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Whoracle is probably In Flames' weakest studio release. It doesn't have the bleak atmosphere of the first releases, fails to come around with the catchy melodies and vocal lines of the transitory middle years and doesn't feature the more experimental alternative rock touch of the contemporary releases. This album feels like a rehash of the previous output The Jester Race which had a couple of decent tunes but wasn't the band's greatest hour either. A look at the track list already reveals the lack of inspiration on this album. The record is only forty-two minutes short and includes two fluffy and inoffensive filler instrumentals plus a cover track by Depeche Mode which means that there are only thirty-three minutes of own music with vocals left. It's funny enough that "Everything Counts" is one of the more energizing and catchier tunes and a rather interesting choice for a cover song. I have always appreciated In Flames' cover tracks and this is no exception. The experimental yet inoffensive original doesn't impress me much but this version is catchy, heavy and melodic at the same time. From the band's own material, only "Episode 666" reaches the same level of addictive energy and would have been an obvious single choice for such a band.
The only other standout songs are the more experimental efforts. "Jester Script Transfigured" is sometimes missing a clear guiding line but includes a couple of promising song writing ideas in a running time of almost six minutes. The acoustic guitar parts are moving and the distorted violon sounds add an elegant, elegiac and melancholic touch to a track that never falls off the edge. "Worlds Within the Margin" also breaks the five minute mark and is one of the darkest and harshest tracks on the record. It features a fine touch of symphonic elements which is rather unusual for the band. The symphonic extreme metal experiment sounds very promising though and it's sad that the band didn't push this combination of genres any further until today.
The other songs are generic melodic death metal. These tracks are short and to the point, feature a couple of harsh riffs and focus more on the vocals than before. The problem is that the vocals aren't very variable on here. The lyrics are also rather unimpressive. The riffs start to get repetitive after a while and the album doesn't include many heartbreaking melodic guitar solos. The rhythm section with bass guitar and drums is unimpressive. In Flames has never been a band centered on the rhythm instruments but this element has never been as inoffensive and unimportant as on this output. A more dynamical production would have helped to solve this problem.
In the end, Whoracle is not an abominable output but it is mostly boring, repetitive and uninspired. It's the most forgettable studio effort by a band that constantly tried out new things. It feels like an unmotivated rehash of The Jester Race where the band was just lazy and wanted to fool around a little bit. I can only recommend this release to faithful collectors and die-hard fans. It would have been a better choice to release this record as a short and entertaining EP featuring only the best tracks "Jotun", "Jester Script Transfigured", "Worlds Within the Margin", "Episode 666" and maybe the cover of "Everything Counts".
The sound of Whoracle is rife with grimy, grungy aesthetics, the sort of subdued guitar playing with some acoustics sprinkled in and of course, screecing, irritating vocals that clash with the music. I guess I just never got In Flames, but after years and years of listening to melodic metal I feel like I'm about as qualified as I'm ever going to be to talk about it.
I guess there's no point in beating around the bush – the harsh vocals don't work. Even if Friden was really good, it would probably still sound a bit too out of place to totally gel, but seriously these are some of the worst vocals I've ever heard. He sounds like a cat with Strep throat being run over by a lawnmower. How is this enjoyable? I can kind of see the music being enjoyable, but the vocals are so omnipresent in this thing and so relentlessly unentertaining and unlistenable I can barely stand to hear even one song. He's just complete shit. I dunno what kind of a person he is in real life, and I hate to just start off right out of the gates bashing this dude I know nothing about, but come on – the sore-throat howling all over this album is seriously just unbearable.
If that wasn't enough, he also switches it up now and then for a truly ridiculous sounding muttering spoken-word voice that's supposed to sound like Lou Reed or something – and if not, then I guess it's just supposed to sound ominous. He usually does this over the acoustic sections, which is a blessing because I think putting his normal harsh voice over those would have been just too much to bear. But it still sounds ludicrous and embarrassing, with no real charisma or power behind it – it sounds like your dorky older brother who just hit puberty trying to scare your sister's hot friends at a Halloween party with the lights off.
It just clashes with the music, too – this is very low-key music, and at best, if I really stretched it, I'd say maybe some really deep, dark, Nick Holmes on the early Paradise Lost albums kind of growl would have fit this music. Certainly not Friden's caterwauling. The music isn't very dark or creepy or anything – it's rather relaxed, melodic music with a pinch of fuzzy, cynical 1990s-style heaviness and a certain kind of melancholy at times in the atmosphere and acoustics, but really nothing that screams “this needs harsh vocals, right now.” Clean vocals would work better here – not clean vocals delivered by Anders Friden, but clean vocals delivered by anybody else would certainly be an improvement.
Harsh vocals are to be used like instruments, not to actually carry melody and be sounded out like regular vocals – and they certainly shouldn't be used at the forefront of the fucking music all the time. Despite my rather dogmatic views on this, I do believe people should continue to do what they want and experiment with music. After all, that's the beauty of human expression. However, when your experiments and fresh ideas turn out like this, I guess I'm just getting off at the next stop and don't want to go any further on your train ride to shit.
I will say that he does sound better on here than any of the subsequent albums I've sampled. I couldn't make it even one full song through Clayman for example – eugh.
The music isn't really that special or anything – it's very droll, basic melodic metal with chugging riffs interspliced with rather saccharine melody lines, and it never goes too fast, too slow or anything; it's right in the middle really. The song structures are pretty poppy and most of them tend to sound alike. There's just not a lot going on and the whole is really rather banal and bland. The bright spots come in the way of the acoustics, which are kind of nice and do tend to spice up the rest of the music. The instrumental “Dialogue with the Stars” is actually good and kind of interesting, and “Jester Script Transfigured” is musically the most adventurous track with its segues between acoustic and heavier parts. But most of the other songs fail to capitalize on the moody atmosphere the band wants to convey, and a lot of that may be down to having to follow Friden's limited vocals. I dunno; I could be wrong about that – who ever knows what's going on inside a band's studio? But either way it's uninspiring.
If this is some kind of classic now, well so be it, but it's not one I need to hear again.
Originality in songwriting is so much on here and I think it's In Flames' best, but it really did lack a solid production quality sound. If it was better, then my rating would be 100%. There is nothing (to me) boring about this release. It is riff-tastic and a extremely high quality written melodic death metal album. There is a combination of heavy C-toned guitar work flavored with some clean melodies and an instrumental. I'd have to say that riff-wise it's In Flames' best written album to date. So many would contest this based on checking over the scores it received, but I'd say In Flames' selective recreation of their reality based on their Gothenburg style of melodic death shined with vigor.
The music here is top notch like no other featuring heavy bar chord riffs meshed with many different melodies that are played alongside them with precision. I would have to say that I preferred "Gyroscope" and "Episode 666" to be the best tracks on here. However, every song has amazing melodies (as is being discussed) and I would consider this album to be highly underrated. I don't think it is at all overrated and those who heard that on here would conclude that this is an amazing release. I don't think that In Flames could've topped this out of any album that they have released from the past to present dates.
Lead guitar work was quite impressive and perfective all over the fretboard, so simply amazing! The vocals did not vary that much, mostly high end screaming with some clean which went alongside the clean guitar bits. They (the vocals) really suited the guitar well and did not drown out the music. The deluxe edition features bonuses which were really a good complimentary addition to the main album. I'd say that other than the production quality not being their best it lacked not only there, but also in the mixing, the bass guitar was a little hard to hear. The drums went well along with the music and fit in with the mild/moderate tempos and licks.
Everything was right in queue with this monumental album, my favorite out of their entire discography. It did have that aggression (as previously discussed), but not very fast tempos and their cover of Depeche Mode's "Everything Counts" was very well played out. No complaints on that end. Really don't expect them to be explosive here guitar wise and with severe tempo changes. The album showed very good musicianship lyrically, melody wise and aura inspiring. I'd say it'd be easier to listen to more often if the album was totally remastered very much like Death's remastered releases.
Bottom line, if you're highly into melodic death metal, this one is not an album to pass up. Yes it has a few flaws, but overall the quality is there and riff work was highly respected by me as a listener. If you're not convinced, check out those tracks that I mentioned plus "Jotun" and "Food For the Gods." In summation, In Flames stuck real quality in this album. I don't think that it's highly overrated Gothenburg metal, I'd say that it's up there in the way that At the Gates' "Slaughter of the Soul" is, so own it then you can be your own critic and establish your own value judgment on it. So near utmost perfection!
There have been two camps with diametrically opposed views regarding In Flames’ turn in style in 1997 with the release of “Whoracle”, accompanied by a somewhat smaller camp that insists that such a change did not occur. It’s pretty difficult to fathom why the third camp even exists given that the divergence between said album and all preceding material is pretty massive, but perhaps it could be chalked up to loyalty to a band that kept metal relevant during the dark days of the mid 1990s. But the more challenging thing to do is to approach this album from a standpoint of objectivity, given the heightened expectations brought on by the preceding material, and also the notoriety that the band has enjoyed for the better part of 15 years.
All things considered, insofar as the style of the controversial 1997 follow up to “The Jester Race” goes, the dominant sound is still mostly in the band’s principle style. But simultaneously, it should be noted that the one-dimensional, short and formulaic, melody before aggression, mostly mid-tempo approach that is taken here has been plagiarized to no end by countless metalcore bands who claim melodeath tendencies. The whiny and lackluster character of Fridén’s vocal interpretation of late 80s old school death shouts, which sound haggard and hoarse than they do menacing, do nothing to help alleviate the inevitable comparisons to later bands hostile to metallic tradition such as Bullet For My Valentine and Atreyu. Pile on top of this an even larger amount of whispered narrations (which are not necessarily out of place on a concept album) and even a few poorly realized clean sung passages, and the missing link between this album and the spiritual descendant of nu-metal becomes quite apparent.
Nevertheless, in spite of the many glaring flaws that were not present previously, much of this album still holds a charm and appeal to anyone who was taken in by the previous studio incarnations. The melodic material retains that tuneful, semi-folk music character that was exploited by early to mid 80s NWOBHM bands, and is delivered in a somewhat more fuzz driven character. The track layering is very well accomplished, as the wandering higher guitar melodies stand out the most, yet don’t fully detract from the heavier speed metal riffing and straight up yet pounding drum lines. The songs tend to blur together as the band doesn’t really switch keys often and finds itself rehashing similar ideas at various points of different songs, but enough variety is established through acoustic passage usage and occasionally speeding things up to keep things moderately interesting.
Perhaps the biggest problem at play here is the hit or miss tendency of the songs, as a concept album would usually lend itself to a full listen from start to finish. The marginally catchy and slow paced starting song “Jotun”, apart from having an opening riff that sounds like it was borrowed from The Police and jacked up with distortion, tends to stand out with a good amount of variety stuffed into its near 4 minute duration. Likewise, “Gyroscope” throws in a nice serene acoustic intro before punching in a familiar mix of melodic clichés, and “Morphing Into Primal” kicks up the tempo a little to add a needed contrast to a very predictable riff set. But the real strengths of this album come about when the band either fully exploits their prowess at delivering moving acoustic sections such as found in “Jester Script Transfigured”, or gets the vocals out of the picture to give the band’s riff work room to breathe on “Dialogue With The Stars” and the title song.
This is a really difficult album to have a really clear opinion on because it seems to go back and forth between being a serious effort and being a fluff fest for radio play. The album producer’s testimony that the band seemed more inclined towards goofing off rather than recording the album isn’t really a hard thing to picture when listening to this, which is somewhat irritating given that the album’s concept of human self-destruction and overall lyrical content had some real potential. This is an album that has its fair share of filler, though there are some killer pieces hidden within it, and screams inconsistent like a slow dying murder victim. Seek this in the bargain bin, and avoid listening to the shitty cover of “Everything Counts” at all costs.
For those within the one-time echelon of IN FLAMES/Gothenburg fandom, it all comes down to this...the penultimate FLAME-y album, one of the end-all-be-all melodic death metal albums, a masterpiece in every possible way. Sure, it all sounds pretty golden in that all-that-glitters catagory, and for my money consistent praise can only go so far until you feel the urge to partake in its wares for yourself, just to see if the positivity is justified.
Sorry, but it ain't.
I'll start with the good, firstly...the performance on the album is pretty top notch, tight, and showing more than a fair share of competence. Given their style you need to be able to wrap both hands around your instruments and let it rip as best as possible to keep those tasty melodies alive, and the definitely do, if not with more tightened chops. The likes of "Lunar Strain" and "Subterranean” showed a lot of promise in the musicality, but the performance was quite immature and sloppy. This time around, the twin guitar leads, punchy rhythm work, and snarling vocals go hand-in-hand-in-hand with a definitive skill and technicality that shows a band really on its mark, where the melody takes top billing over the riffing and arrangements, shown by the likes of “Jotun”, “Dialogue with the Stars” and “Episode 666”.
But unfortunately, it’s not a perfect picture all around…the overall feel of the album, including even the aforementioned good tracks, is a lackluster, boring, and increasingly unoriginal foray into middle-of-the-roadness that flitters by to become the most metallic of background music. Each song has the same tempo, the same melodies, and at times, the same damn riffs, over and over until the album’s completion. Seriously…if you skip half-way through the given song and listen to the next, you probably won’t even know the difference. This is augmented most noticeably with the likes of “Food for the Gods”, “The Hive”, and “Morphing into Primal”, each interchangeable by song title only. A good 80% of the album unnecessary filler, but it makes the whole album an unnecessary listen. Which I’m sure the band wasn’t shooting for.
So all in all this isn’t anything special at all. IN FLAMES have always been very hit or miss, but this album is one of their biggest MISS moments. Ignore this and seek out “Colony”.
After the highly commendable "The Jester Race," In Flames began to craft a new artistic niche for themselves. One of the more visual changes was the transformation into the new logo, which is more straight-forward than the old version but logos aren't everything. In addition to this, In Flames began to craft their sound more to a wider appeal, which continued exponentially with every release on up until the modern day. This new change in sound isn't necessarily bad, nor is it ever inherently bad so long as the artist in question makes it pleasing to listen to. By most means, "Whoracle" is a great sounding album, as it takes on new directions while also making a logical step forward from the previous album.
The production issues present on "The Jester Race" have been taken care of, the drums are more present in the mix, giving the album a driving edge. The drum work itself still isn't very impressive, but it fulfills the job at hand. The leads and guitar work are very catchy, making the good share of these songs highly memorable but they don't rely solely on infectious melodies to capture one's attention. Most everything here is finely tuned Swedish melodic death metal, and "Whoracle" is definitely one of the best albums In Flames has ever gotten around to putting out.
There are a cache of good things to enjoy here, from the sheer catchiness of the majestic works on "Jotun" and "Gyroscope," to the incredible solo present on "The Hive." Of course there is also "Episode 666" which remains an In Flames concert staple and a fan favorite. Yet these alone aren't all that bear mentioning. "Dialogue with the Stars" is a nice little instrumental, that reminds a little of "Wayfarer" from "The Jester Race." There isn't as much classic guitar work here as before, seen on songs like "Moonshield" but they do occur, particularly within "Gyrocscope." There is also the speedy "Morphing Into Primal," which seems to be overlooked sometimes, despite being a highlight in my book.
While most of this album listens very well, I found some songs to be something of a downer. "Jester Script Transfigured," despite working well in its seemingly experimental territory, is an odd choice on this particular album. "Whoracle" isn't exactly firmly grounded in a singular mode throughout its duration, but that song took me by surprise. "Worlds Within the Margin" starts off pretty well but its a bit too slow and begins to grow tedious as it nears the five minute mark. While both of these are not necessarily bad and both are listenable, the Depeche Mode cover in "Everything Counts" is a serious mis-step in covers. I don't know why it was included or how it relates to the topics at hand (which I understand revolve around a utopian society destroyed by human nature) but it seems really out of place and could have been left out. Aside from this one song, none of these are throwaways and all listen well to some degree.
While there will forever be the contest of "the" In Flames album, divided up between "The Jester Race," "Whoracle," "Colony," and a small minority who advocate "Clayman," my vote goes with this one. Its a close tie with "Colony" and slightly over "The Jester Race" but all three of these are necessary listens for fans of ear-friendly melodic death metal. Of them, however, "Whoracle" stands out as the uniformly best of them. The music here isn't awe-inspiringly technical nor progressive, its mostly traditionally inspired songwriting meant to please the ears with some gracious melodies and lead work. Despite its singular misfire in the Depeche Mode cover, and fairly mundane drumming that's going on, "Whoracle" is a respectable album and absolutely necessary for In Flames fans. Anyone who praises newer In Flames but has not heard the old, is in desperate need of experiencing just how good this band really was at one time.
If you had me review this album three years ago, it’d be quite the fanboy rant. This album never was my favorite of early In Flames, but now that I’ve had all these years for it to sink in I’ve realized that it’s not my favorite because it’s a bland, cowardly attempt at its own genre. I find Klimt 1918 to be even more aggressive than these guys now, which is saying a lot. The Jester Race lost its awe over the years, but that album still had a great tracklist heavily inspired by power metal with some style. Here it just sounds redundant, lame, and contrived while still drawing strictly Maiden influences.
Vocals got tamer, sadly, when with the two prior vocalists they had some vigor and hostility to them. Even Anders on the prior album I can dig because he sounds so twisted, but here it’s a false scream / growl with very little lasting power. It doesn’t fit nicely with the music and actually gets buried under the whole thing – I know this guy could growl, he did it on the last album, so where is it? Even his clean vocals on the Depeche Mode cover, which is an awful cover in itself, just solidifies the fact that his voice is changing for the worst – the first sign for fans who would be sorely disappointed with In Flames’ direction from here on. The vocals have no real energy or appeal to them in anyway, so to me it’s the biggest offense to a band that had no problem with it spanning three vocalists until the release of this album.
Production is supposed to be better than The Jester Race, but the riffs don’t sound like it. I'm a huge fan of that Studio Fredman mid-to-late '90s arcane guitar tone. In fact, the more brooding and vintage qualities of the previous album album overpower the synthetic ones despite the lack of proper tooling. I don’t want to pull out the nightstick just yet, since the drumming, as stock as it is, sounds better than the vocals. Gelotte knew what the hell he was doing on some of these songs when it came to bouncy patterns and how to put on a jovial performance, but his intensity dropped a few notches.
Bass kind of… runs… with not much to grasp. Then again, most of the songs are shallow in nature and don’t really go beyond what you hear within their time limits. That’s another thing this album lacks – depth (it starts with "Food For The Gods"). Maiden’s songs you could envision something, paint a picture, etc. That's a rare feeling on Whoracle. Some songs just have shitty riffs: “Gyroscope,” which I still fail to see what makes it such a staple, has one of the most annoying choruses in the genre and a muddy riff to go along with it. Not even the solo on it feels that it can do such a travesty any justice. Which is weird, considering that songs I find eating shit somehow redeem themselves (rather miniscule, though) when the solos hit: “The Hive” I thought sounded like a jackhammer in a haystack, but as soon as that power –esque solo contributed I knew there was something to headbang to. It sounds so classical and epic, even though I know a portion of it sounds stolen from Arch Enemy's "Fields Of Desolation" (the part at 3:20). Others like "Worlds Within The Margin" and "Jester Script Transfigured" have nice melodies within their plodding structure.
What disappoints me is how such a tight guitar duo faltered. They were capable enough of not only writing good riffs, but performing them as well. They dumbed down the music instead. Colony kicks the shit out of this, and that's only a few levels up. Here they still manage to retain their power metal style, creating an atmosphere where the old ways still had authority in the last days of an aging realm. “Jotun” has power metal ties and flare that suits itself well and the instrumental “Dialogue With The Stars” still shows the band proving that they can infuse something interesting without relying on choruses. "Episode 666" is standard fair but it's a fun song to listen to with its more aggressive nature. For In Flames fans, this one is a half and half. You’ll probably love it if you took the same route I did when listening to metal, but you’ll agree that it isn’t anything to top most melodic death of its time. Give it some more time and you’ll rarely see yourself coming back to this one. Hear one song after a while and it’ll remind you exactly why.
In Flames really knew how to create perfection back in the golden days of melodic death metal. Whoracle is their third full length and follow up to The Jester Race, their previous masterpiece. Here we are shown a more angry, aggressive approach to the sound, still containing excellent and appropriately used melody.
Whoracle is a concept album based on humanity becoming increasingly advanced until we bring upon our own doom as a result of ignorance and misused power. These apocalyptic themes are present in all songs, some more than others (Jotun, Episode 666) and give the album tremendous focus. Focus within the sound of the music is something In Flames are generally consistent in yet excelled in the area on early releases. On Whoracle, it is achieved by a varying sound. Acoustic guitars are used to great effect and the riffs are some of their best. Specifically, the acoustic interlude in The Jester Script Transfigured is atmosphere within itself. It carries a mood of solitude yet hope and remembrance. This leads into a massive crushing wall of riff from Jesper and Bjorn and desperate shrieks of agony from Anders. More diversity in the music includes the layered clean vocals in the chorus of Gyroscope, the violently fast paced Morphing Into Primal, and the slow yet crushing Worlds Within The Margin.
