In Flames – I, the Mask (Review)

In Flames - I, the MaskThis is the thirteenth album from veteran Swedish metallers In Flames.

Now here’s a band that should need no introduction, and by this point most people will probably already have an opinion of this album before they’ve even heard a single note off it.

In Flames have varied considerably in the quality of their output over the years, depending on who you ask, but I’ve always found their work to be enjoyable to a certain level at a bare minimum. And at the other end of the scale, well, they’ve produced some brilliant material throughout their career.

I, the Mask falls somewhere in the middle-to-upper ends of this spectrum. It’s not their best, but by no means is it their worst either; in fact, the band sound better than they have done for some time. Here we have 51 minutes of commercially-slanted stadium metal, but in this case that’s certainly no bad thing. It’s very highly polished, as you would expect, but still allows the core personality of In Flames to come through strongly in the music. No matter what incarnation of the band you look at over their musical journey through the years, the band are always recognisable as who they are, and they pretty much manage to sound just like themselves. No mean feat.

On their latest album In Flames have attempted to reconcile the more mainstream sound of their recent past with some of the harder, heavier moments from their discography. In this they largely succeed, although certainly not always. I’m pleased to say that the songs on this album hit more than they miss, however, and I’d rate this as one of the stronger albums of theirs that’s been released in a while. (I do, however, feel compelled to single out the weakest song here – (This Is Our) House – as one that could have been left on the cutting room floor without any loss to the album’s quality).

Catchy melodies, choruses with hooks, and plenty of memorability mean it’s easy to get on board with what this album has to offer. Add to this an increased recognition of the need for riffs and a fair few ripping solos, and you have a very good package.

I confess to being both pleased and relieved with I, the Mask. In Flames have produced a very well-written and well-delivered album that delves into various parts of their previous incarnations and has resulted in an album that, overall, I really like. Fans of the band’s 2002-2008 period should lap this up.

Highly recommended.

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