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In Flames' pivotal fifth full length effort unites the band's past and future strengths (or weaknesses) like no other record. The release still features some faster melodic death metal elements from the past as well as the melodic twin guitar leads in the vein of Iron Maiden and a versatile vocal performance somewhere between slightly restrained growling, slightly experimental performances inspired by different groove and nu metal bands and a hesitatingly increasing number of clean vocal parts. The album also gives a hint at future records as it is filled with extremely catchy and mainstream orientated choruses, an increased used of electronic music and lyrical teams that slowly move away earlier topics such as astronomy and towards texts about inner struggles. Some fans may judge this record as the last great In Flames album, others might say that it's the first in a streak of more courageous, experimental and modern releases. Both sides are right and as some of the very few who enjoys both old and contemporary In Flames, I happen to like this release anyway.
The choruses on this album are extremely strong and probably among the very best in the band's entire career. The mid-paced and electronic-ridden "Only for the Weak" could also be included on one of the two follow-ups and represents the band's more accessible and less extreme metal orientated side. The melodic chorus is definitely well crafted, no matter what you think about the band's new sounds. Another strong chorus comes along in bonus track and b-side "World of Promises", a cover of Swedish glam rock band Treat. In my opinion, In Flames always did a good job covering tracks and I even liked their version of Metallica's "Eye of the Beholder" slightly better than the original. This song here is once again both energizing and melodic in an almost epic yet catchy way. The chorus contrasts with the faster and more brutal verses. I have no clue why this track wasn't included on the initial regular version as this is a fun tune and strong single candidate as well. In my book, this cover beats the original that sounds like an exchangeable Def Leppard and Europe bastard by miles. The strongest chorus is though the one in the energizing "Pinball Map" which is not only the best track on here but one of the band's shining moments in general and a perfect example for modern melodic death metal done rightly. The verses are fast, powerful and unchained concerning both the energizing riffs, the pitiless rhythm section and the wild vocals. The choruses comes around with beautiful guitar harmonies and some soloing just after the vocal part but also with thick restrained staccato riffs. The rhythm section grooves in an enjoyable way and never gets too sluggish. The vocals are emotional and to the point. Many people say that Anders Fridén's vocals got worse over the years but I think that they overall improved as they got more emotional but also more controlled and skilled. In this chorus, he finds the right balance between overwhelming energy and melodic self-control. This is really a chorus for the ages and it works even better as it's not repeated to death. This is a track to relentlessly bang, dance and sing along. This song represents both old and new In Flames in a certain way and if somebody asked me to get introduced to In Flames today, I would start with this tune.
Other than incredibly catchy offerings, you get to hear a balanced mixture of powerful melodic death metal from the past and more experimental tunes that hint at the band's future. In the first category, we get to hear "Brush the Dust Away" which is by no means the best song on here but a refreshingly short and fast tune with dynamical drumming that works well in the album context. The tune features the band's more contemporary vocal versatility but otherwise sharp riffs, dynamical sound and speed changes and great guitar melodies. The closing wrecking ball "Another Day in Quicksand" goes even further back to the roots and solely features Anders Fridén's charismatic early harsh vocals, extended sharp riffs, a few crunching breakdowns and a calmer bridge with elegant melodic guitar solos. This energizing outburst is a fitting way to close a gripping record without any lengths.
The second category delivers with the versatile grower "Square Nothing" that mixes the best elements of everything In Flames would deliver in the future: fast-paced verses, melodic pre-choruses and choruses, enchanting guitar melodies and even solos, calm breakdowns in an alternative rock fashion, weird sound collages including church bells, vocals that are sometimes sung, screamed or whispered, a dominant use of keyboards and many different genres and styles covered in less than four minutes without sounding pointlessly put together. Only few bands can put so many ideas in one single song and make it sound perfectly coherent. That's one element that makes In Flames stand out. The melancholic "Satellites and Astronaut" can be seen as a more rhythm orientated predecessor to tracks like "The Chosen Pessimist", "Liberation" and "Through Oblivion". This song is probably the most atmospheric and versatile of In Flames so-called half-ballads and maybe also the band's best offering in this category. I would say that this track is the second best on this concise output.