The riffs are similar to those off of The Jester Race - amazing. The cleaner production gives an entirely different mood to them though. This becomes immediately evident on the unforgettable opener, Jotun. Song writing has become more focussed within the guitars, perhaps best displayed on the instrumental Dialogue With The Stars. Anders gives one of his best performances on Whoracle. The way he spews utter emotion and anguish into every growl makes for an incredibly memorable presentation. The lyrics are simply the best the band has produced and some of the best I have come across. Each song is built up of remarkable poetry about human weakness and failure.
If people don’t like this album it must be because they don’t like the genre in general because coming from a fan of melodic death metal, this is top of the class. In Flames certainly don’t make music like this anymore, no one does. It’s hard to find good melodeath these days, most bands carry metalcore influences or turn shitty after one album. But when you have classics like these to fall back on, why would you need anything else?
As a follow up to the absolute masterpiece that was The Jester Race, Whoracle had quite a task to live up to. That album (as you will know if you've read my review) just struck something with me, and I never thought they'd be able to match it, and honestly Whoracle doesn't. But, it's still an absolutely amazing album. The guitar work of Jesper Strömblad and Glenn Ljungström is still the focal point here, and they don't disappoint. Jotun alone contains enough timeless melodic guitar lines to satisfy me, but the whole album is packed with them.
The sound of the album is quite different to that of its predecessor. The sound is much clearer, and generally the songwriting has tightened up. The songs are fairly compact and distinct from each other, but unfortunately the production is just lacking that atmosphere that The Jester Race had. No doubt, some of the instruments (especially the acoustic guitars on Whoracle and Jester Script Transfigured) sound a lot better but the way it comes together just doesn't have that magic that The Jester Race did, but I wasn't expecting it to, so no matter.
If you're a fan of Dark Tranquillity, then this album is also definitely one you'll like, as there a few songs on Whoracle (most notably Worlds Within The Margin) as there are some moments which have that DT vibe going on. You could argue that since the two bands are closely linked and from the same scene, then they sound very similar anyway but I don't see it. Anyway, I digress.
Since the guitar work is most definitely the instrument that takes the limelight in this type of music, the other instruments can often go quite underappreciated. However, unlike most In Flames albums, I found the drumming on a lot of Whoracle to be quite average. While there aren't any points where you notice any bad drumming, it seems to be drumming-by-numbers for the most part which is disappointing considering how good Björn Gelotte's performance on The Jester Race was. That's not to say he doesn't have his moments, though. His drumming on Food For The Gods and the way it works with the bass and rhythm guitars is what makes that song so great and his simple tom work on the softer parts of the album sounds fantastic.
The most underappreciated instrument with In Flames though is undoubtedly the bass. While the bass parts aren't exactly outstanding from the guitar parts (ever), the sound of Johan Larsson's bass is really quite important to the sound of some of these riffs. A fine example would be Episode 666. The main riff is very much about the guitar, but without the bass it would not have nearly as much backbone as it does, and the power of that riff would be mostly lost. Note how that power is actually fairly absent from Everything Counts, a Depeche Mode cover, just because of a lesser bass presence.
That brings me onto the concept of the album. That's right, even a cover song is part of the concept of Whoracle, quite well placed as a sort of 'moral of the story' ending to the album. The album describes the life and crushing death of a society in a futuristic world. The concept was devised by vocalist Anders Fridén, but the lyrics were in fact written by Dark Tranquillity guitarist Niklas Sundin. I've got to say, the lyrics on Whoracle are better than the lyrics Anders writes himself, with a very nice balance between the traditional In Flames imagery and a dark edge. Unfortunately, however, there are still quite a lot of awkward lines that detract from the poetic nature of the lyrics. The song with one of the most interesting ideas (Episode 666, in which an apocalyptic event is televised) is in fact written the worst, with such lines as "Welcome here, the squirrel-wheel begins". I have no idea what that's meant to mean either. Overall though, the lyrics are very good and quite interesting to read.
What matters more than the lyrics, though, is how they're delivered and Anders does a solid job on this album. The first you hear of him on Jotun is in fact spoken word, and there's more of that on bits of the album, however it sounds poor. Sorry Anders, but you aren't John Haughm. It's not at all frequent enough to really care about though, as his growls on this album are strong. He can put the same kind of power into an immediate metal attack like Food For The Gods as well as he can into a slow-burner such as Gyroscope, and while I don't think his vocals here are the strongest he's done, they are certainly good enough.
So, even though I have pointed out a few flaws in Whoracle, they are all minor and the absolutely sublime guitar work on this album more than negates any problems the album could possibly have. While it doesn't quite compare to the perfect sound of The Jester Race, songs like Food For The Gods, Jotun and the beautiful Whoracle make this album an absolutely essential purchase.
By the year 1997, In Flames had released two great albums (The Subterranean EP being the best thing they've ever done), ranging from the overall rawness of "Lunar Strain" to the polished and more melody-based "The Jester Race" and established themselves as one of the quintessential bands of the famed Gothenburg scene. I happen to like In Flames a lot because of those two albums (and the EP), but hell, "Whoracle" is really overrated.
"The Jester Race" was the album that laid the blueprint for the subgenre, not this. This is a worsened, more streamlined and dumbed down version of the aforementioned classic. Every element of TJR is here, but watered down and made uninteresting by the songwriting flaws. "Whoracle" is just a bloody repetitive album on which the musicians involved think they can write songs that revolves around ONE idea/motif that gets played over and over again and get away with it. And guess what, they DID get away with it, because this album is considered a Gothenburg classic. What a joke.
When it comes to this band's bad albums right before their recent mallcore atrocities, some long-time fans seem to simply forget about this one and point "Colony" (Which is not a bad album by any means) or "Clayman" (Which is far more commercial, but still not dull enough to be entirely mallcore) as the rotten apples in the orchard, but I beg to differ. "Whoracle" is where In Flames' most poignant flaws (No, it's not the whiny multi-tracked vocals nor the vacuum-cleaner distortion, not yet) come to light, and they piss me off.
Now, let’s begin with Anders’ annoying performance. This guy was never a great vocalist to begin with, always sounding way too much hoarse, at least to my ears. Also, he should never, NEVER try to sing clean vocals. Nevertheless, we are forced to listen to his irritating and downright laughable crooning in every single In Flames album since "The Jester Race". Take "Jester Script Transfigured", for an example. That's a pretty nice and relaxing ballad with great melodies and an overall trippy feeling, but Friden's abysmal clean vocals fucking ruin the verses and severely maim the atmosphere of this nice song. Also when he's not trying to sing, he just... Talks (Jotun's verses) or does some kind of stupid and nonsensical voiceover (Intro of "Worlds within the Margin"). Goddamn, just shut up and let the guitars play!
If you're the vocalist of a melodeath band and sometimes feel like skipping the growls, you should try to reach some degree of melody with your voice! For an example, Mikael Stanne's experimentation with clean vocals on Projector sound a billion times better than this.
As for the guitars, they really don't impress me. I mean, Jesper's fancy melodies and cool soloing are still there, but the riffing is awful and repetitive as hell. Take a look at "Jotun"; the first 33 seconds of the song are cool and rocking enough, but suddenly Anders comes out of nowhere with his cemetery answering machine vocals and everything goes downhill, the riffing becomes a lot of simple mallcore chugging and the main melody gets repeated into oblivion. The same thing happens with other songs like "Episode 666" and "The Hive", where they just keep playing the same goddamn riff over and over again with very slight modifications, and on top of that, we have Anders droning, uninteresting vocal attack that shows no dynamics, no forcefulness and no variation whatsoever.
