In Flames
I, the Mask


2.5
average

Review

by PyramidNoise USER (6 Reviews)
March 1st, 2019 | 86 replies


Release Date: 03/01/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Pressing play on a new In Flames album has been a difficult experience for a while now. Does I, the Mask do anything to change that?

Pressing play on a new In Flames album has been a difficult experience for a while now. Their more radio-friendly “third era” has been plagued with trope-laden lyrics and lethargic, toothless songwriting. A far cry from the levels of quality they were once known for. Many argue that this is a result of the sanding down of their sound for mainstream appeal, but it's not that at all. There is no reason why In Flames can't create quality music within this sonic space, but with Siren Charms and especially Battles, they have repeatedly failed to do so, at best delivering a song or two that might be worthy of a playlist somewhere. This brings us to In Flames’ 13th album I, the Mask, and another chance to crack the radio-friendly formula.

Initial impressions are good and In Flames don’t waste any time getting started on I, the Mask. The opening salvo of Voices, the title track, Call My Name and I Am Above are the most engaged in their own music In Flames have sounded in a long time. These tracks, as well as later album cut Burn, are aggressive and energetic in a way that demands attention. Riffs are punchy and melodic and leads and solos rip over top. Anders Fridén’s vocals feel vital and authentic, albeit auto-tuned to near-death at times. The choruses, despite being a little over-dramatic, are anthemic and powerful. With this run of songs, In Flames seem to nail the balanced sound they’ve been chasing for the last 10 years. For the first time in ages, they feel like they have some life to them.

This soon changes. By the time the fifth track shuffles its way out of the speakers, we’re back in familiar territory. Tracks like Follow Me and In This Life plod their way through predictable song structures without much conviction. Serving up lifeless riffs and bland choruses that offer tedious saccharine insincerity instead of anthemic power. This shift makes the standard of songwriting on I, the Mask frustratingly inconsistent. One moment the band sound better than they have in a decade. The next moment, it's treating listeners to the same turgid formulas that plagued much of Battles. While the quality never dips quite that low, the songs do start to blur together in a beige wash of mediocrity.

Then, of course, there is (This is Our) House.

(This is Our) House is an interesting track. This "try not to cringe challenge" of a song manages to distil all the album’s faults into just four minutes. The riffs chug along and feel as if no-one bothered to finish writing them while the chorus dives headfirst into empty euro-cheese. Worst of all though, and something that has plagued previous releases, are the lyrics. Even the best songs on the album suffer from lyric writing that never develops beyond a surface theme. These are the Bella Swan of lyrics. There’s enough there to carry the chorus and imply a topic, but not enough to actually mean anything. Listeners can project whatever feelings they want onto these songs; a lazy way of creating emotional engagement.

It’s hard to call I, the Mask a good In Flames album, but it's hard to call it a terrible one either. The quality of the songwriting is all over the place and it suffers from songs that feel only half developed. When executed with some conviction the results are the best In Flames tracks we’ve had in a long time, but it too often isn't. Many tracks rely too heavily on the kind of melodic choruses that metalcore bands beat to death years ago. Which, while well written and offering some great hooks, aren't enough to distract from the album’s shortcomings.

I, the Mask is the closest the In Flames have got to nailing a more accessible sound, but they've still only managed to offer a handful of good songs here. It is by far the best album they've have released in ten years, but the competition wasn't very high. There is great potential here, but In Flames just haven't capitalised on it. Maybe next time.



Recent reviews by this author
Puppy The GoatWristmeetrazor Misery Never Forgets
Voices (UK) FrightenedSlice the Cake Odyssey to the West
In Flames Siren Charms
user ratings (250)
2.7
average
other reviews of this album
Chamberbelain CONTRIBUTOR (2)
Better than "Battles" and that's about it....

Mason (3.5)
The Jester that wants to be free...


Comments:Add a Comment 
PyramidNoise
March 1st 2019


535 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Turned out way longer than I'd liked and no amount of tweaking has made me happy with this one. Looking for some feedback on this one for sure.

ChaoticVortex
March 1st 2019


844 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Good review definitely closer to my feelings towards the album than the other. It's really sad how it takes a big nosedive quality-wise after the first four tracks. Every time Anders does those clean vocals I cringe. I know they're not the same band as they were in 1996, but they just can't drop a consistently good album.

Deathconscious
March 1st 2019


22667 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

holy shit, another IF review referencing their "glory days", who saw this coming??

Digging: Slutvomit - Copulation of Cloven Hooves

PyramidNoise
March 1st 2019


535 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I think until they can release an album that is at least good all the way through, no matter the style, it's gonna be the first thing on people's minds. Actual review barely mentions other albums beyond giving timing context.

veninblazer
March 1st 2019


10169 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Wonder where Adolf was when Chamberlain did it a few years back...

Digging: Dayseeker - Sleeptalk

Deathconscious
March 1st 2019


22667 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

"In an interview with Alt-Press in 2016, In Flames vocalist Anders Fridén made it clear that he wanted to move forward. He had no desire to relive past glories. There is nothing wrong with change, despite what a lot of music fans may tell you. Good music is good music no matter what else an artist has done. But, Changing your sound doesn’t give you a free-pass whether you are the band responsible for The Jester Race or not. And since In Flames started the move to a more radio-friendly sound, they’ve released their fair share of bad albums."



reads like every other contemporary IF review. the horse is beyond dead, its an unrecognizable mound of flesh.



edit: i shouldnt say contemporary, more like the last 15 years or so.

PyramidNoise
March 1st 2019


535 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Lol the whole point of that is to frame the review in context of it being fine that they changed their sound. They're not planning to relive those days and that's fine. The albums since they made the switch have been trash by their own merit. Change isn't a good reason to deride but its also not a shield against criticism.

Deathconscious
March 1st 2019


22667 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

which every IF review has been saying for like 15 fucking years. congratulations.

PyramidNoise
March 1st 2019


535 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Sure it's repetitive in that regard, but people bring it up for context. I approach my reviews assuming the reader has no prior knowledge.

I'll endeavour to mix things up in future for well known bands if it's a contentious issue over all.

I'm still learning after all

Lelle
March 1st 2019


2514 Comments


> I approach my reviews assuming the reader has no prior knowledge.

I have some prior knowledge, I've listened to and liked some of their old stuff (Whoracle and Colony in particular) but have never followed the band that closely. I've found their more recent songs that I've heard boring. I thought your review struck a good balance and was well written!

veninblazer
March 1st 2019


10169 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@Adolf: Writing an In Flames review WITHOUT mentioning their backstory is like writing a biography on Donald Trump without mentioning The Art of the Deal, etc.

veninblazer
March 1st 2019


10169 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

In other words, not only is it an essential detail, but it's also really fucking difficult to avoid.

PyramidNoise
March 1st 2019


535 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I mean I think my review would still make sense without that opening paragraph. You could 100% write a review without it.

I just like context. I like to have a set up.

veninblazer
March 1st 2019


10169 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, cutting out the first paragraph would probably make it look off tbh.

PyramidNoise
March 1st 2019


535 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

You'd have to tweak it a bit sure. I guess we're enough albums into the third era of In Flames that you could talk about them in context of the last three albums.



In theory anyway.

PyramidNoise
March 1st 2019


535 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Oh and thanks @lelle! Appreciate the positive!





veninblazer
March 1st 2019


10169 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, that makes enough sense.

JWT155
March 1st 2019


14440 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Well, this is better than Battles and Sirens Charms but that's not saying much.

Rowhaus
March 1st 2019


2758 Comments


does anyone actually expect quality from these guys anymore?

veninblazer
March 1st 2019


10169 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

We can only hope.



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