So IN FLAMES is back with a brand new album I, The Mask (out now, Eleven Seven Music), featuring twelve tracks that will be either loved, or ripped apart viciously, depending on which camp you reside in. As I’ve said before I only got into the band eight years ago, so I’m hardly an expert. I just know what I like, and that’s that. And guess what? I like this new album…a LOT. Look, I’ll be the first to admit that Battles was severely lacking in some spots and I worried that maybe Howard Benson wasn’t the right producer for them despite his musical pedigree and resumé. So I was very glad when I pressed PLAY and found my fears were unfounded.
Right out of the gate these guys mean business, starting with opener “Voices”, and then the title track. But we really hit fifth gear with “Call My Name”, my favorite on the whole thing. Anders Fridén does some of his best singing ever on this tune, and I dare you not to hit the REPEAT button if you’re a real fandau. “I Am Above” bears down on you, Fridén snarling and growling like a junkyard dog who hasn’t been fed in two days and has just been let off his leash. Björn Gelotte and Niclas Engelin do some serious damage guitar-wise, with Gelotte’s solo being one of his best. “Follow Me” is an acoustic/electric number that provides the listener to catch his or her breath, but it’s still heavy in all the right places.
Oh man, I freakin’ love “(This Is Our) House” and I can see the entire floor section of a venue jumping up and down when they launch into it. The dual harmonized guitar section that kicks off “We Will Remember” serves to only make a great song even greater, while the chorus lifts it up into the stratosphere. “In this Life” is probably the second favorite for me, because quite frankly I am enamored with that goddamn hook, and it always sticks with me for hours after I hear it! Oh, and if it’s real heavy-as-balls IN FLAMES you’re looking for, then can I call your attention to “Burn”? It gets down in the mud for the verses, then soars with the eagles on the refrain.
There’s some electronica going on with “Deep Inside”, but the guitar riffage, screamed vocals, and hearty rhythm section of Bryce Paul Newman (bass) and Tanner Wayne (drums) make sure this one isn’t any weaker than the rest of the tracks. “All the Pain” showcases even more outstanding singing from Fridén as does closer “Stay With Me.” This one is a bit mellower, but it fits in perfectly, a strong one, and it’s another song that I keep coming back to. All told IN FLAMES have struck gold with I, The Mask. I love every song on this album, and you can bet your house payment on this one being on my 2019 Top Albums list come December. If you haven’t gotten this one yet, I seriously don’t know what the fuck you’re waiting for.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM