LIVE: In Flames / Norma Jean / Light The Torch @ The Roundhouse, London

By Dave Stewart

Whenever In Flames announce they’re paying a visit to UK shores, metal fans across the country waste no time lapping up all the tickets. Not only does their legendary status within metal speak for itself, but they also have brand new record ‘I, The Mask’ to showcase to their legions of followers. Also, just in case anyone needed further temptation, they brought Norma Jean and Light The Torch along for the ride too. With a stacked line up and an armoury full of solid gold bangers, all three bands hit The Roundhouse in London and treated the metallers in attendance to a whirlwind of an evening.

The queue to get into the venue stretched all the way along the street and into a nearby car park, and the chatter amongst all the eager gig goers was the same – something along the lines of “I hope we manage to get inside in time to see Light The Torch”. Formerly known as Devil You Know, they changed their name in 2017 and underwent a rebrand of sorts, releasing ‘Revival’ in 2018. The buzz surrounding them was electric, and mostly due to their vocalist – former Killswitch Engage front man Howard Jones. A legend in his own right, he powerfully commanded his bandmates through a loud and punchy opening set, seeming speechless in between every song and genuinely humbled by the number of people in the room that turned up early to see them perform. They proved to be the perfect opening band for the evening ahead, warming the crowd up nicely for the chaos that was about to unfold.

Next up was the energetic and enigmatic Norma Jean, a band known for their rawness and unpredictability. This is a line up most Norma Jean fans wouldn’t expect to see them on, but the band were completely unfazed and confidently took the stage to deliver their signature brand of metalcore to the now packed out room. They stormed straight into ‘I. The Planet’, the opening track from their 2016 record ‘Polar Similar’, and appreciative headbangs swept through the crowd. Keeping their feet firmly on the gas, the aural onslaught continued with gigantic tracks like ‘Synthetic Sun’, ‘Funeral Singer’, ‘The Anthem Of Angry Brides’ and the frantic ‘If You Got It At Five, You Got It At Fifty’. The special moments in the set though, were found during the closing number ‘Deathbed Atheist’, acting almost like a haunting lullaby to leave the crowd both impressed and ever so slightly uncomfortable.

They played a great set, full of powerful punches and huge riffs from all across their back catalogue – even including a song for long time fans of the band with ‘Disconnecktie: The Faithful Vampire’ from 2006 album ‘O God, The Aftermath’. Unfortunately for them, though, it was evident that the majority of the crowd at The Roundhouse weren’t here for Norma Jean at all. Most Norma Jean shows go from calm to completely chaotic within seconds, whereas tonight’s crowd was almost completely static until close to the end of their set – despite visibly winning over a large portion of the crowd during their performance, the energy levels were noticeably different to those for Light The Torch. Regardless of crowd reaction, this tour gave Norma Jean the opportunity to play their songs to an audience that may have otherwise never come into contact with them and they delivered their material with precision, power, and unforgiving heaviness.

Over the course of the next 15 minutes or so, bodies began to cram into the venue to get their spot for what was about to unfold. The Roundhouse was packed wall to wall with eager metalheads, and as soon as the lights dimmed the room erupted into cheers. The stage lights beamed into action, In Flames stepped out on stage, and the electricity in the room hit its peak. They rocketed through a set that spanned 20 years of their impressive career, providing plenty of shining moments for both new and old fans. They immediately started putting the crowd through their paces with opening track ‘Voices’, almost forcing pits to open up with the sheer power of the music. At times it was difficult to tell if front man Anders Fridén was even doing his vocal parts, as the volume of the crowd was in continuous competition with the sound coming from the stage. In typical In Flames fashion, they continued to hammer out big and relentless favourites including a blinding rendition of ‘Pinball Map’, a headbang inducing performance of ‘Where The Dead Ships Dwell’ and the haunting riff-fest of ‘Monsters In The Ballroom’.

The crowd seemed to have energy in endless supply, and so the band continued to provide them with a soundtrack to feed it. New songs like ‘Call My Name’, ‘Deep Inside’ and ‘I Am Above’ received reactions just as big as their older material, with chorus melodies echoing through the venue as the crowd chanted back every word. Other huge moments came in the form of the enormous chorus chants of ‘The Truth’, the sonic punishment of ‘Leeches’, the infectious pulsing pace of ‘Cloud Connected’ and the crushing ‘The Mirror’s Truth’. The most special moment, though, came in the form of some of their oldest material.

They asked the crowd how many people had heard their record ‘Colony’ – and were met with a deafening roar implying that the majority of the attendees definitely had. They then performed the title track of the same name, and you could feel the heat levels rise as soon as the first few notes rang out. What happened for the following few minutes was pure energy and excitement oozing out of the crowd, spreading its way through the entire room and causing the band to look on in awe. Legends they may be, but they are human and humble and showed an enormous amount of love towards everyone in the room. This evening was just as special for the band as it was for the fans.

In Flames are legends, and for good reason. They aren’t showing any signs of slowing down, and they’re just as intense and powerful as they ever have been. It wouldn’t have mattered who the bands were that played before them – this show was all about them. Their level of musicianship and showmanship was in a league of its own, completely stunning everybody in the room. Right from the front of the venue, all the way to the back and even in the stalls, you could see and hear fans losing their minds and fully losing themselves in what they were witnessing. An intense, mind-blowing show from one of metal’s greatest bands.