In Flames - Siren Charms 01Whenever I hear that there’s a new In Flames record, I can’t help but feel my heart sink a tad more. Anyone who was around to experience the majesty that was their first four full-lengths (as well as the Subterranean EP) knows what I’m talking about: soaring folk influenced twin-guitar melodies with beautifully heart-stopping acoustic interludes. The band had an undercurrent of heaviness that wasn’t too extreme, but was just right for their sound. They had a sense of youthful exuberance and actual purpose… Then the 2000s happened. From Clayman onward, Sweden’s favorite jesters went from “cocksure young band” to “inconsistent and confused.” With one great exception (2006’s still-inconsistent-but-relatively-better Come Clarity), it’s been one disappointment after another. Siren Charms does absolutely nothing but reinforce that the playground has not only faded away, but has been shut down for good.

When you get a dose of electronica starting off “In Plain View,” you know this is not going to be a fun ride. Thankfully, the guitar interplay between Björn Gelotte and Niclas Engelin is trademark (though modern) In Flames. You know what else is trademark (though modern) In Flames? The whine-singing of Anders Fridén, which is sadly prevalent here. When the chorus hits, he goes full-on Chester Bennington [Really? I always pegged him as just being an equally shitty Jonathan Davis. – AMG]. Folks, I don’t even like it when Chester Bennington goes full-on Chester Bennington, let alone someone who can’t hit those notes anywhere near as well. It’s a shame too, because the song is somewhat solid with the exception of his vocals.

But even then, the first song isn’t really indicative of what Siren Charms is really about, and it’s this very reason why I have a problem with new In Flames as a whole: almost twenty-five years into their career, the band doesn’t even sound like they know what they want to do musically. You have dalliances of the past (“In Plain View” and the aggressive “Everything’s Gone”), full-on pop metal (“Through Oblivion,” “Rusted Nail”), deathcore riffs with a female-led chorus that is ill-conceived (“When the World Explodes”), and one tune that I can only describe as the background music for the season finale of a bad teenie-bopper prime-time show (“With Eyes Wide Open”). And none of it, absolutely none of it, holds a single candle to the feel and consistency of the band’s earlier works, or even to Come Clarity—where the band was at least partially successful in marrying the old and new sounds!

In Flames - Siren Charms 02

Making things worse, the Daniel Bergstrand and Roberto Laghi production compressed the ever loving hell out of the album, with Daniel Svensson’s drums taking the biggest hit. Seriously, his drums on “Everything’s Gone” should give Lars Ulrich a sigh of relief in that there’s now a worse drum sound than on St. Anger [Uh. Dude. Set these side-by-side. St. Anger’s Snare o’ Poo was 100x worse than anything you hear on this album except Anders attempts to sing. – AMG]. If there’s one aspect of In Flames I’ve always enjoyed (besides the sadly dormant acoustic parts), it’s Svensson’s drumming, and the production on here renders it painful and annoying.

But the biggest problem though, is that the band has no clue at all as to what to be. If you don’t want to create another Whoracle or The Jester Race Part II, that’s fine. But when you have bands transcending their older sound but keeping the feel of their earlier albums intact, fans follow and respect that immensely. It’s like In Flames doesn’t know how to do that, and in all fairness, it was a huge problem well before their last original member, guitarist Jesper Strömblad, quit the band in 2010.

Long story short, if you missed out on In Flames over the years, Siren Charms won’t win you back. There is nothing of worth on this album, and it’s best to cherish your memories by listening to their older albums on perpetual repeat. Summing things up rather accurately, the chorus of “Paralyzed” whines that “this time we’ve found a wasteland.” Truer words have not been spoken whined.


Rating:  1.5/5.0
DR:  5  |  Format Reviewed:  320 kbps MP3
Label:  Sony Music Entertainment
Websites:  InFlamesOfficial | InFlamesFacebook
Release Dates:  EU: 2014.09.05 | NA: 09.09.2014

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  • Keith DeSantis

    Was there any other expectation on this one? I think we can safely declare this band legally dead. Send them a death certificate in the mail. It’s over. This review read more like a eulogy at a funeral. Oh well there’s a ton of good new stuff coming out. I don’t even miss this band anymore.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      I was about to bring out the paddles but then I thought, what’s the point?

  • Eddy Ferreira

    This band sucks, and in other news the sky is blue, my skin is brown, and Guinness is ever so delicious….