Apparently, "Whoracle" has a concept behind it. The fact is that if you don't know this, you will only find out after some research, because the godawful lyrics won't help you. I mean, "Episode 666" is about an apocalyptic event that's being televised, but who the hell would've guessed it? That shit doesn't make sense at all! Listen, I’m all into abstract, metaphorical and subjective music (I like Arcturus), but this meaningless garbage is terrible. You've got a pretty nice concept behind your album and you just don't know how to put it into lyrics? Screw this, go listen to Edge of Sanity and learn something.
The drums are pretty standard and the bass is mostly inaudible. Big surprise, ain't it? Yeah, this is a far cry from the Subterranean EP days.
Now, this isn't a totally worthless album, there are some cool things here and there. In Flames always knew how and when to use acoustics, and they do one hell of a good work here, every acoustic passage on this album rocks (Even the title track), especially on my favorite track "Dialogue with the Stars" (Guess why? Yes, it's an instrumental), that has a folky atmosphere going on and remembers me of this band's best song, Moonshield. Also, the synth parts in "Worlds within the Margin" are subtle but pretty cool if you manage to ignore Ander's attempts to imitate a parrot.
I really like those brief moments when Strömblad remembers he's a talented guitarist and decides to nail kickass solos in otherwise boring songs (The Hive, Morphing Into Primal and the aforementioned WWTM, where the synths meld with the guitars in the end of the solo, creating a brief but very cool wall of sound).
Well, this one receives a lot of praise, but I'm telling you, it's not all that good. If you have an open mind and can get past the sheer repetition and awful vocals, there's a chance you might dig this. If that's the case, check out "Dialogue with the Stars" for a very nice instrumental, "Jester Script Transfigured" for a great 'space rock acoustic guitar meets folky electric riffs' ballad, "Gyroscope" for another fun balance between acoustic/electric, "The Hive" for cool power metal soloing and "WWTM" for simple but tasteful synth usage and that's it. Oh, and do yourself a favor and ignore the Depeche Mode cover, please.
If you're new to In Flames, check out "Colony" or "The Jester Race" first, leave this little uncoordinated chugfest for later, the band can (or could) do better.
In Flames is one of those bands that many people just love to hate. While I still like their newer stuff I can’t help but understand why some people feel it’s weak even though I think it’s morbidly underrated. What I fail to understand is the hate that people have for In Flames’ earlier albums. Their first 4 albums are essentially near-flawless masterpieces, with Clayman following very closely behind. Of all their albums however, I always have a certain personal admiration for Whoracle. I can’t really explain it really, since I consider this album on par with The Jester Race and Colony, but there you go…
The album opener, Jotun, shows what’s new for In Flames since The Jester Race. Well actually the change was visible on the Black Ash Inheritance EP. This is extremely melodic metal. You might say melodic death metal but that’s really just because the vocals are reminiscent of death metal compared to, say, power metal, which is melodic and what some less enlightened fellows seem to call In Flames. They have some of the most beautiful and yet at the same time powerful riffs I’ve heard. Anders’ vocals are excellent and certainly stronger than what they would become later on.
This excellent style of extremely melodic riffs packed with Anders’ old growls and some very good bass and drum work continues all throughout the album. Foods For The Gods, Gyroscope, Worlds Within The Margin, Episode 666….all of these are the definition of melodic death metal.
There is, however, one track that I’ve omitted for this “best-of” list and that’s The Hive.
Don’t think that I hate it…quite the contrary. I didn’t mention it because it’s simply the most amazing track on here. If it would end at the 2:45 mark it would be among the above tracks, that is an excellent melodeath song. However, then comes the solo. Jasper pulls off what it undoubtedly the best melodic solo I’ve heard. It’s breathtaking. I must admit, however, that I haven’t listened to Dark Tranquillity’s classic first two albums nor to Arch Enemy’s first three so I can’t say it’s the best solo from the genre. But this is still incredible.
Other qualities that make this album as amazing as, well, as amazing as I say it is, are the two instrumental tracks, Dialogue With The Stars and the closing title track as well as the more experimental track Jester Script Transfigured. Dialogue With The Stars is a beautiful acoustic piece laden with melodic riffs that does an excellent job at dividing the album between the first three tracks and the rest of the album, and Whoracle is a very different piece which goes in a crescendo all through its 2 minutes 44 seconds and actually contains some very beautiful yet very low volume female vocals by Ulrika Netterdahl.
If you’re reading this review and the ones below it you probably like or are at least interested by melodic death metal. Or you’re simply one of the too many morons who seem to like to give bad reviews to any melodic death metal album while stating that the genre sucks…not that we’re asking ourselves what you’re doing here but anyway. I’m happy now I got that out of my system. In short this is an excellent album for those of you who can understand its innumerable qualities. Get this if you like melodic death metal because it’s among the best of the genre. The only slight flaw that prevents this from obtaining a 100% rating lies in the relative weakness of the seventh track, Morphing Into Primal, which I simply consider to be on a lower level than the rest of the album.
In Flames... a name that has seemed to join the ranks of Metallica and others as being a sell-out. However, back in the day they were the elite in melodic death metal. Friden didn't sound like Elmer Fudd, his growls were more menacing, more towards Mikael Stanne than before.
I keep hearing The Jester Race as being their greatest work, yet I think Colony is much better, with more depth and feeling. Where does this leave Whoracle? Right in the middle. This is a step up from The Jester Race and just a wee bit less than Colony.
The overall feel that skyrocketed Colony to my all time favorite Melodeath disc is present on this CD as well, but at the same time this has the classic acoustic work that In Flames seems to have abandoned lately. They add more depth to the songs, such as Gyroscope. Without the acoustic intro, that song wouldn’t have as much of a punch to it like it does now.
What play the biggest role in creating a brilliant atmosphere are the guitars. The riffs are amazing, they are tight and fun to listen to, dancing around the fret board like… little jesters. That’s what I envision these riffs to be, little jesters dancing on a fret board. Putting away the silliness, one thing In Flames does so extremely well are the rhythms. They are energetic and drive the solos crazier than if there were just a bass accompanying them.
However, the bass provides a subtle backdrop of power that isn’t as in your face, but it’s similar to the feel that is given by the acoustic parts. During the acoustic interludes, the bass is most apparent, but when there are rhythm guitars flying off during a solo, it takes a careful ear to hear the bass.
The drumming is fairly standard, it’s tight with the guitars and bass and does its job. That’s all I really need to say about it.
Anders’ vocals on this album are a lot better than what they have become in recent years. Even when he attempts clean singing, he doesn’t sound like Elmer Fudd, although he’s no Bruce Dickinson either. His growls are better than the ear ringing shrieks he develops later on to accompany his Fudd impressions, they meld in with the guitar parts a hell of a lot better than on their later albums. His lyrics are the standard metaphorical abstractions that seem to be the only similarity between this album and STYE. However, on here, they are more focused on the state of humankind, while on STYE they are focused on the state of Anders’ mind.
