No introduction needed. They’re pioneers of melodic death metal, and Gothenburg legends. Specifically, they are the Gothenburg band most known for their transition to a more commercial alternative metal in the 2000s. While the band’s modern albums barely have any death metal influence left, the one element that keeps fans paying attention is that all albums have those guitar harmonies contributing to great melodies found from 1994’s Lunar Strain, to this year’s new offering, Battles. Let us examine further other memorable and not so memorable aspects of the band as we scroll through this ranking of their twelve studio albums.
12. Siren Charms (2014)
Simply put, it is a weak album in terms of music and vocals. The second single, “Through Oblivion” sounds like music played in an elevator. Throughout the album, Anders’ weak vocals make Siren Charms sound like a watered-down version of Deftones. If you’re looking the closest thing to classic In Flames, well that’s a stretch, but the heaviest track would be “When The World Explodes”. The track with the most attractive harmonies would be the final one, “Filtered Truth”.
11. Sounds Of A Playground Fading (2011)
The first In Flames record where Anders forsook many screams in favor of clean vocals. For the fan that grew up on the early In Flames records, or even just the records before 2010, this came as a major disappointment. It is the first album to not feature founding guitarist Jesper Stromblad, who has made it clear by now that he left due to disagreements with the musical direction that the band was headed in. Luckily the melody did not dissipate at the loss of Stromblad, and there is even a great intro riff to the song “Ropes” with great natural singing by Friden.
10. A Sense Of Purpose (2008)
“If you bought into Come Clarity, you deserve A Sense Of Purpose”. I’m not sure if that album slogan was meant to be taken literally, but it does make sense, and seems to have purpose. Compared to the album that came right before it, the songs are slower-paced and have lost heaviness. Not surprising that this is the last album to feature Stromblad. There are some great dueling leads on a deeper cut called “I’m The Highway”, as well as great leads on the lead single “The Mirror’s Truth”. If you can, get your hands on the bonus track “Eraser”, the heaviest of these sessions.
9. Battles (2016)
Low and behold, here is where we rank the new album. It seemed all hope was lost for the band with the weakness of Siren Charms. Yet the trailers for Battles indicated a return to their melodious past with impressive dueling guitars featured in the two lead singles “The End” and “The Truth”. While not as heavy as A Sense Of Purpose, there are enough catchy riffs on the singles and deep cuts of the album to warrant it more enjoyable than the final album with Stromblad. That speaks volumes.
8. Come Clarity (2006)
This was an album in which the band tried to blend it’s new alternative style with the aggressiveness of it’s early albums. However, the album as a whole falls short of its intent. The only track with a successful blend is the lead single, and most popular song to date “Take This Life”. To a lesser extent “Crawl Through Knives” also blends well. While most of the album seems to continue down the path of alternative rock, Anders screams are still pretty powerful on Come Clarity.
7. Reroute To Remain (2002)
The first In Flames record to carry the band to a new audience. This album included a greater use of keyboards as shown the the show-starter “Cloud Connected”. Clean vocals in the verses are also more prevalent on Reroute To Remain and the death growls have been abandoned. If you desire those classic In Flames dueling leads “Trigger” is your best bet.
6. Soundtrack To Your Escape (2004)
This is an album that is underrated and is the best of the alt metal days. While Reroute To Remain began a greater emphasis on the keyboards, Soundtrack To Your Escape elevated it even further, manifesting on the epic chorus of “Evil In A Closet” and the epic outro of “My Sweet Shadow”. Of course, there are great tracks that don’t require much use of the keyboard such as “Touch Of Red”.
5. Lunar Strain (1994)
The grand debut straight out of Gothenburg. Features the vocals of Mikael Stanne, who went on to front neighboring band Dark Tranquillity. Melodic riffs are plentiful, and the speed is intense. Clean singing was not an option on Lunar Strain. Neither were any lyrics with emotional concepts of living in fear. Stanne’s lyrics death with themes of astrology and fantasy. More emphasis was placed on instrumentation, exemplified by the two instrumental tracks.
4. The Jester Race (1996)
An album that expands on the debut, it was the first to feature Anders Friden on vocals, who is present day, the band’s longest lasting member after Jesper departed. Back then Anders’ only style of vocals was death growls. This was also the first album to feature the In Flames mascot, The Jester Head. Production of this album is still as raw as it’s predecessor. This is viewed as the early In Flames favorite. Vinyls for this classic are relatively easy to find, as are shirts because of the popularity and demand for pertaining media. It is the album that defined the Gothenburg scene along with At The Gates’ Slaughter Of The Soul, and Dark Tranquillity’s The Gallery.
3. Clayman (2000)
Referred to as the bridge between In Flames’ death metal days, and it’s alt metal days. Friden’s vocals on album number five are a mix of clean singing with more projection than the later records, death growls, and screaming. It is the last of three records in which production was sufficient, while the music written kept the album at it’s heaviest. The vocal stylings are placed at the precise spots to complete songs like no others. The leads by Bjorn and Jesper make a great accompanying chorus to Anders’ lyrics. There’s even a guest solo by Arch Enemy’s Michael Amott on “Suburban Me”. “Pinball Map” is a close second to heaviest low-tuned In Flames song after “Take This Life”.
2. Colony (1999)
Of the top three records in this ranking, Colony is definitely the fastest and most energetic. Anders began his signature screaming on Colony, adding a new take on the re-recordings of “Behind Space” and “Clad In Shadows”. The longest track “Zombie Inc.” is an epic story-teller complete with heavy rhythms, an clean ballad-like bridge, and leads to inspire generations of melodeath bands. “Embody The Invisible” was featured in the Tony Hawk’s Underground Soundtrack.
1. Whoracle (1997)
Every lovable aspect of In Flames is on their third LP. The first to have smooth production. A time when Anders used death growls, and at his weakest sounded like a spoken word artist rather than an emo kid. Leads and melodies are amazing. And it is as heavy as death metal should be. It is all centered around the concept of the album, a utopian society built by man and then destroyed by human nature, leading up to an apocalyptic event which is televised (Episode 666). While this is a concept album, the song that follows “Episode 666” is a Depeche Mode cover “Everything Counts”. While Friden’s interpretation of the song may have a unifying element or two, putting cover songs in a concept album is a highly debatable topic that can be reserved for it’s own editorial entirely. Whoracle ends with it’s instrumental title track, sending a chill down your spine symbolizing the end of humanity in the album’s story.