Review Summary: In Flames push out their least interesting album to date despite some promise.
It has been a long time since In Flames have been considered a consistently quality metal outfit. Whilst to many, their last album, Sounds of a Playground Fading, was a step in the right direction, it seems that the metal quintuplet have ignored the stairs completely and decided to take the lift back in the direction of the ground floor.
The band have downplayed the riff-centric approach of previous albums on 2014’s Siren Charms in favour of something more subdued. Sonically the album sits between something akin to a heavier Katatonia and the In Flames that was. With some synths thrown in for good measure. Whilst riffs and melodic leads are indeed present on the album, they fall at wayside to vocalist Anders Fridén’s new focus on clean “emotional” vocals and the more melancholy mood of the album.
It would be unfair to dismiss Siren Charms simply because it is not Jester Race 2: Melodeath Boogaloo, but it remains difficult to call Siren Charms a good album in its own right. The largest downfall of Siren Charms is that it is mostly hook-less. The new poppy-industrial-melo-core direction could have worked brilliantly and moments do indeed shine through. However, Anders seems to struggle writing a decent emotive hook, leaving the vocals to warble on in an emotionally drab monotone save for a few stand-out moments. This, coupled with the fact that the guitars aren't really given a chance to come into their own to fill the gap, leaves much of the album feel reserved and lifeless. It's as if the band weren't fully comfortable embracing the needs of their new direction completely, which begs the question why they did it in the first place.
With Siren Charms, In Flames have taken a step in a new direction but it is not one that has served them well. The album comes across as reserved and lacklustre and fails to grab the listener. It is listen-able but any attempt to focus on the music leads three-minute tracks to feel more like six. If In Flames decide to make a successor to Siren Charms then there is potential for something enjoyable. As it is, however, In Flames have produced, with Siren Charms, their first release on a non-metal label and one of the least enjoyable albums of their career to date.