth acoustic guitars flow cleanly from metal mayhem to captivatingly tranquil musical settings. These soundscapes appear in forms ranging from December Flower
’s faster, heavier vibe to The Jester’s Dance
’s clean instrumental repose. Moonshield
and the aptly titled Acoustic Medley
compliment each other with stunning dual acoustic resonance. Wayfaerer
and Artifacts of the Black Rain
both produce a striking emotional feel to break through an appearance of heartless extreme metal. The array of gorgeous musical concordances is endless on this album, and In Flames seems to put themselves through an unbearable Lunar Strain (yes, a bad pun) of writing and skill honing to create such an onslaught of aural sex.
…lie rooted to the starched stones…
To create an astonishing contrast of sounds, the opposite side of the metal spectrum has been utilized in such songs as Dead God in Me
with an affinity for dark riffing, and Gyroscope
, which combines a serene acoustic backing with a chugging rifftastic attack. Goliaths Disarm Their Davids
, Lord Hypnos
and December Flower
all contain notable soloing efforts by axe wielders Jesper Strömblad and Glenn Ljungström as well as an impressive display Strömblad’s keyboard virtuosity. Dead Eternity
bears interesting melodic groove riffing that catches attention like a speeding train prepared to maul through a school bus parked on the tracks.
…and roots that feed the peaking trees…
As the premier release of one of metal’s most popular genres, The Jester Race
has set one hell of a bar for the rest of Swedish melodic metal. While various bands have since claimed the crown of the modern time, metal’s roots will always have to pay homage to the almighty In Flames. Merely two albums into their career and they had already achieved the very thing that Gothenburg bands strive for: a flurry of melodic leads, alluring harmonies, peaceful passages, and an underbelly of unrelenting extreme metal with a borderline psychotic voice taking charge. While it takes most bands a decade or more to accomplish musical hegemony, it took In Flames a mere 10 songs to thrash listeners into a Graveland (pun II) of composed bloodshed. Key moments on the album include the clean guitar interludes of The Jester’s Dance
and The Jester Race
, the harmonized riffing of Dead Eternity
and Artifacts of the Black Rain
, and all of the acoustic passages scattered throughout the album.
…embrace the sleeping shores.
- Artifacts of the Black Rain
- The Jester Race
- December Flower
Bear in mind that every song here is pure Swedish perfection. It’s near impossible to narrow the tracklist down to three preferred songs, so do yourself a favor and buy the entire album.
- Excellent use of harmonized guitars
- Memorable riffs and melodies
- Acoustic and clean guitar sections dispersed throughout
- A constant theme, yet each track is different
- Melancholic yet enthralling atmosphere
Note: The album was re-issued in 2002 with the
Black Ash Inheritance EP as bonus tracks; tracks 11-14 are only available on this re-issue.