IN FLAMES...rule...we've established that much right? Well this, my friends, is what put them on the map! This started it all, and no Melodic (Death - Alex) Metal-lover should be without this... Exclamation point! Wink wink smile ;) ;) :) period period period...Read on, colon:
Let me take you through my own personal IN FLAMES-discovery process: it started with "Whoracle" (still my favourite), then "The Jester Race", then "Black-Ash Inheritance", then "Lunar Strain/Subterranean", then "Colony", on through to "Clayman". I kinda worked my way backwards, then forward again, and even after hearing all of those albums several times ('cept "Clayman"), I still hold the opinion that "Lunar/Sub" was the most "hungry" sounding era of the band, where they were much more fresh and contemporary sounding than they are now. Although "Clayman" has its moments, the wealth of truly unique Melodic (Death - Alex) Metal on display within the Lunar Module (I made that up, it's MINE :b), mixed with their now-abandoned folk elements, makes this album a very unique entity in the NWoSDM (Nether World Of Sandy Dutch Monkeys? - Alex you don't have to translate that - Gabe;)), and it started a virtual WAVE of mimickers. I hear a lot of bands nowadays copying the guitar styles that Jesper and Glenn used here.
That is what IN FLAMES have always been: a guitar-oriented band. They have a knack for melody that many of their peers only DREAM of having, and it makes their music appealing to almost anyone, but on "Lunar Strain", it takes an especially attentive Metal EarT to appreciate the melodic glory they spew forth, whereas with "Colony" and thereafter you can pretty much headbang to one simple beat throughout on each song. Not that that's a BAD thing, but some of us prefer more textures, especially in the case of IN FLAMES. I'd always seen the acoustic folk element as an integral part of their sound, but after "Whoracle", this crucial element would pretty much be abandoned altogether. Sad...
Opener "Behind Space" is, of course, a cult classic for those who know the band. It's their "Battery" or "Angel Of Death". Some prefer the 1999 version of the song that appeared on "Colony", but I prefer the roughness and sheer HUNGERRRR found on this one, and when Mikael Stanne shouts his last cries of torment, the acoustic outro that follows is, in a word, astonishing! After thousands of listens, I've never tired of it! Although the production is a bit weaker than the proceeding albums, there is still plenty of purpose to their cause. Try the opening seconds of the title-track as it kicks into the harmonized verse riff...breathtaking! Or the legendary 6/8 instrumental "Dreamscape" and it's rhythmic triplet-picking...beautiful! Or the soaring melodies on "In Flames"...EXCELSIOR! Or even the gut-wrenching riffs on closer "Clad In Shadows"...some idiot calls himself that on our web-board!
Everything, minus Jesper's not-so-sturdy drumming is sheer musical genius. This stuff is melodic ("Behind Space", "Starforsaken", every song I guess), catchy ("Dreamscape", "In Flames", every song I guess), yet incredibly dark and foreboding at times (*sigh* nevermind). Throw in some excellent vocal shrills by Mr. I'm-Gonna-Leave-And-Go-To-DARK TRANQUILLITY-Now (Heh, actually he only had been a stand-in singer for IN FLAMES and already had been in DT before that ;) - Alex) and you've got an A+ in my book! This is one of those albums that I will never tire of...
If you're reading this review and DON'T know what I'm talking about (ie "haven't heard it yet"), you should...BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF! You are missing out on something so musically profound that...[insert cryptic yet intelligently retrospective quote with more than enough intriguing emotional stimulus and aesthetic drama to convince you to go buy this album, NOW...triple exclamation points!!!