If we look at this release today, this is probably a reconciliatory record for both fans of the early days and the contemporary phase. On this record, both worlds harmoniously collide in almost equal parts. Otherwise, the short and concise song writing and some incredibly catchy choruses make this album stand out as a high quality release in the band's extensive discography. This release doesn't include any fillers and only above average to excellent songs. This album may not be as revolutionary as "Lunar Strain", as consistent as "Subterranean" and as versatile as "Sounds of a Playground Fading" but it's definitely a highlight in the band's career that both old and new fans should know and own.
As one of the more notable and previously reputable of melodic-death metal bands, In Flames commenced their career with music that rightfully earned them the status of a defining metal band. However, as time progressed, their style of music has changed, and in the opinions of many, degraded heavily. I for one, agree completely. From one of the the bands I would personally place amongst one of my favourite metal bands, to now an accomplice in the diminishing of metal's contemporary quality. There are many contemporary music groups amongst today's metal scene and newer genres that compose relatively good music for what they are, however In Flames is not one of them in my opinion.
However, I can proudly say that "Clayman" sits amongst my favourite melodic death metal albums of all time. The lyrical themes and superb vocals truly amalgamate an atmosphere of nostalgia and wonder. The use of acoustic guitar and frequently tranquil vocals contrasted amongst the truly talented harsh vocals of Anders Friden make this album very memorable indeed.
I have heard many bands attempt to replicate their style, however none do so as well as In Flames on this album. 'Bullet Ride' commences the album, as truly a speedy induction into the fury of this album, and I found myself being swayed by the use of guitar in the verses, progressing into a very melodic riff for the bridge and chorus. This song truly conveys what I perceive as a good melodic death metal.
Another favourite track on this album is the song 'Pinball Album', beginning with a headbanging riff, and a thumping first verse. The chorus of clean vocals truly contrasts against the ferocity of the vocals, with some remnants of a punk theme in the chorus.
'Satellites and Astronauts' begins with a truly talented and beautiful clean guitar intro, subsequently introducing a melodic shredded guitar riff, very epic to say the least. This song's first verse follows in the footsteps of the first track 'Bullet Ride' very much, however maintains its originality. Once again, the harsh vocals are juxtaposed against the clean and whispered vocals of the verses.
'Suburban Me' basically places a shrieked vocal part over a very catchy and memorable guitar riff and melody, completely formulating a 10/10 track, however not as memorable as the first 3 tracks I've listed in this review.
Ultimately, this album truly encapsulates the quality of a perfect melodic death metal album, and the genius of In Flames' earlier works. Alongside 'Colony' and 'Whoracle', In Flames deserve their title as a prominent and achieved band; however their change of music style in my opinion is truly a shame. Yet their quality of work on this album is more than what most bands could ever hope to achieve, and this album in my opinion truly contributed to the melodic-death metal scene as a template for what is defined as a successful and original album in terms of innovation.
I'd have to say that this is a "happier" sounding In Flames piece of work. The riffs are much better than they were on "Colony". They're heavier, more memorable, better constructed, and everything seemed to fit better song-wise on this release. It's less aggressive as I stated, but that doesn't take away from the magic that this album portrays. Similar lyrical topics i.e. astronomy and fantasy, yet they blended well with the guitar. This release is anything but half assed.
The production quality is also much better than their previous releases especially the bass guitar. They do a little more experimenting on this album, but it doesn't take away from the overall release as a whole. The guitars again are tuned way down and are thick with heavy distortion. They do incorporate some clean guitar parts on here, not overly much though. Their melodic death roots are heavily portrayed here and that I can't stress enough.
It's a less aggressive album than their previous releases even with Anders screams, they're not as intense and more clearly heard out which makes it easier to make out what he's saying. This one has to be a favorite of theirs because of their innovation and creativity/experimentation on here. Again there are harsh and clean vocals. However, for the most part, Anders' screaming is as I've stated less intense and fits the music perfectly. This to me is their last monumental release. Everything afterwards doesn't sound like them at all.
Out of all the In Flames albums I've heard in the past, this one has definitely the best overall production quality. Nothing is left out i.e. none of the instruments are poorly mixed in together and everything seems so balanced. To me, it's an album that I can't really get sick of. Other critics may disagree, but I'd have to say that every song on here deserves praise. "Brush the Dust Away" is probably my favorite track, but like I said, all of the songs are good.
