In Flames - I, The Mask

In Flames I, The Mask cover
In Flames
I, The Mask
Nuclear Blast / Eleven Seven Music
It’s a whirlwind and a disease that really gets even the better extreme bands, the desire to tone down to become more commercially viable in an industry where money is drying up and fads change far too often. In Flames jumped ship, after touring with Slipknot in the early years of the new millennium and ever since “Reroute to Remain” have softened their style by introducing more and more alternative elements and melodies to the point that their Sony Music debut and sole album “Siren Charms” had very little to do with rock, with guitars really wimped out and a totally poppy atmosphere.
Allowing Niclas Engelin to take over creatively from singer Anders Fridén has minimized the damage that also the exit of band’s original guitarist and founder Jesper Strömblad caused several albums and years ago that the ensuing albums did very little to quell. Taking cues from “Battles”, “I, The Mask” seems to contain a healthy dose of heavy riff-oriented if not “rather” simple songs, with nice enough choruses that sort of try to keep true to the death metal roots, but also are modern and “melodic” enough to appeal to the younger and more alternative crowd. They have now perfected what they’ve been trying to do since 2002, but it must suck for them that Jesper with his recently formed Cyhra has done what In Flames attempt to do on the “less heavy” songs of their latter day albums, much better and without even trying to pretend pseudo-aggression. Jake E, after all, is a much better singer than Anders will ever be.
“I, The Mask”, which opens with the riffy “alt-drama-rock” of “Voices”, then quickly gets injected with some much needed aggression (at least outside the chorus) for the pretty inspired title track.
“Call My Name” manages to execute the alt-pop-metal recipe to perfection mixing equal parts In Flames, Linkin Park and Slipknot in something that might be even acceptable by a relatively open-minded fan of the “old” pre millennial In Flames.
“I Am Above” is the leading single, a quirky, groovy modern death metaller that again mixes the heavier riffs, with the agro groove of say Soulfly but also… a chorus that Linking Park might have been happy with.
Actually after this song the album loses much of its teeth, but not necessarily all interest, with the very mellow, but kinda nice “Follow Me” and the forced and rather fakely anthemic, but still catchy “(This is Our) House”, being pretty acceptable.
In the same way “We will Remember” is alt-metal pleasantly done, but other than a nice few riffs that permeate it, it’s kinda too wimpy.
“In This Life” is the tune where decent melodic ideas also start running out and although “Burn” has a jumpier riff and a simple but effective shout-y chorus, even a healthy dose of aggression, it only reverse the album’s downward spiral momentarily, as “Deep Inside” tries the heavy-mellow-death-anthem formula again, but with lesser results this time.
“All the Pain” is more electronica meets pop rock/metal, than something worth writing home about and other than some nice vocal melodies it ain’t that great.
“Stay With Me” is an acoustic piece but remembers to fake an orgasm, with even fake growls during the last couple of minutes to find its way into the album.
Have you heard the word filler, this is it… as is the Pet Shop Boys “metal” of “Not Alone” that closes the album that feels more like verses that Rammstein could have written with a riff, that might have been pilfered from some 80s band and the band trying to also jump on the pop bandwagon on which a lot of “Blast” artists seem to be getting as of late…
This is the sound of a band in-limbo. At least they manage to do the pop part a little better than before, but as a “puritan”, I can’t be bothered too much with either. If I want to listen to pop, I will listen to pop, but when I want to listen to metal, I have certain expectations that post 2000 In Flames have very rarely met and only on a per song basis. This album does little to change that. While the first half of the album leaves some hope that the fire might still be burning in the In Flames camp, much of the later stuff just pisses over the smoldering ashes.