In Flames – ‘I, The Mask’

By Dave Stewart

In Flames are one of those bands that have an inextinguishable spark. First forming almost 30 years ago, they played an enormous role in elevating the legendary Gothenburg sound to prominence within the metal community. They’ve been churning out record after record ever since, inspiring countless bands that have followed in their footsteps.

So many of today’s artists cite them as an influence, and their undying contributions to the metal world are continuing to influence even more. Their newest contribution comes in the form of their 13th full length ‘I, The Mask’ – a twelve track journey through isolation, loneliness and the need for genuine human connection. Oh, and there’s also pit-worthy riffs, blistering solos and enormous choruses. This is In Flames proving to everyone else in the genre that they are still on top of their game.

‘I, The Mask’ is one of those records that deserves to be listened to in its entirety. Sure, the tracks all stand alone, but the way this record flows is worthy of your attention. It sways in and out of aggression, both managing to take you by surprise and lull you into tranquility without sounding predictable. Tracks like ‘Call My Name’ and title track ‘I, The Mask’ are crammed full of their signature technical riffs, perfectly married with catchy choruses that will burrow their way into your brain on the first listen. ‘(This Is Our) House’ is perfect fist pumping tempo, using haunting verses to create a sense of unease before launching into an uplifting chorus. ‘We Will Remember’ is oozing with anthemic traits, ‘Follow Me’ is the closest thing here to a power ballad, and ‘All The Pain’ is like a blend of the best parts of both.

If you’re hungry for tracks that will provide you with that classic Gothenburg nostalgia, songs like ‘Burn’ and ‘Deep Inside’ will fill your stomach. If you’re craving soaring anthems and beautiful melodies, ‘In This Life’ and stunning album closer ‘Stay With Me’ will keep you happy. The entire record acts as a metal masterclass, with the band showcasing all the things they’ve learnt over their illustrious career and how best to apply them. Everything sounds crystal clear too, mostly due to the who’s who of the production world having worked on the record. This is yet another solid album from a consistently incredible, legendary band.

This is a straight up metal album, with all the characteristics you’d expect to hear from a classic In Flames record. If you came here expecting the successor to ‘The Jester Race’, you won’t find it; In Flames aren’t that band anymore, and haven’t been for a long time. That isn’t a bad thing, though. The beautiful thing about this record, and for all their records, is that you can hear the evolution. If you put their discography in order and listened all the way through to this point, you can trace the metamorphosis to the band they are today. They are still proud of their roots, and there are subtle nods to it throughout this album, but they are a band focused on growth and translating that growth to a live performance. The end result is 51 minutes of stunning metal that’s begging for an audience to scream it back.

In Flames have been marching at the front of the pack for decades, and ‘I, The Mask’ cements that that’s exactly where they belong. If they keep crafting records as strong as this, they’ll be staying there for a long time.

DAVE STEWART

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