Just YouTube some of the tracks on here especially if you're into melodic death and judge for yourself. After this album, they should have disbanded, not sold out. It's actually a release that you can appreciate every time that you hear it. It's anything but dark and depressing. A very good vibe to each song and the guitars are so superb. I'm surprised that they were actually able to write all of the material on this album within about a year's time.
The deluxe addition features some bonus tracks and other material. If you want something to put you in a good mood, then listen to this album. Like I previously said, it's their "happier" version of melodic death. Nothing falls short here and all of the melodies are just perfect. A challenge to play these riffs if you're a guitar player. They are once again lower tuning and the lead guitar work is amazing. Way better than on "Colony". I'd have to say a lot of preparation and getting things exact on this recording.
Tremendous musicianship on this album and the most memorable songs that they could have entrenched on here. If you like melodic death metal, then pick this one up ASAP. It really is amazing, I'd say the best work that they could have ever done. Nothing disturbs me here, it's just everything after this album that is the pits. That's why I stressed their abandoning the melodic death roots really turned me off on this band. Instead of continuously getting better and better with each release, they threw it all away with their newer style.
I would put this on the same level as Colony if it wasn't for Ander's nu metal inspired diarrhea noises. With solid riffs, amazing drumming, great leads and solos, and clean production, this is par for the course with Colony and Jester Race, but because of Anders' awful nu metal/metalcore vocals this doesn't live up to its full potential.
I know vocals aren't everything, but as a vocalist it bugs me to hear someone take a good template (in this case the high growls of Jon Tardy and Chuck Schuldiner) and chop it up with the limp-wristed nature of commercial bullshit (in this case the whiny mumbling of Korn and Machine Head). But shitty vocals aside, the music itself is right on par with your standard melodic power metal bands.
So what are the positive elements? Well, as any guitarist would say, riffs and solos, and this album comes packed full of brilliant, fun, heavy, melodic, and catchy riffs. Some might complain about the somewhat formulaic verse-chorus-verse-chorus format, but I couldn't care less. This isn't Fates Warning or Queensryche, so I don't expect much innovation or out-of-the-box progressions. Like with every In Flames album, the bass takes a back seat to the vocals and guitars, so this isn't an album to go looking for mind-blowing bass. And much like with Colony, Daniel delivers behind the kit, and right on par with any power metal drummer.
So, if you ignore the half-assed vocals, what you get is pretty much a guitarist's bread and butter, good riffs and solos. My favorite tracks would have to be Pinball Map (solid Iron Maiden worship), Only For the Weak (with a keyboard fill in the chorus that's eerily similar to "My Girlfriend's Girlfriend" and a nice groovy stomp), the title track (more good Maiden worship), Square Nothing (SPEND SOME QUALITY TIME, WITH THE DEMON OF MINE!), Suburban Me (good track right in vein of Yngwie's Malmsteen), and Satellites and Astronauts (one of the few tracks where I genuinely like the lyrics). I rate this C+, B- on a good day.
It is pretty easy to get bogged down in pointing out where a band started to go downhill, and truth be told, the thought itself lends itself to a preconceived bias that may or may not actual do justice to a particular album. Nowhere is this more present than in the case of In Flames’ middle era, where theories of when things began to either suck or sellout abound. But the principle target of a lot of the older fan base’s indignation seems to be that of “Clayman”, and like the ones thrown at its two predecessors, the condemnations are both equally accurate and inaccurate. In fact, apart from maybe a slightly larger amount of electronics being employed and a little less acoustic work, the only thing that separates this from “Whoracle” and “Colony” is that it was released right before “Reroute To Remain”.
In defense of this album’s detractors, it is undeniable that Anders Fridén’s vocals have been getting progressively worse, but this album still bears very little resemblance to the emo nonsense that seeped into the band in 2002. The energy level and enticing mixture of elaborate riffs and consonant harmonies is all but exactly at the same level as “Colony”, and the songwriting is equally as formulaic and geared towards easy consumption. The drum work on the part of Daniel Svensson cooks quite nicely and gives the whole album a similar power metal tendency in line with its predecessor. The only real point of contrast that is really of note in the overall character of this album is a somber character that permeates the production, which comes off as more solemn than the semi-chaotic commentary on religion that dominated their 1999 offering.