There is hardly any filler on this album. Dialogue With The Stars might be considered such, as it’s only a 3 minute instrumental, but it’s far from boring. It’s not the kind of filler that provokes one to skip it. The very last track on this album, Whoracle, is… but it’s in the best spot – the last track. It’s a rather boring outro, and the worst song on the album, and In Flames had the common courtesy to put it last, yet it still manages to be beautiful. Not even the cover on this album, Everything Counts by Martin Lee Gore, sounds filler. It fits in nicely with the rest of the album, although it’s not quite to the standard as the rest. However, by now I’m satisfied, I usually change CD’s after this song anyway.
Highlights: World Within the Margin, Episode 666, Gyroscope, Jotun
Without doubt, In Flames had established themselves as melodic death's sweethearts with the release. Unlike their Gothenburg brethren, In Flames used a more direct feel to their music that was quite different from the long, winded structures of Dark Tranquillity. One could almost say that it was rock-based; most of the song structures were very verse-chorus, and the major-key guitar leads added a very ear-friendly edge to the sound. Good as The Jester Race was, there were still some flaws in it; the drumming was mind-numbingly boring, the production a bit hampered, and a few moments lack attitude and diversity. All of that is fixed on Whoracle. Personally, I would say that this is the essential In Flames album. Though many of the song structures are still rock-based, things seem fresher and renewed in the songwriting department. Aside from that, things on all fronts have stepped up to prove this album as a classic.
The guitars are now the center of focus. Not only have the riffs gotten more complex, but also have a more adventurous sense of melody. "Gyroscope" features epic harmonies and acoustic touches that cascade down to a pounding verse, while "Jester Script Transfigured" sees the guitars delve almost totally into somewhat experimental territory, with cleanly strummed acoustic verses and an almost folkish feel. Things are layered quite heavily, but never really get to a point of overwhelming; thick, meaty power chords rumble underneath of soaring leads and solos, most of which are harmonized. This notion alone makes it the holy grail for melodeath enthusiasts. Plenty of skill is put on display here; Bjorn and Jesper certainly have developed their chops since The Jester Race, and Whoracle makes perfect display of that. "The Hive" features one of the best melodic solos I've probably ever heard; and though the other solos don't quite live up to this one in particular, they bare their teeth with confidence. Also a notable change is the band's diving into faster tempos: "Morphing Into Primal," albeit a bit tiresome and generic, shows that the band can bust out the grit when they really feel like it. Songs like these feature scorching alternate picking, traded off with more cruising mid-tempo sections and harmonies. Things here aren't as "nu" In Flames as on Colony, but exceed the plodding tandem that made up some of the Jester Race. After all, "Jotun" and "Episode 666" feature some great, classic riffs; what's not to love?
As a drummer, Bjorn still straddles a fine line of generic timekeeping and decent metal drumming. There are more transitions in the music here, so naturally things had to improve in one way or another; and they did. More fills pop up here, adding a bit of interest to the music. The tempos have also picked up, so nothing seems to drag as they once did. Aside from this, the drums don't really do anything special; they're just in the music for the sake of a backbeat.
Anders also makes a vast improvement. Though not on the level of what he would achieve on Colony, he still holds his own. His feral growls have a bit more aggression and polish behind them, and aren't as restricted. This is best shown on "Worlds Within the Margin," where only ghostly synths and drums back his vocals during the verses. Things never really stray from the gritty half-growl, but it seems to work within the constantly evolving scope of the music. Lyrically, it's another trip into weirdness; covering things inside the human mind and thought processes, and some other cryptic things that would fly over the head of those who don't really analyze the lyrics. (Like me.)
Whoracle's powerful production is what really makes it shine, courtesy of Studio Fredman. The drums now pack a walloping, clear punch; all of the guitars are crisp and articulate, and the bass is not only heard, but has a perfect balance of mids and lows, making for a perfectly audible rhythm section along with the layered guitar parts. Anders' vocals have a slight bit of echo on them at some points, and this works really well on the more drawn-out growls during "Episode 666."
Slightly generic drumming/songwriting aside, as well as the terrible Depeche Mode cover, (How dare those bastards... They ruined a classic pop song, possibly my favorite song by my favorite non-metal band.) Whoracle was an essential step up for In Flames, and is probably their best album to date in terms of replay value, status and remembrance. If you're a fan of melodeath, you owe it to yourself to hear this album.
Favorite tracks: "Jotun," "Gyroscope," "The Hive," "Episode 666."
Formed in 1990 and hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden, IN FLAMES are one of the best-known and highly praised bands in the New Wave of Swedish Death Metal movement. Their third full-length album, Whoracle, was released in 1997 on Nuclear Blast records.
TIFFANY (born Tiffany Renee Darwisch) was the first female artist to reach the number one spot on the billboard charts. She’s best known for the pop tunes she sang in the 1980s, which paved the way for such groups as New Kids on the Block. Her eponymous debut album was released in 1987 when she was still only sixteen years old.
In the interest of better assessing the unique merits and deficiencies of both recordings, I’ll compare both of them across a broad variety of categories. May the best album win!
This one’s a pushover. Tiffany is a very talented singer; she appeared on Ed McMahon’s Star Search as a child and so even at the young age of sixteen, she has a good range and a great deal of versatility. Although she comes from a country music background, across the album she shows herself capable of handling a variety of styles. Naturally, her voice is the lynchpin of the album and she performs more than adequately.
In Flames utilize a death metal vocal style… from a technical standpoint, not terribly impressive, and not terribly impressive compared against other death metal singers, either. Anders Fridén has a passable voice, but he’s too monotonous in his inflection. I don’t understand why the band brought in a guy just to do vocals, instead of just having somebody in the band perform them – seems like out of any group of four grown men, at least one of them would have to be able to do death metal vocals better than this guy.
Winner: Tiffany – Tiffany
Tiffany’s production is very professionally done, as one would expect from a hit pop album: the recording is crystal clear, everything is perfectly balanced in the listening space, and there are nifty little effects like reverb and such where appropriate. There’s really not much to criticize – I assume the recording was done by well-paid sound engineers.
In Flames, however, are no slouches in this area either. One of the band’s biggest appeals over the course of their career (since their sophomore effort, anyway) has been their full production and powerful rhythm guitar sound. I find that the cymbals sometimes overwhelm some of the other instruments at certain points, but nevertheless, it’s a very good recording.
The deciding factor here is that Whoracle was recorded a full decade after Tiffany, and recording technology had by then come a long way since 1987. This might be partially a matter of taste, but a lot of the synthesizer and drum sounds haven’t held up too well over the years... they may have been top-shelf for the time, but nevertheless objectivity demands that I give this category to the In Flames.
Winner: In Flames – Whoracle
CATCHINESS / SONGWRITING
The primary musical influence on In Flames is Iron Maiden, and listening to this album for a few minutes will allow you to understand why Maiden bothered to hire real singers instead of just having some guy growl into the microphone. No big, soaring choruses here: all the melody is trapped in the riffs, and without a real singer providing another dimension to the music, they begin to sound repetitive. Generally, to me, it feels like all of the songs start off on a great melodic hook but quickly become bogged down with monotony. This is probably partly due to the fact that In Flames adhere closely to just a few songwriting formulas, causing the songs to run together in the listener’s mind. What I really fail to grasp is why the drummer keeps hammering the cymbal on every downbeat. Doesn’t he get tired of that? I know I do.
