ALBUM REVIEW – “Siren Charms’ by In Flames

The enormous influence of In Flames on the sound of modern metal is sadly lost on many who listen to it; this hasn’t been helped, in truth, by the tendency of the band themselves to, in recent years, assimilate themselves into trends rather than blaze their own trail. Back in the tempestuous mid-90s, In Flames helped to define the ‘Gothenburg’ melodic death metal sound that changed the face of extreme music, going on to become hugely influential on the melodic metalcore movement fronted by Killswitch Engage et al. Shifts towards a more commercially viable, alternative metal-style approach as the new millennium rolled in increased the group’s worldwide notoriety but alienated many of their core fanbase. The albums they’ve released since this stylistic evolution have varied in quality, from the monstrous return to form Come Clarity to the grossly underwhelming A Sense of Purpose. The question on everybody’s lips is where new release Siren Charms falls on that spectrum.

Early signs are very positive. Bubbling up from the distinctive gurgling synths that have characterised In Flames’ material for some time now, ‘In Plain View’ incorporates both downtuned chugs and the searing melodic leads that once stood as the band’s calling card. A brooding verse and then intense chorus follow, providing an arresting contrast – unfortunately it’s one that’s deployed so frequently across the rest of the album that the formula quickly gets stale. ‘Paralyzed’, ‘Through Oblivion’ and ‘Dead Eyes’ follow the same pattern, while ‘With Eyes Wide Open’ applies it to a confused ballad that never makes clear what mood it wants to convey. Similarly, the peculiarly chosen lead single ‘Rusted Nail’ somehow moves all over the place without one idea catching hold. Many of the melodies are catchy, but too few are memorable in the long term, and lack the staying power to really elevate the songs they’re a part of.

While too much of Siren Charms sees In Flames repeat themselves, the more adventurous songs are worth their salt. ‘Everything is Gone’ kicks off with a feral barrage before rolling into a sinister Korn-meets-Slipknot chug and a massive screamed hook. In contrast, ‘When the World Explodes’ anchors the album’s centre – a near five-minute epic that very neatly balances harsh sections with beautiful guest vocals from soprano Emilia Feldt. There’s also a nice subtlety to the more classic metal on ‘Monsters in the Ballroom’, another highpoint where the synthesizers fit nicely into the track rather than standing out from it, while also showcasing some fun if brief twin guitars. Though Anders Fridén’s lyrics (and indeed vocals) are often unrefined and a detriment to the record, they stand up far better on this song than elsewhere.

Those holding out for a return to In Flames’ melodeath glory days will once again be left out in the cold, but sadly Siren Charms is one of the lesser records of their later career as well, if not the absolute nadir. Both one-dimensional for much of its runtime and failing to escape the shadow of its predecessors (‘Dead Eyes’ might as well be a rewrite of previous single Alias), the occasional curveball like the dynamic, Alter Bridge-esque title track fails to break the overall feeling of stagnation. As comfortable-sounding an album as In Flames have ever produced, it lacks the spark and fire to stand out in an illustrious back catalogue.

Rating: 6 / 10

Michael Bird

[Siren Charms is streaming in full, the link to which can be found here.]

‘Rusted Nail’

 

In Flames

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One Comment on “ALBUM REVIEW – “Siren Charms’ by In Flames”

  1. naujeff22 September 5, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

    Fuck em. They could do anything and they do this? Argh.

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