IN FLAMES - "Reroute To Remain" - one of the most eagerly awaited albums of the year 2002 and one of the most controversial embraced of its kind, over the internet, long before the release, the wildest rumours spread, that it was heavier than "Clayman", that it was more directed towards older albums, that they had fallen to Americanisms and, and, and.
Contrary to many people I am a big fan of IN FLAMES ever since their beginnings, when "Subterranean" had been released back in 1995 I got it together with their debut "Lunar Strain" and I was captured. In the course of the years IN FLAMES won more popularity, switched to Nuclear Blast, lost their great old logo and developed into one of the most successful and most diverse bands of the genre. More catchy melodies came, as well as partly reduced heaviness and also some clear vocals. But the trademarks of the IN FLAMES-sound always had been there: heavy guitars and brilliant melodic leads (maybe the most prominent trademark of the Swedes), so how does the reality of "Reroute To Remain" look like?
The opening title-track partly sounds like old IN FLAMES, but also clearly features some of the changes in their sound, especially the sound of the guitars has changed dramatically, you hardly find the loved and trusted leads, which always had marked the Gothenburg-band, the rhythm guitar won a lot on emphasis and is a lot more in the foreground than before. That the chorus brings us some clean vocals is not completely new, we already had some on "Clayman", it definitely is a good song. On we go with "System", a lot straighter in the chorus, again with a very dominant rhythm guitar, very catchy, doesn't really sound like the IN FLAMES we have known so far.
"Drifter" then "finally" shows the usual Death Metal-rhythm, with supercatchy chorus, a kind of choir vocals with a rough voice on top, the missing link to the old sound? Then with "Trigger" we get another element of the past, a few melodic leads, just unfortunately hidden underneath the rhythm guitars, but at least…
"Cloud Connected" then is maybe the catchiest song of "Reroute To Remain", with stronger keyboards right at the beginning, which lead the melodies and also remain present in the background. This time the bridge features the rough vocals, apart from that sung almost completely clean and especially the guitar-sound is very modern American, just like with the following "Transparent", which is very heavy in the beginning, almost industrial, then almost percussive in the rhythm, all in all very untypical for IN FLAMES.
At "Dawn Of A New Day" I feel reminded of "Whoracle", with the acoustic guitars at the beginning of the song, which altogether is pretty quiet, almost completely clean vocalled, nut really what you in general are used to from the Swedes, but still having a connection to the earlier albums, even though quite a bit softer and more mass compatible (especially thanks to the vocals). "Egonomic" then lets the old IN FLAMES live up again, even though the guitars without a doubt are rooted in the new sound, very rhythmic, which is even more evident with the following "Minus", there are some leads, but they are hardly audible behind the droning rhythm guitars, which make this sound very American indeed.
"Free Fall" then is maybe the best song so far, not really sounding like old IN FLAMES, but with irresistible melodies, even though it is really hard to describe. It maybe is the best mix of old and new (meaning next to no melodic leads), whereas the "old" part is the vibe of the melodies that is transported, before "Dark Signs" offers us some more leads, which still drown in the drone of the rhythm guitars.
"Metaphor" then is the biggest accusation that the band has to face from old fans, with its country-flair in the guitars and also the violin, only clean vocals and the balladesque sound, the old fans will have some major problems with this song, just like with the closing "Black & White", with its industrialised, distorted vocals of Andres Fridén, which bulk a lot in my ears.
So what do I as an IN FLAMES fan of the (almost) first hour think about "Reroute To Remain"? I think there can be no doubt that the band has gone through some dramatic evolution, in more direction than one. The most evident change is the guitar-sound, which has lost almost all of their great trademark leads and instead grants the rhythm guitars a lot more room, in that sounding a lot more modern and somehow American than ever before. The vocals are another factor, a lot more clean vocals, which is not bad, but at no time reaches the great voice of a Mikael Stanne (DARK TRANQUILLITY) and here and there just does not have the power to bear the song.
So you can find extremely IN FLAMES-untypical songs as well as stuff that reminds of the days of old, but altogether more resembling a revolution than an evolution, maybe a too big step that the band has taken here. And, and that maybe is the worst thing, to me the album does not sound fresh, but somewhat calculated. There is a bit for the old fans (more or less), "Clayman"-stuff and completely new sounds that had not been there before at all, which approach a completely different fan-spectrum and that is what kind of has hit me most, it almost sounds as if they tried to please everyone.
For some this is a clear sign of "sell-out", I do not want to go as far, but let's say that I once had been a huge IN FLAMES-fan, with "Reroute To Remain" you can take off the "huge", now I am only a fan anymore, because this is not what I want to hear from IN FLAMES, evolution or no. (Online October 30, 2002)