But putting aside the defensive statements with regards to In Flames’ 5th offering, “Clayman” is a good collection of catchy, highly digestible songs that flirt with the melodic sweetness of middle era Nocturnal Rites, but with a heavier tone than even that of “Afterlife”. The better moments tend to be when the songs stick to cooking at mid-tempo or faster and not getting into quiet ballad sections where Fridén’s whispered and semi-clean vocals flirt heavily with Robb Flynn circa “The Burning Red” territory, but even the quiet sections found in “Bullet Ride” and “Square Nothing” are loaded with enough hook driven guitar melodies to all but offset the revolting narrator. Be it the infectious and utterly brilliant afterburner of a cooker “Clayman”, the slow grooving and depressingly heavy “Only For The Weak”, or the Stratovarius-like anthem “Suburban Me”, the rule of the day with this album is good songwriting and it is consistently upheld with few exceptions.
Opinions may vary, but ultimately this album is equally as worthy of the semi-orthodox tendencies of In Flames as anything else they’ve done since “The Jester Race”, and consistency would demand that this only be condemned for the same reasons as any of those other albums. From my perspective, this is another good example of the compatibility that developed between power metal and Gothenburg which was further explored by a number of Finnish bands, and also Skyfire. Apart from the lackluster vocal performance, which is still caught somewhere between a bad Chuck Schuldiner and a whinny nu-metal approach to screaming, there is very little to complain about, and much to be enjoyed.
So this was my first taste of the melodic death metal giants In Flames, although I’m sure many hardcore fans of this band would say I should start elsewhere, it is what it is. I first listened to In Flames on last.FM when I heard Swim off of this album, and was transfixed. Unfortunately, this album was a tad difficult to procure, as i Tunes thought it would be a great idea to take all the old In Flames off and the leave the not-as-good newer stuff, such as A Sense of Purpose.
In Flames takes a very mainstream version of melodic death metal and brings in aspects of modern rock and speed metal, yet remain true to that original idea. Examples are clear with the extensive use of clean vocals on Only For the Weak and Satellites and Astronauts. The length of songs and also the way they are arranged and written along with the use of the occasional synthesizer tell you that this is main stream, but far from in your face about it, which is difficult to do.
Guitar melodies on this album vary greatly from the infectious and brutal riff in Bullet Ride to crazy solos such as those on Swim. Songs also take slower tempos, and these carry the same weight as the speed demons featured here. Songs also transition and take on two distinct parts in certain cases, such as Pinball Map and the title track.
The vocals are simply what you expect from Anders Friden, and I personally like the clean vocals. They do attribute a lot to In Flames being main stream, but they are used appropriately and are not over used or under used. Lyrics offer interesting social commentary (Pinball Map) and also delve deeply into human emotion (Only For the Weak).
In Flames also flashes us a few moments of progressive writing. Square Nothing has some very interesting aspects that separates it from the rest of the album. Bullet Ride also gives us a breakdown leading to the climax of the song, which is absolutely beastly and knocks down everything effortlessly.
This album unfortunately features a lot of fluff that hides the gems of this album. There is just a lack of anything catchy or a really good head-banging riff on these songs. They are not terrible, they just pale in comparison to other parts of the album. These are: …As the Future Repeats Today, Brush the Dust Away, Suburban Me, and Another Day in Quicksand. Also, the drumming as a whole is rather bland, but it does suit the music and is far from bad, but there are simply a number of opportunities where it could have been improved.
But what shocked me the most about this album is the song Only For the Weak. As you can tell from the title, I find this to be a remarkable song. In all honesty, it is my all time favorite song. That chugging riff is infectious and within 20 seconds of listening to it it is impossible to not head-bang. The clean vocals are used quickly and well and are phased out by screaming and guitar solo styled melodies with that lead into the chorus. The solo is nothing special but is just right. The songs fades out on the chorus with a short synthesizer bit. Wow. The guitars are great and this song contains in my opinion the most complex drumming on the album. However, what really sold me was the impeccable lyrics. They are entirely realistic (unusual for a metal band) and amazing in every way. Best moment in the song: when Friden is screaming at the top of the lungs “The tale of a bitter man, here I am” and the music behind it also reaches a climax. Just all around amazing.
