Album Review: In Flames - Foregone
Reviewed by Gareth Pugh
In Flames are a name that has been around metal circles for over 30 years or so and together with cohorts Dark Tranquillity and At the Gates, are pioneers of melodic death and the "Gothenburg sound" with the release especially of their sophomore album, the critically acclaimed ‘The Jester Race’. My first encounter with In Flames was back in 2006 with the Swedes seventh release; ‘Come Clarity’, an album that itself was seen as somewhat of a return to form, after dabbling with a simpler, more melodic, and polished sound with 2002’s ‘Reroute to Remain’. There was even some nu-metal experimentation on 2004’s ‘Soundtrack to Your Escape’ which was met with the wrath of long-time fans, and ‘Come Clarity’ efficiently blended the old with the new.
They had already added more melody, hooks, and singalong chorus’ to their ‘Gothenburg’ melo-death sound, with ‘Clayman’ in 2000. The band kept this new lease of life up, following up ‘Come Clarity’ with the dynamic ‘A Sense of Purpose’, however subsequent releases have seen the band dilute their sound to a certain degree, with the harsh vocals being more sparsely used and the riffs and guitar parts getting simpler. So much so that the last few albums are so far removed from early releases, like ‘Whoracle' for example, as to sound like a completely different band! That’s not a criticism as such, the band are artists and they have chosen to take the sound in a direction, which not all of the original fanbase agree with. Tough, that’s the way of the world, the band aren’t going to lose sleep over that fact.
I personally haven’t bought an In Flames album since ‘Sounds of a Playground Fading’ back in 2011, an album I got for my 40th birthday (where did that time go!). It wasn’t for me, too refined and streamlined, with over-the-top saccharine melodies, so I moved on as did the band. So it was with some interest, when some twelve years later that this dropped in my inbox.
What does ‘Foregone’, the bands fourteenth studio album, have in store for us? Well, things get off to a fairly leisurely start, with the lengthy intro track ‘The Beginning of All Things’, an instrumental utilising acoustic guitar, and building orchestration, a beautifully crafted track, if a little bit unnecessary and certainly too protracted. ‘Slow State of Decay’ however is in stark contrast, this is fast, really fast, I didn’t realise the band still had this in the locker, Anders Fridén on vocals mostly sticking to his harsher register, apart for a slower bridge section, and the sound works much better for it.
Whether the addition of ex-Megadeth guitarist; Chris Broderick, replacing Niclas Engelin, has had an effect on the songwriting, I couldn’t say, but there’s a bite to the guitars that hasn’t been there for some time. ‘Meet Your Maker’ also employs this re-discovered metallic fury, whilst also having a massive ‘clean’ chorus a-la the new modern In Flames. ‘Bleeding Out’ is an obvious single but still has an aggressive edge. I’m not sure quite why they have split the title track into two parts, part one is the heavier piece, while part two employs the same chorus melodies but in a mellower arrangement. Later on ‘The Great Deceiver’ is a real high point, with great big slabs of thrash riffage, and jagged hooks. The album does unfortunately trail off slightly, with the last two tracks ‘Cynosure' and ‘End the Transmission’ seemingly seeing the riff tank running out of fuel to some extent.
The bottom line is this, if you’re expecting a return to the 90’s, then you were probably never going to be satisfied with ‘Foregone’, but if you’re fan of this millennium In Flames, then this is their strongest and heaviest set of songs since ‘Come Clarity’, it’s not perfect by any means, but it has much more edge and personality than the last three albums put together.