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Oh, well… *listens to The Jester Race*

    PS: Wouldn’t be a review of shitty album without a St. Anger reference, would it?

  • AndySynn

    I think what sums it up is the sentence “the band has no clue at all as to what to be”.

    I actually like quite a few songs on it – “Everything’s Gone” is actually pretty cool, “Siren Charms” has a really nice, depressive/melodic feel to it, “Rusted Nail” is catchy as hell, “Dead Eyes” has a gloomy, Katatonia-esque vibe to it, and “Filtered Truth” actually (shock) has some cool riffs..

    But I think the problem is that it’s SO all over the place, that it feels fragmented and not enough of the songs fully commit or know quite where they’re going. I am totally ok with IF changing and stuff (I really liked SoaPF)… but they need to make a decision and then do it WELL.

    I’d quite like them to “do a Katatonia”… but only if they keep the quality control up. And I don’t feel like they’ve done that here.

    • Grymm

      100% this, right here.

      • HeavyMettle

        If by “this”, you mean he managed to insult Katatonia in a little over 2 paragraphs, AND give In Flames too much credit for sinking the ship, then yes. Right here.

        • Grymm

          Yeah, except Katatonia have successfully transcended their roots and have become a well-respected band. In Flames doesn’t know how to do that.

          • HeavyMettle

            What a silly remark. Just because the post-modern version of In Flames doesn’t know what to do, that doesn’t disqualify them from producing something good. People were disgusted with them after ’99, and yet they came back and won a Grammi with “Come Clarity”, while Katatonia has only been nominated for theirs.

            Discrediting a band that has been around as long, if not longer than what it’s compared to only serves as a call to authority fallacy. In Flames changed their sound after every single album.

            Katatonia took a sharp turn after “Brave Murder Day”. If we’re going to stack them against them a band, at least pick something with fair ground, like another MeloDeath group.

          • Grymm

            Okay:

            1) Awards =/= quality. If that was the case, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, and Kid Rock would be the Greatest Things EVAR.

            2) Katatonia also released quality music (barring Dead End Kings), but managed to retain their fanbase with each successive album. Also, Dethroned and Uncrowned > Siren Charms.

            3) Want a melodeath band that progressed beyond their initial sound but retained what made them unique? How about Dark Tranquillity?

          • HeavyMettle

            If you’re gonna write off awards, then reviews like this, op-eds, record sales, and concert attendance should all be considered irrelevant. That would make the only medium to gauge quality personal, which would make all of this bunk.

            Secondly, you just shrugged off Dead End Kings. (seemingly) You really didn’t care for that album?

            Dark Tranquillity is the 1st prize winner of the Gothenburg three, and continue to today.

            This entire discussion began because the OP, (who hasn’t commented yet) likened it to the change in Katatonia, which is inaccurate. They then said it would be good if they would “do a Katatonia”, which is a farcry considering their change came almost 2 decades ago, and In Flames is long past their prime.

            You and I are on the same page here, but perhaps I should’ve phrased the complaint a bit better. The OP is describing Katatonia’s change from a pure-death (circa 1993) to their modern doom (present day) as a place to go when their old sound no longer works.

            Katatonia’s sound evolved instantly because of the band’s 2 year hiatus, in which they re-evaluated their band’s direction. Renske changed vocals and never touched the harsh side again.

            In Flames couldn’t do that now. They’re too far down the line, and that clean vocal is now dirty territory for Anders Friden, who built a following for his distinct growl.

            Hopefully that’s a little more clarification.

          • I know this is old, but Grymm, you really didn’t like Dead End Kings? I’m kinda surprised.

          • Grymm

            Sorry it’s taken so long to respond (work schedule is insane).

            DEK, compared to The Great Cold Distance, Viva Emptiness, and even Night is the New Day, felt largely mediocre to me. Granted, Mediocre Katatonia is 90% better than a lot of other bands’ work, it just wasn’t hitting me the same way their other albums did.

            I loved Dethroned and Uncrowned, though.

          • Wow, I would have not guessed not. The fact you love D&U kinda makes me believe that DEK might grow on you in time (or not!).

    • Link D. LeonhⒶrt V.