As a whole the album is all right, but I require that anybody who reads this at least somehow get Only For The Weak. In Flames gives you a decent listening session with the obvious gems and those songs that are just bland, not terrible. For mainstream listeners, this is a must buy, as it shows In Flames during their transition to more mainstream music. However, they remain true to themselves and that is certainly difficult to do under that sort of heading. If I did not already make it clear, buy Only For the Weak (other cool tracks are Swim, Bullet Ride, and Satellites and Astronauts).
After the relatively successful 1990's decade, the Gothenburg school (as in style, not a university) of melodic death metal began to hit a snag. Dark Tranquillity had experienced this with "Projector" and "Haven," released a year before and the same year as "Clayman" respectively. Neither were terrible albums, but neither had that spark that made "The Gallery" or "Mind's I" so good to listen to. In the same way, In Flames "Clayman" hits a speed bump, but for different reasons.
First off, when I hear this album, I hear In Flames trying to move into a new direction but perhaps a little unsure of where to go. On top of that, they also try to remain relatively planted in the same format that "Whoracle" and "Colony" had begun. This kind of playing it safe but also branching out usually doesn't result in a terrific album, and "Clayman" helps prove this point.
The bigger changes come in the form of Anders Fridén's vocals and some experimental noodling going on. The former seems to have dropped his previous vocal style, instead embarking on a mid range scream that isn't very powerful. Fridén has never been an amazing vocalist in my book, even bordering uninspired at times but here it seems too obvious. Even some clean vocal work heard on the title track begins to sound flat, which results in a downgrade from "Colony," which had a halfway decent vocal performance going for it. The experimental edge also creeps in more prevalently here, with the most obvious being "Only for the Weak," which seems like an arena attempt at melodic death metal.
In addition to the changes described above, the album itself just isn't that strong. It isn't terrible, not nearly to the extent of "Soundtrack to Your Escape" or the mind-numbing "A Sense of Purpose." It does give the listener some memorable tracks, which includes the title track despite the somewhat uninspired vocals. "Bullet Ride," "Pinball Map," and "Swim" are all memorable songs, and unfortunately the only ones I could remember after not hearing this album a few days. Those songs which aren't as easily recalled aren't terrible, necessarily, they just lack the ability to grab the listener's attention and hold it even after the song has faded into the distance.
For what it is, "Clayman" is a mostly average release. Not much to talk about but also not much to complain about. It provides audiences with a few songs to take home and write about, but ultimately, finds itself pushed aside in favor of its three predecessors. Its still a worthy addition for the diehard fan of In Flames, just not something I'd recommend to the average fan. Newcomers to this band or fans of their later career now getting in their earlier material would be advised to seek out "The Jester Race," "Colony," or perhaps "Whoracle," as those are the albums you'll find to be more worthy your time. "Clayman" isn't atrocious, but like the Gothenburg scene at the time, fails to establish itself as anything truly great.
C4 was bad enough, but Anders takes the cake for killing your ability to hear higher frequencies. God damn what the hell happened? He could barely sing on Colony, but this is just disgusting. I know screams are good in music, particularly black metal, but these screams make poppy screamo bands sound talented. It’s so annoying hearing him talk, scream, whine, and clean sing on this release that… really… it doesn’t matter how impressive the leadwork can be. They just sound so queasy, swine-like, annoying, and childish, but it combines well with the more childlike music so I guess the joke’s on me.
Lead wise it gets more inoffensive, with In Flames trying to branch out to teenagers this time. Leads aren’t as remarkable anymore, but they’re still overblown like on Colony, filling every gap and leaving no riff unpussified. Verse-chorus-verse-chorus predictability has become an In Flames trait now, and it really becomes redundant by the fourth song. Instead of being neutral, I just have no more reaction to anything this late in their career. It sounds so… artificial and mock - completely ditching all decorum that characterized Subterranean, The Jester Race, and even Whoracle. Good heavy metal leads start to dwindle, power metal rhythms begin to crumble, and bass pretty much isn’t a part of the band anymore (its just there so fans won’t ask why there isn’t any). All right whatever the bass is there, but it completely follows the rhythm guitar note-for-note and with much less volume – if I was the bassist, I’d be pissed. The only song that contradicts most of the criticism is “Swim” since it’s a short song with a raunchy solo bridge and extremely heavy Maiden worship.
