Review Summary: The culmination of In Flames musical development, an astonishing achievement with some of the best metal songs committed to record.
Before Come Clarity came out, In Flames were in a difficult position. Accused by the fans of selling out, and not actually selling hugely well either, thy had a choice musically. Return to the sound that had made them metal favourites or continue down the path they had travelled with STYE. Well, as it turns out, they did both and neither.
Come Clarity is a combination of all that has gone before. The precise and technical riffs are back, with Dead End and Take This Life perfectly displaying their skill in that department. But the atmospheric synths and large soundscapes of STYE are still present, showcased in the title track and Reflect the Storm. Leeches in particular shows how the two can work so well together, with the synths riding over the intro riff making it sound that little bit more complete and smooth.
But the band are not just relying on their back catalogue to carry them forward, and there are significant musical leaps here. For one thing, Anders Friden has actually learnt to sing! While his screaming voice has transformed into a mix of the Jonothan Davies styled vocals of STYE and the demonic roar of The Jester Race and Colony, his singing can now compete with the best of them. Perhaps the best example of this is Take This Life. The song has been building up to the chorus perfectly, and when it does come to reveal a perfectly in tune voice singing, the effect is huge.
This new development has allowed for some excellent harmony work. Vacuum contains some wonderful harmonies, and the interplay between Friden and Lisa Miskovsky on Dead End is fantastic, making it one of the higlights of the album. However, the best song for me is also the one which best showcases the vocal harmonies, Crawl Through Knives. The whole song is gargantuam, but the chorus is such a textured pattern of vocals and guitars that it takes it all to a new level.
Lyrically too, this album surpasses many that have gone before. Scream, a pretty average song compared to some on this album, has an excellent central lyric, as Anders screams 'Abuse to feel superior, how's it working for you!' Leeches is a mind blowing diatribe against the pathetic way we follow when we are told ('In ignorance we trust.) The lyrical highlight, and one of the overall best songs of the album for me, is Dead End. A heart rending anti-war song, it asks us to 'save all your prayers, I think we lost today, there's no morning after, no ones around to blame,' and also 'what decides when you've lost the war, when the first man falls, or when they erase it all.'
All of these developments can be seen in the title track. The ballad of the album, it is superlative in all areas. The lyrics are a poignant look at the ramifications of growing old, with some beatiful imagery (can you add colour, inside these lines) and the best vocals on the album. The chorus is a crushing wall of guitar and synth blasting out of the speakers and the solos are the most heartfelt on the album. A real representation of how far the band have progressed.
The album might not be absolutely perfect. Some songs, such as Vanishing Light, can't live up to the best on here. However, the fact that the best on here could compete for the best anywhere (Crawl Through Knives, Take this Life, Dead End, Come Clarity,) makes this somewhat forgivable. Indeed, the quality set on this album demands recognition, and reinstates In Flames alongside others as masters of their genre.