      To me, ‘Everything’s Gone’ is the only song where Anders do a good job with the vocals and complement well with the composition.. Is a very good song, the vibe is too much ASoP.. But the rest of the album is too much “all over the place”, like you said… Rusted Nails had a few good riffs, Siren Charms had good moments too.. But the album is a scrambled egg scene, the vocals are crappy and the production is so compressed…

  • DIABOLUS777

    I just wonder, they changed their sound a while back and keep cranking albums out and touring since then, who the fcuk buys these records???Everyone I know hates them now, they get awful reviews everytime…

  • hubcapiv

    “Uh. Dude. Set these side-by-side. St. Anger’s Snare o’ Poo was 100x worse than anything you hear on this album except Anders attempts to sing. – AMG]”
    ===
    Yeah, but how does it compare to, oh, EARLY LAMB OF GOD snares?
    ===
    “it was a huge problem well before their last original member, guitarist Jesper Strömblad, quit the band in 2010.”
    ===
    It amazes me that bands can go on without a single original member. I mean, I get it. Some of the replacements have been in the band longer than the original guys. But still. Talk about a sign that it’s time to wrap it up.

    Reminds me of radio ads for classic rock summer festivals: “And featuring the surviving members of Lynyrd Skynyrd!”

  • Jm from nj

    Interesting to me is that this is a major label putting this out. How many units (in this day and age) can this really be expected to sell? Additionally, if the band’s fan base still grows, or remains consistent, there’s nothing that will stop them from producing such shite.

    It’s actually amazing to me that In Flames has been bad longer than they were good at this point.

    • IBlackened

      Sepultura, Metallica…

  • Matthew

    Ouch, eviscerated. Not entirely unexpected. The album really isn’t that good, and that’s coming from someone who thoroughly enjoyed their last one. The last one felt like they had an idea of how they wanted to sound, this one sounds like they worked out what sound sells best.

  • Refined-Iron Cranium

    I still, for the life of me, understand why they *still* have Anders Friden as a vocalist. Some of these songs would have been rather decent with a vocalist that could actually sing, but this guy literally mumbles through them before exploding into those heavily-layered choruses. Yeah, I get that he’s done similar things before, but at least they had the music to back it up. This time, most of it is quite limp wristed. Yeah, a lot like the previous album.
    I’ve somewhat come to terms that they want to be an alternative band now with some of those melodic touches they’ve always used. But it just feels… Lost. As much as they’re trying to develop a new sound, they’re still under the name of ‘In Flames’. Yes, the band responsible for those amazing records back in the day. And as long as they’re still bearing that moniker, they always seem to try and keep a pinky finger on some of the musical aspects of the days of yore. This basically prevents them from going all out on their alternative direction and the result is confused as fuck.
    But I guess it’s easier to keep the name of an established band and rake in more cash when you’ve made a name for yourself.

    • Grymm

      I’m picturing Jonas Renkse singing on “Through Oblivion” and somehow, I see it working. That, and better lyrics, of course.

  • Zadion

    I stand by the opinion that A Sense of Purpose was legitimately a great album. Conversely, I don’t understand what it is in Come Clarity that haters of In Flames’ modern sound find better than usual.

    Regardless, this album sucks. I could defend In Flames up til SoaPF, but these last two albums have been so bad.

    • Refined-Iron Cranium

      I agree with you. I actually enjoyed A Sense of Purpose a lot. The reason being that it was a very melodic album. In Flames have never been good at being ‘heavy’, but the guitar harmonies, melodies and acoustic sections made that an enjoyable album to listen to. This is just limp-wristed in its approach.

    • Chris

      Personally, I enjoy everything up to Come Clarity and nothing after. I don’t mind RTR and STYE at all — I think that while they are certainly not “melodeath” albums, they are strong “modern metal” albums. At the very least, I think they have some solid tracks that I always end up coming back to: The Quiet Place, Trigger, My Sweet Shadow, Dawn of a New Day, Dismiss The Cynics, Dead Alone — those are strong jams in my eyes. Not their best work, but pretty solid stuff.

      The problem with those records? They have some major black holes. Years later, I’m positive some of the songs on those two albums haven ever seen more than 5 total plays.

      Come Clarity, on the other hand, is basically completely solid. The only weak song is Scream. Likewise, it is an album that feels weighty. In Flames (and the rest of the Gothenburg bands) didn’t just create melodeath — they inspired basically every single one of the American metalcore bands. While I’m not a fan of the genre, Come Clarity feels like In Flames taking “ownership” of that genre. In my eyes, Come Clarity is a little more metalcore than melodeath, but that’s okay, because they do it so well.