The rest of it I’d call modern heavy metal with harsh vocals, but that doesn’t mean it’s that good. Where Colony was overly melodic and mediocre, Clayman is overly dull and despondent; a lot of energy with no life coming out of it. Svensson can’t even save the band with his hectic playing backed by super production standards. He can bash, crash, hit, and smite all he wants to, but everyone hearing this will take notice of the leads first – it’s a flytrap.
For a while I considered this the last good In Flames album and considering In Flames’ standards that’s kind of true, but really this is pretty uninspired. It’s worse than the previous two because it completely ditches the wonderful tone of antiquity and fantasy, opting for a more modern approach that kills all credibility. Svensson, get your fucking ass out of this band. I hope he only lived through recording the more appalling albums just so he can make some money to fund Sacrilege.
In Flames got their shit together with this release. Every song on this album is good - not a single dull track. This is an album I can play from Bullet Ride to Another Day in Quicksand without having to worry about that moment where I go, "Oh shit, this is the boring song I don't like" *skip*.
Now that doesn't mean that every song is classic material, there's just not a single bad song. I tried looking for a song that didn't have a single good riff or hook - failed. I tried looking for a song that was good and catchy but just not memorable - failed. When you combine great riffs, catchy hooks and original ideas to create an atmospheric album, it's going to turn out excellent.
Some say that this is the album where things started going downhill for In Flames. I say that happened when they changed producers, this is the last album produced by Fredrik Nordström. The difference between this album and its close sibling Colony are the diversity of ideas. They continue the tradition of acoustic breaks with Square Nothing, but also incorporate a spacey sounding acoustic break to introduce Satellites and Astronauts. Each song also has its own little quirk - Only For the Weak is that sing-a-long chorus and the neckbreaking opening riff. Suburban Me is the blurting bass-line in the first verse. Clayman has that arpeggio during the bridge and the circle-pit inducing chorus. Did I mention how well this album is mixed? All the instruments are where they are supposed to be - the bass isn't too muted and carries the rhythm with the drums and the guitars are up front and loud.
The only thing this album fails to deliver are memorable solos. When I think of Clayman, I think of hooks and catchy songs - not solos, and that is why this is only my second favorite album by In Flames.
With In Flames’ ninth full length album approaching in April it really makes you look back on the career that this band has had. They sure have changed their sound to many people’s dismay but the point is, they are still making music after nearly twenty years of their existence. I think that says something by itself.
I find Clayman to be a really interesting release. It seems to prove as a sort of transition to the drastic style-change from Colony to Reroute to Remain, and frankly, I think it works really well. It has all the trademark aspects of older In Flames albums with the inclusion of more clean vocals, which at some point, appear on almost all of the tracks and also more catchy hooks with the help of a synthesizer (Only for the Weak). The clean vocals sound the best on this album in my opinion. They seem less whiney than on later releases and are usually spoken rather than sung (Suburban Me). The harsh vocals sound great too with sort of a jump towards the higher pitched sound of later In Flames albums, although I still think Colony showcased the greatest vocals Anders Friden has come to offer. The duel guitar work on this album is as good as you would expect judging from past releases, in other words, quite mind blowing.
Opener Bullet Ride is a fun tempo changing track with an awesome chorus followed up by the live staple Pinball Map, which actually might have served as a better opening track. Only for the Weak incorporates a heavily synthesized sound but a very enjoyable headbanger if you’re into that sort of thing. If not, you probably stopped listening to this band in 2002.
Clayman is a very different sounding In Flames release and a really interesting and creative take on melodeth. Where does it fit amongst their best albums? I don’t know, and who cares. It doesn’t sound much like The Jester Race or Whoracle, and if it did, we would probably be bored of them by now. All I can say is that it is a welcome addition to their collection in my books.
In Flames have had a lot of ups and downs over their career, and "Clayman" is definitely an up. I read a lot of the reviews telling people why this album sucks, so here is one saying why it doesn't.
Firstly, Anders Friden's voice works. He has a fantastic death metal vocal sound that goes from a soaring scream to a deep throated growl, with everything in between, often in the same song - a good example of this would be the song "Square Nothing" which also includes some of the only 'clean' singing on the album (unlike their later releases which have a lot more of this evident.)