By contrast, every single song on Tiffany’s debut album is packed with obvious vocal hooks and catchy melodies, and every single song has a distinctive and memorable chorus. It’s certainly no accident that this album spawned two number-one hits (“I Think We’re Alone Now” and “Could’ve Been”) and multiple movie soundtrack appearances. Variation is not neglected either: while the whole album is based in light pop, songs range from cheery up-tempo dance numbers to sadder ballad material. There are a couple of weak points, like “Could’ve Been” (which sounds like it came out of a coffee commercial), and the whole thing’s a little on the light and airy side of course, but nevertheless, the guys who wrote the songs on this album definitely earned their paychecks. Admittedly, the songs wear out their welcome pretty quickly, but that is a problem that In Flames also tend to suffer from, in my opinion.
Winner: Tiffany – Tiffany
Without question, the music on Whoracle is a much greater display of raw technical ability. The guitar solos alone are enough to settle the issue, although all of the musicians are very able (if not outstanding by the highest metal standards). There are a couple of solos on Tiffany – including one saxophone solo – but they’re fairly simple, although to their credit the fact that they’re not in every song makes their appearance that much more welcome when they do appear. Other than that, the music is fairly simple, but well-played by the studio musicians. A lot of seems to be electronic, actually… but while electronic musicians never make mistakes, the programmed parts never approach a level of sophistication that can touch the more technical moments on Whoracle.
Winner: In Flames – Whoracle
The lyrics on Tiffany are not generally very impressive. Most of them appear to be about being in love, or falling in love, or falling out of love, or something to that effect, or otherwise seemed to be based around the “misunderstood teen” persona that the album is attempting to project for the singer (i.e. “You keep me hanging like a kid on a corner/Just because you think you can/Don't be so certain that I'll always be there/Just because I've always been”). I’m probably asking too much of pop lyrics though. While they’re not really great reading material I suppose they at least basically make sense and fit in with the music.
…which is more than I can say for Whoracle’s lyrics. An example from “Episode 666”: “Welcome here, the squirrel-wheel begins/fasten the left hand belts/remember not to think too much/and your trip will be numbingly pleasant”.
What? For starters, I have no idea what a “squirrel-wheel” is. Perhaps in Sweden people keep squirrels in cages as pets and give them little wheels to run on, like with hamsters. A “left hand belt” would be a seat belt I guess, although if you’re in the passenger side of a car it’s going to be on your right. Perhaps the belt is “left hand” in the sense of somehow being sinister or satanic, but in that case it still would’ve been clearer to say “left hand seat belt”. As it is, it makes it sound as if the singer is actually addressing people who wear belts on their left hands, a concept so absurd as to be outright insane. Perhaps I should just not think too much and let the trip be numbingly pleasant. Anyhow, I’m not going to go over all the lyrics on the album, but suffice it to say most of them are only about as coherent (or grammatically correct) as the above-quoted passage.
Winner: Tiffany – Tiffany
Both albums feature cover songs: In Flames cover Depeche Mode’s “Everything Counts”, Tiffany sings both “I Saw Him Standing There”, a Beatles cover, and “I Think We’re Alone Now”, originally recorded by the sixties bubblegum pop group Tommy and the Shondells.
Honestly, “I Saw Him Standing There” doesn’t come across particularly well, especially compared to the original. If this cover is anything to judge by, when you translate the upbeat rock ‘n’ roll of early Beatles to bright mid-eighties synthesizer sounds, what pops out resembles a cheesy Prince B-side. Definitely one of the weaker songs on the album; stick with the Beatles version. “I Think We’re Alone Now”, on the other hand, is better than the rather monotonous original, if anything. Tiffany’s dance pop version was understandably the first real hit off of the album and remains her best known song; it was even popular enough to inspire a Weird Al parody.
As for In Flames: “Everything Counts” is an early Depeche Mode song, rather more cheerful than the sound they’re usually associated with and as such sort of an odd choice for a metal cover, especially a “death metal” cover. The original is a pretty catchy song, and the lyrics are rather nifty, but In Flames just don’t have the tools at their disposal to adequately represent it – the panoply of synths in the original (which included everything from electronic beeps to an artificial clarinet) are reduced to monotonous distorted guitar sounds, and of course Anders doesn’t actually “sing” any part of the song except for the chorus, so most of the vocal melodies are down the drain as well. An interesting novelty item but not necessarily a great song in itself.
Winner: Tiffany – Tiffany
OVERALL (not an average): Tiffany – Tiffany 72%; In Flames – Whoracle 37%
Tiffany wins it comfortably with her very catchy (if ultimately disposable) brand of eighties pop. Now, Whoracle is not without its merits, to be sure, but ultimately it just doesn’t have what it takes to match the professionalism and consistency of a double platinum pop album. In Flames have a lot to learn if they’re ever going to go as far in the entertainment industry as Tiffany did in her heyday. To their credit, the band seems to have recognized this and made some changes in their sound in their newest material, experimenting with electronic sounds and nu-metal, although unfortunately the results have been mixed at best. Still, even Tiffany didn’t quite reach the top of the charts overnight, so there may be hope for them yet. Best of luck to them.
Standout Tiffany tracks: “Danny”, “Promises Made”, “I Think We’re Alone Now”
Standout Whoracle tracks: “Dialogue with the Stars”, “Episode 666”
After their major label debut and breakthrough release "The Jester Race", In Flames went on down the path they started to tread with one of their best albums to date, "Whoracle". Strong from a finally stable line-up (although both Glenn Ljungström and Johan Larsson would leave the band right after the recoring of the record) and willing to establish their status as one of the contenders for the Melodic Death Metal throne, the Swedish five-piece shows a more personal approach here: the NWOBHM influences are fewer and less apparent than on the previous album, the songs are generally more catchy although never predicatble or unoriginal and - sadly - gone are almost all the folk echoes of the band's underground days.
The first thing that must be noted is that "Whoracle" is actually a concept album. After the lyrical success showcased on "The Jester Race", Anders Friden and Dark Tranqullity's Niklas Sunding pushed their collaboration to a further level. The two men had a long series of dialogues concerning the patterns of human behavior in the present and past, with a rather disquieting glance at a possible future, and then Anders asked Niklas if he could cut the essential content of such discussions into verses, which he did. The result is a remarkable work of great deep content-wise, whose message interacts with the spirit of the music in an intimate coexistence that enhances the general emotive feedback. This brings us to another crucial point: no matter how catchy and uplifting the riffs may be - "Whoracle" is not a happy album. Lyrics deal with themes such as detrsuctive, false progress ("Jotun", "Jester Script Transifgured" and even "Gyroscope") and the lack of a coherent evolution in the human species ("The Hive" or "Morphing Into Primal"), and also embrace themes of isolation and suicide ("Food for the Gods"). In this respect, the surprising cover version of Depeche Mode's "Everything Counts", with its bitter tale of materialistic oppurtunism, comes across as the artist's finishing touch, as well as another document of the band's stylistic progression.
However, "Whoracle" doesn't fail to impress in the musical department either. This is where the typical In Flames sound and style came together as a whole, as the album opener "Jotun" witnesses: powerful guitar harmonies and varied dynamics between verses and choruses provide a solid, aggressive yet melodic texture which in turn incorprates harmonized guitar sub-riffs and powerful vocals. Anders switches from a semi-clean moaning in the verses to his trademark growl when the dynamics go up, closely following the variation in the arrangement as well as the lyrical content.