      I mean, the thing I think many In Flames fans miss is that the band is entirely reactionary. When melodeath was the big thing, they made melodeath. When “alt metal” was the big thing, they made alt metal. When metalcore was the big thing, well, Come Clarity (and to a lesser extent, ASoP).

      And now that this weird crossover pop-metal stuff is popular (ugggghh Amaranthe), that’s what they’re trying to do now.

      For me, the difference was always that in the past it felt like they weren’t copying, but instead perfecting. Come Clarity is the best metalcore record you could hope for. Same for RTR and STYE being the best of their style.

      ASoP was a drop, though. It didn’t feel “strong” at all. It sounds muddy and same-y. Likewise, while In Flames has had weak lyrics before… well, ASoP (and forward) are just miserably bad. Come Clarity whined, but at least it did so with style. ASoP and SoaPF just… ugh. And, like everyone else has sad, Anders doesn’t have the strong vocals to pull it off.

      On top of that, there’s not a lot of energy in their last two (three, now) albums. They feel mechanical. I don’t think they’ve “sold out,” I just think they are moving through the motions. It doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of unity in the band.

      • Zadion

        I have to disagree, honestly. While I haven’t even listened to Reroute through Come Clarity as a whole in a long time now (I never disliked them, though) and can’t honestly tell you what they sounded like to my ears, A Sense of Purpose is very much a melodeath album if you remove the vocals. IMO, ASoP has some of the best MDM riffs of their career, in fact.

        The reason everybody will trash it though is because everybody hates Anders’ voice. Again, I never found his voice to be that bad, but I definitely see how others do.

        But I will agree that Reroute through Come Clarity has a few songs I come back to periodically. The problem with Come Clarity is that there was only two or three songs on that album I ever want to come back to, and the rest of it hasn’t been played since 2010 according to my iTunes library. Even STYE has more than that (“My Sweet Shadow” is indeed one of In Flames’ best songs IMO).

        • Chris

          While I’m not a genre snob by any means, I find it hard to classify songs like Alias, Sleepless Again, The Mirror’s Truth, or… basically any of them as “melodeath.”

          They are influenced by melodic death metal, sure — they sound like they came from a band that used to make a lot of melodeath — but they don’t really *feel* like it to me. They feel like “modern metal” closer to American-style metalcore than anything else. ASoP has more in common with Killswitch Engage than the traditional melodeath bands.

          Come Clarity is the same way, it’s just that the songs feel better to me. It’s totally subjective, though.

          • Zadion

            While ASoP is very modern sounding to be sure, which is probably why it’s so commonly criticized, the riffs are distinctively different from the typical metalcore chug and stop riffs that kind of sound like they’re playing the same 3 chords on repeat through the entire song.

            Whenever I listen to those exact songs, in fact, I just hear great MDM styling riffs, not particularly similar to metalcore at all.

            Personally, I’d probably argue that Come Clarity is similar in that regard, but the songs feel worse to me. Subjectivity ftw.

  • Atte Loikkanen

    I think the snare sound on St. Anger is actually the best thing on the record!

  • Well, it finally happened, an In Flames record got a lower score here than a Godsmack one. Maybe we have the new Linkin Park “to look forward to”?

    • Refined-Iron Cranium

      I’m gonna be honest, that Linkin Park album blows this out of the water.

      • I’m not surprised, at the very least Linkin Park has it very clear what they are trying to achieve.

      • Tofu muncher

        I’m actually thinking about Fear Factory’s Genelux.

  • Beardfist

    I got in to metal with In Flames’ “December Flower,” and with the release of albums like this, I can’t help but wonder why they keep producing material. If the entire current band just renamed itself to “Not In Flames,” it might not strangle itself stuck between a desire to stay true and a desire to evolve. It could just do whatever the fuck it wanted. While I ain’t heard this album, the other more recents definitely sounded like a band that was stuck doing whatever other people said they wanted.

  • Here’s Johnny

    Heard a few songs from the stream of the album, turned it off before i was half way through.

    Truly shocking release.

  • Albin

    The album’s not a staple of metal but it’s dynamic and unpredictable, it keeps me interested, They’ve already made the albums you’d like them to do, again, obviously :p

    I agree with that it’s inconsistent in direction, but that’s part of the appeal for me :D