Musically, the album follows a similar pattern, in that we have hard and fast throughout, interjected with slightly slower elements that pop up every now and then. This, however doesn't detract from the overall pace of the album, and what you have, essentially is a heavy fast paced album that doesn't really let up from start to finish. Right from the get go with the song "Bullet Ride" you get a feel of how the rest of the album is going to shape up. The drumming is fast and relentless, the riffs are pounding and heavy, and the guitar solos hit just the right tone that add the final awesome touch to the sound. I think the best song on this album, which essentiall epitomises the classic In Flames sound has to be the title track. The song Clayman starts off with a driving drum beat, and melodic guitars riffing over the top, with Friden's distinctive guttaral growls kicking in fairly quickly. This doesn't let up the whole track, and at the end you are left with a metal sign raised, and your head banging. You just can't help it!
Incidentally, it was that song, and eventually this album that got me into death metal in the first place, so I have a personal respect for it...
In Flames have done some pretty lame stuff (Soundtrack to your Escape), and I know a lot of metal fans who hate them for this. But as far as an exciting, well paced and musically excellent album goes, you can do a lot worse than Clayman.
As Colony saw In Flames move towards a more direct and accessible sound, Clayman pushed the formula to a new extreme and undoubtedly proved to be the band's turning point. Clayman was the first album to really add more rock-based fury to the signature Gothenburg sound that the band had crafted; harmonies and leads still remain intact, but are generally used in a more linear way; the band openly embrace experiments with different clean guitar tones, such as the shimmering notes on "Square Nothing" and "Sattelites and Astronauts," and this is the first album from In Flames that truly delves into electronic noodlings with programmed beats and synths, such as "Only for the Weak." Even more controversial is Ander's change in vocal style. Rather than the slightly airy growl of Colony or Whoracle, Anders switches gears with a mid-ranged scream that he would use from that moment on. There is also a full-on display of clean vocals, not just a backup like previous albums. Though this undoubtedly takes some of the "death metal" edge away from the band's sound, it nonetheless shows a band stepping into their own modernized niche, for better or worse.
It's clear from the opener "Bullet Ride" that things have changed. Bjorn and Jesper put on display the band's evolution in a poignant way; shimmering clean guitars pluck through the verses, and stop-start power chord phrases collaborate with warm, rich leads, which also seem to have progressed beyond the typical Gothenburg melodies. "Swim" brings back some old-school flair, and is probably one of the only songs that still fully resonates of the band's old formula. I would go so far to say that most of the guitar work exceeds the "happy" feel of even Colony, especially the arena-like "Only for the Weak." Generally speaking, there aren't as many solos here, but it works within the music's more linear scope; the band still retain a healthy amount of melodeath tendencies, so it doesn't take too much away.
Daniel certainly stepped his game up, and in turn, it helps out the rest of the band. The more clean-cut song structures give the drums an extra push, seeing that there are more fills and overall confidence. The title track is a clear display of this. A cleaner, fuller drum sound also helps things out a great deal as well.
And now for Anders. For those who never liked his voice, this album most likely won't change your minds. His throaty yell/scream is not quite what he would use on RtR or STYE, but Clayman shows his venturing into that particular style. "Satellites and Astronauts" and "Brush the Dust Away" showcase the debut of his infamous clean vocals, albeit in a more subtle manner. Truth be told, it's a hell of a lot better than what was to come, but it will certainly grate the nerves of those who loathed him to begin with. Lyrically, things have gotten better, and like the rest of the music, more direct. Everything takes a more personal slant into self-doubt and introspection, with "Brush the Dust Away" being the only exception, since it takes a similar stance to older albums.
Though haters of the band easily target this album and flame it, this is the ultimate turning point for In Flames. They certainly couldn't make another Colony, and I'm actually rather grateful for that. Clayman serves as the perfect introduction to In Flames, and it contains the ultimate classic "Pinball Map," an essential In Flames track.
I've never been to Sweden before. Ever. That said, if someone asked me what my favourite Swedish city was, without hesitation I'd answer in my best growly voice: "Gothenbuuuuuurg!!!" Well, actually I wouldn't because that's retarded, but Gothenburg is still a pretty cool city anyway. In the 90's it was a hotbed for all those melodic death metal-like bands such as In Flames and Dark Tranquillity. Eventually, the creative term Gothenburg metal was coined for bands with a similar background and sound. Both In Flames and Dark Tranquillity have since released some excellent albums such as The Jester Race (In Flames) and Character (Dark Tranquillity). But it doesn't stop there, as In Flames have also recorded other successful albums. One of them was 2000's Clayman. The album was recorded in, you guessed it, Gothenburg Sweden. The album contains some of the bands more popular songs, such as the catchy Only For the Weak.
