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In Flames were one of the first real metal bands that I began listening to around 2003; remember that Freddy Vs. Jason movie (yeah, enough said)?. The song “Trigger” was my introduction, and I thought In Flames were the gnarliest band on that movie’s soundtrack. It’d take a couple years later to further cement myself as a metal listener and delve into In Flames’ older catalogue, eventually coming across this and firmly shitting my pants. Nowadays Subterranean isn’t anything that blows my mind, aside from how the band went from this to A Sense Of Purpose. The skill is as good as it gets with these guys, as are the riffs, leads, and vocals, too. Just above twenty minutes of music is what’s offered on the original release, though there are re-releases with extra tracks which you may like (I’m not too fond of them).
Stanne turned tail to host Dark Tranquillity full-time and in his place we get the badass Henke Forss from Dawn. Now while his vocals in Dawn surpass the ones here, he still does a better job than Stanne and a better job than Anders’ overall career in the band. Whereas Stanne had some raspy growls, Forss has forceful screams all cut-up inside like a true crypt-robbing ghoul. In some desperate sense they are kind of thin, since he bests himself in Dawn as a mutilated demon, but props for him upping the competition for In Flames vocalists past and present. Forss is encircled by some wickedly historic and malevolent atmosphere – a staple of old school melodic death metal. The most ominous of this is unleashed right away on “Stand Ablaze” with its brooding keyboard intro straight from the protruding cracks of Hell (think Gorguts’ “Condemned To Obscurity,” but less threatening). Not like the drums, though: loud, precise, intimidating, and rolling with tank-like weight. The two guests musicians on the kit were great choices and the tantalizing gallop style employed by both trumps the clapping duty from before.
Jesper and Glenn have more than doubled their efforts since the debut to actually supply some boiling riff charges and incredibly harmonic leads on the ‘80s side of Iron Maiden. Nothing frail or timid about them, and the instrumental mixing has been cleansed, helping the overall tone of antiquity instead of only the guitars like on the Lunar Strain. While I do miss the thrash edge the band had on some of their songs, they do bump up the overall appeal of heartfelt tunes like the title track or the acoustic crutch-song “Timeless.” The bass support, while loud and thunderous on occasion, is still the same follow-the-leader stuff that works and doesn’t work at the same time. Not to say that it needs to always be autonomous and playing its own stuff, but backing the rhythm for thickening purposes wastes the instrument’s potential, especially on music like this that has the capabilities to be excavated further.
In Flames may have played an important role in the influence of a lot of bands and a genre or two, but to me their music precedes their fame. This claim is limited to only a couple releases, though, as everything else they’ve done has needlessly been mediocre or squandered for dreadlock maintenance. Subterranean is one of those lurker releases that takes little time to settle in and a lot of time to kick out. Think of it as the drug dealer that shows up at the party and still hangs around after the purchases, even though no one wants them around anymore… except Subterranean can stick around awhile longer since it comes with riffs.