“Clayman”’s reception upon its release was very split. To the die-hard fans of their older albums it was the beginning of the end, for the fans of their later development the gateway album towards what was about to come and no matter how you look at it, it was a transitional album, as more and more elements of the newer IN FLAMES managed to creep into the compositions. Not only was the cover a move away from the Marschall classics, but also musically a distinct progression was to be detected that definitely was not to everybody’s liking.
And you don’t have to go any further than opener “Bullet Ride” to notice that Anders Fridén is using his clear voice more than before and the riffing also sounds a tad different, overall the leads that IN FLAMES have been so renowned for, are still somewhat there, just less obvious. “Pinball Map” emphasizes the more chunky riffing even more, with another semi-clean chorus, which is extremely catchy, it still is an excellent song, but it becomes clear that this is a different beast than what we are used to overall, as “Only For The Weak” introduces keyboards as well and also shows a reduced amount of leads, so I think it is fairly obvious, why people approached this album with mixed feelings.
It actually is very interesting for myself to revisit this album on a “to review” basis after more than eight years and only to really notice how different my perspective is, maybe also, because thanks to the re-releases I had listened to the three previous albums right before, being able to pick up way more on the differences in sound. And contrary to my original review, the changes are actually very apparent, as the band obviously has moved on considerably into a more modern and mainstream direction. Despite that, the mentioned songs are still excellent, same goes for “Clayman” and “Swim” as well as the great TREAT cover version “World Of Promises” after another cover of NO FUN AT ALL, which is kind of ho-hum for me, but after re-listening to all the four albums right after each other several times, the differences are a lot bigger than I had originally thought.
So I am not sure, if I have grown more critical or what the reason is, but I do not share the same sentiments as eight years ago anymore, because while “Clayman” is by no means a bad album, it just does not reach the genius of the previous four albums, so if you are looking for your way into IN FLAMES, you’d have to decide, if you want the Melodic Death ones, then the first four albums are good entry gates, while for the more modern and mainstream ones anything after “Clayman” is, this album kind of stands in the middle and is the transitional album between the old and the new, it is good, but not great. Oh, almost forgot, the “Reloaded” version again contains a screen saver, photos, skins, the song “Strong And Smart” and the mentioned TREAT cover, which originally had only been available on the limited first edition of the album (the one with the 3D cover).
(Online April 9, 2009)