Clayman is appears to be one of those albums that people seem to really like or really dislike, with the spectrum is pretty extreme including some who revere this album, and others who consider it a black eye on the band’s career. For me, I find myself closer to the former as opposed to the latter, but I wouldn't exactly call it my favourite In Flames release. With that in mind, I still do like Clayman quite a bit. One of the reasons I enjoy this album so much is the actual music. While not especially heavy, Clayman is dripping with melody. And damn it, I have to have my melody. So I am more than happy with the direction the band has taken. Though purists may cry out blasphemy with this release, I feel that the lighter sound works very well for In Flames. Clayman feels very focused, riff after riff, drumbeat after drumbeat. Listening to songs such as, again, Only For the Weak or Pinball Map, it is apparent that the band has put a lot of effort into their music. Enjoyable, concise, and consistent are all adjectives which can be used to describe Clayman, as many of the albums songs feature several sections in which this the case. Clayman flows together very nicely and is definitely a fun album to listen to.
In Flames has one pretty important aspect that makes them a ton of fun to listen to. And that rests in that of their two axmen, Jesper Stromblad and Bjorn Geloette. Though their names are difficult to pronounce, the energetic playing of the tandem is not difficult to digest. These two give the band their signature sound, the enjoyable melody, hypnotizing harmonies, the crushingly heavy sections (for the most part), and the staggering solos. You couldn't really ask for anything more from the two members, as they perform their roles exceedingly well, and very rarely do they disappoint. Two songs where the pair stands out the most are Swim and Suburban Me. Both songs are very guitar orientated offerings, and on both songs Jesper and Bjorn give what are arguably their best performances. The riffs are exceedingly strong, combining the desired strength and melody. Also notable on Clayman regarding the two guitarists is the production on the guitars. Like many of the band's early albums, the guitars' tones are very enjoyable and definitely enhance the music. Just as in The Jester Race, Whoracle, and Colony, In Flames' guitarists steal the show, and are definitely among the highlights of the album.
Though perhaps not as good as The Jester Race or even Colony, 2000's Clayman is still a marvellous album. It is home to all sorts of excellent material, such as the title track or Only For the Weak, which may very well be the catchiest song the band has ever recorded. Clayman, though not devoid of errors and mistakes, is an incredibly fun album to listen to, as there are not any limits to the level of melody and precision that is produced. The two catalysts of this sound, Jesper and Bjorn, have an impressive showing and definitely meet the expectations. Clayman is a very enjoyable record, and despite the mixed reviews, fans of Gothenburg metal should definitely not shy away.
(Originally written for Sputnikmusic)
This is the first and only full In Flames album I've heard and I don't care to hear any other of their albums. Sorry, folks, but I don't care for Gothenburg very much and particularly this band.
First off, I was sent songs from Reroute to Remain(about 3 or 4 of them) and I was a little mystified, but not moved in any way. I don't see how people were thinking that In Flames had gone nu-metal on RtR because the trademark Gothenburgisms were still there, there was still a little soloing, the vocals weren't too present in the foreground etc.
The same guy who sent me a few RtR songs also decided to send me the full-length album Clayman, claiming it to be a really solid album. When listening to it, I'm sure I could give testament to that, as nothing really sticks out like a sore thumb on this release(except maybe for the vocals), but generally it's a forgettable release.
Sure, many of the choruses are uplifting and the guitar tones are razor-sharp at times, but it all feels too forced and like it was compacted very carefully into this perfect little package that's meant to be just a collection of songs and not moving compositions.
I've always thought of Gothenburg/melodic death metal bands as portraying more than just brutality, expecting high emotional output. It's very comparable to Linkin Park in the way the band seemed to have rushed the production. There is quite a lot of interesting soloing to be found here...nothing truly mindblowing, but blood-boiling nonetheless.
The vocalist is quite annoying, as his throaty rant is a sorry excuse for death metal vox. It's hard to describe except for the fact that it's mediocre. Soilwork, Callenish Circle, Dead Elizabeth, The Black Dahlia Murder, and others do it better.
This disc isn't too bad, but it's nothing truly memorable.