"Food for the Gods" rumbles along as groove-fueled riffmachine, packed with highly memorable melodic guitar interactions and perfected by Anders's intense performance, with Björn drumming the song's 12/8 rhythm in that typically Swedish doubled-tempo feeling pattern that At The Gates had been pioneering. The band uses this particular drumming in another song, "Morphing Into Primal", where they cleverly switch from 4/4 to 12/8 and back again while keeping the same beat pattern in the background; it's very disorienting at first but then again it's a great display of inventive and cohesive playing from the whole band.
There are also trademark In Flames headbanging numbers to be found here, and once again the strength of the material shines. "The Hive" is the album's most Classic Metal-influenced episode, and one of the band's greatest achievements in this direction. The song is built upon a generous amount of strong riffs as well as some interesting tonality tricks between the verses and the chorus, and also features one of the album's best solos (yes, it's a Randy Rhoads tribute what you hear).
"Episode 666" is equally rocksteady in its chugging, and more straight to the point than the previous one; its highly catchy factor has quickly elected it one of the band's longest lasting live staples, a status which it still holds to this day.
"Words Within the Margin" is slower and more "abstract", and also incoroprates promonent albeit basic keyboard lines for the first time in teh band's history.
"Whoracle" also sports a couple of slower and more acoustic based tracks, in the vein of the band's fan favourite "Moonshield". The first one, "Gyroscope", has been another standard live number since the album was released, and while not as onventive as other In Flames songs, it still has a good deal of strong melodic ideas going on; the clever arrangement, part from the classic switches between acoustic and electric moments, also includes some distant clean vocals in the chorus (apired with the growling in the foreground) and very good bass lines from Johan.
"Jester Script Transifgured", however, is where this formula reaches its expressive peak. Beautiful, acoustic filled verses backed by light vcoals and sitant clean guitar effects lead into the sonic explosion of the choruses, and back again. The middle section introduces a nice key change to enhance the variety, and a brief excursion from the track's 6/8 rhythm to a more square 4/4 creates the space for a short but overwhelmingly beautiful melodic solo. Check out the "reverse" effect on the acoustic break before the last chorus, and you'll see why this song ranks among the band's absolute masterpieces in my book.
Like its predecessor, the album has a couple of instrumentals to complete the picture. "A Dialogue With the Stars" is first, and it's quite simply one of the most amazing moments in the band's history. Built upon dual guitar harmonies from start to finish, the track also incorporates acoustic backgrounds in its progress, and despite its brief durationit also has a nice number of dynamic variations. I could play the minute between 1:05 and 2:05 forever, or almost, and I'm not kidding.
The second intrumental, the title track, is actually more of an outro rather than a "real" song, as it's just an acoustic melody backed by some percussion and backing femal chantings. Nothing groundbreaking, but a nice way to round off the album.
This just leaves us with the already mentioned cover of "Everything Counts"; the band did a great job in making it sound like one o ftheir songs without erasing all the spirit o fthe original, and although Anders's clean vocals in the chorus aren't his best he pulls off a memorable performance ("It's competitive wwwoooooorrrrrld!!") - after all he's a big Depeche Mode fan so he must have put all his heart into this song.
"Whoracle" is right up there with "The Jester Race" in my In Flames album ranking. I honestly can't pick one above the other, as I love each of them for its particular vibe. As with his predecessor, this works great as an introduction to the band's sound, and while essential for any fan of the genre, it's recommended to any other Metal fan all the same.
Let's see . . . how to describe In Flames. Well, think Children of Bodom. Now replace the kickass Power Metal they play with so-so Melo-Death riffs. Make Alexi, the lead singer, constipated and hoarse at the same time. Simmer and stir. The result is a pretty damn close description of In Flames.
Listening to this shit is like lighting up a giant turd and smoking it. The vocals are bad, the riffs are boring and overused, the vocals are bad, the drummer doesn't know what fucking song he is playing, the vocals are bad, the vocals are bad, the double bass is absolutely indistinguishable from the bass drum and the vocals are bad. Oh, and did I mention that the vocals are PURE, UNDILUTED SHIT?
I mean, what the fuck was Jesper thinking when he brough Anders fucking Fridén in to do vocals? He could not have picked a worse person on the face of the planet to do Death vocals, and that includes Madonna, Vanilla Ice and myself. It sounds like what my dog does when she's sick as fuck and constipated, with an intersparced mixture of sounds alluding to a morbidly obese man trying to shit out a humongous, very stubborn turd. On top of it all, if you listen really closely you can hear that he sounds like he is perpetually on the brink of tears. Really. He's about to cry. And before you say, "BUT SHEARMAN U DON'T KNWO HARSH VOX U LIK SISY POWER METAL LOLOLOL!!," let me assure you that I am quite familiar with harsh vocals and just because you're not actually singing does not mean you have a license to sound like whatever the fuck you want.
If that were all of In Flames problems, I wouldn't even bother writing this review. But the fact is that this band is universally a worthless piece of trash. The guitars are perhaps the most disappointing, because they often tease you by playing something that sounds like it might turn into, God forbid, a cool set of riffs or something, and then they promptly yank it away from you and blast you with mallcore chunking, or, worse yet, play that same riff over and over again, pounding the fucking thing into the ground until you want to hurl. Both of these cardinal sins are committed . . . wait for it . . . AT THE SAME TIME in the album's first track, Jotun. That takes a certain special kind of shittiness to do. Congratulations, guys. By playing a cool chord progression, then taking it away and pounding into a bunch of mallcore chunking, and then playing that same opening over and over again ON TOP of the chunking, you have managed to sound like dog shit in a way I never thought possible. And then Anders starts singing, and the Suck is complete.
And what about the lower instruments? I can see those old commercials now--the ones where the scenario is the little old lady looking at the sandwich and the question is "Where's the beef?," except here the scenario is In Flames playing Food for the Gods and the question is "Where's the bass?" Answer: Playing at the exact same time as the bass drum and stopping well before any pauses in the playing to avoid doing something stupid like actually being heard. What a bitch that would be, huh Peter? And then Anders starts singing, and the Suck is complete.
And then there's the drums. Instead of talking about how shitty the drumming is, let's take a listen to track 2 of this coaster. When we start this track, we're hearing some nice riffs (which are quickly taken away, in case you were wondering) and a solid strong-beat blast from the drums, indicating that this song is going to be played in triplets. That's fine, but then the band members have some sort of disagreement, and at 0:07, the guitar continues to play in triplets while the drummer, apparantly out to prove he can successfully bang on drums while having his head up a cow's ass, starts playing meatbeats; in other words, they're playing two different rhythms at exactly the same time! You can't even fucking headband to this piece of shit because you can't find the goddamn beat in this monstrosity! And then Anders starts singing, and the Suck is complete.
The same shit continues all throughout this abomination of an album. Bastardized and repeated riffs intermingle with a nonexistant bass line and drumming so haphazard that Lar$ himself would be proud. Each song consists of a promising opening, followed by the rest of the band coming in and a total degeneration into mallcore shit or worse. And then Anders starts singing, and the Suck is complete.