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The spark before the flames. - 85%

hells_unicorn, February 19th, 2011

It’s a rare thing for a band to outdo itself before it is fully established, but it does happen from time to time. For most fans of harder edged metal, Helloween can be seen as a crowning example as their early speed metal work with Kai Hansen at the helm tend to be more strongly heralded than the higher fidelity, vocally polished incarnation that paved the way for present European power metal (“The Keepers” albums). In much the same way, In Flames has had this odd habit of hitting pay dirt during their non-full length releases, and the EP length demo that preceded their competent and intricate debut “Lunar Strain” is the prototypical example of it.

It is fairly easy to see how In Flames was able to land themselves in the midst of a notable revolution in the early 90s, as an independently produced product of this quality was probably not easy to come by before the days of widely distributed recording studio software. The dimensions that make up this chilling breeze of a sound are very clearly defined and audible, literally to the point where the band’s largely neglected bass player can be very clearly heard amidst the usual mess of tremolo riffs, blast beats and mid-pitched shouts. In fact, apart from the raspy and almost frostbitten roars of Mikael Stanne, this could almost be qualified as posh and power metal-like, particularly in comparison to the coinciding releases of At The Gates at this point.

Nevertheless, as far as In Flames offerings go, this is the clearest example of the band’s link to the broader genre of death metal, as well as a display of their varied stylistic devices. “Upon An Oaken Throne” is a bit more tuneful and less chaotic, but an examination of the dimensions of the song and the usage of somewhat occult oriented atmospheric devices, reveals a band that has a familiarity with Morbid Angel’s “Altars Of Madness”. By contrast, the acoustic intro to “In Flames” (which was cut from the “Lunar Strain” version) and the 30 second lead up to “Clad In Shadows” demonstrate a folksy tendency that predates the majestic melodeath meets Viking glory of Ensiferum and Suidakra by a good 3 or 4 years.

Ultimately what emerges here is actually a better version of what was present on “Lunar Strain”. Although definitely varied within the short duration of music it carries, this isn’t nearly as all over the place and heavy on the instrumental meandering as the studio debut, and contains a humbler production that is a bit more in line with the practices of late 80s to early 90s bands that paved the way towards this band. When the question of “What does In Flames have to do with death metal?” gets asked, this is what I always point to, and given that it is available along with the reissue of “Lunar Strain”, I think I’ll point in that direction for any who are interested in hearing Iron Maiden meets Death.

Not to be missed out. - 91%

duncang, April 10th, 2008

All three of the songs on this demo feature on the Lunar Strain album, but I actually feel that these versions are actually better than their Lunar Strain counterparts. There's a very special atmosphere, especially around the opener In Flames and a lot of nice added things especially with acoustics. The acoustic intro to Clad In Shadows here is absolutely beautiful.

The guitar work of Jesper and Anders Iwers is top notch, with a couple of nice solos, and the vocals of Mikael Stanne (well, I'm not 100% sure but it definitely sounds like him) are very aggressive, better than the Lunar Strain performances. Despite the poor sound quality overall, the instruments can all actually be heard fairly well (though the cymbals are so undefined that I almost thought UneXpect were playing them) and so I can say that all of the members perform well, though there are a couple of timing issues on Upon An Oaken Throne and Clad In Shadows.

Even though it will be near-impossible to get your hands on an original copy of this cassette (especially consider it has Jesper's phone number on it!), the tracks can be found the remastered edition of Lunar Strain, so they should be easy to get. Don't miss this one, it's an absolute gem.

Go get these tracks from the Lunar Strain Remaster - 99%

The_Wanderer, January 26th, 2006

The 1993 In Flames demo is absolutely flawless. It is easy to see why Wrong Again Records begged them for a CD after hearing this, resulting in Lunar Strain. The only reason it gets a 99 and not 100 is because of very small technicalities in songs that are better on the Lunar Strain versions. First, I'm going to start off with the difference between this and Lunar Strain. Firstly, Anders Iwers of Tiamat does some of the guitar harmonies, being replaced by Carl Naslund on Lunar Strain. The songs are all slightly longer, the title track containing a beautiful acoustic intro that was cut, Upon an Oaken Throne has its own odd spooky intro, and Clad in Shadows has an acoustic intro nearly long enough to be its own track. The song In Flames is a beautiful, dark, brooding melodeath masterpiece, and I would go as far to say it is the definition of Gothenburg perfection. The acoustic intro in this version adds to it, but the oddball sampling at the end of what sounds like little kids detracts from the dark mood. In between, the only differences are keyboard in the bridge as opposed to female operatic vocals, and a lack of the scream that opens up the song. I found myself missing these on the demo, but missing the acoustic on the final. Upon an Oaken Throne is a short burst of balanced melody and aggression with some great speedy leads by Iwers nearly identical to the final version, but enhanced by the intro. The acoustic intro to Clad in Shadows is a beautiful little piece leading into another dark In Flames classic. Raw but melodic riffage here with some more great leads by Iwers, and some sort of keyboard or odd guitar overdubbed for just a couple notes (cut from Lunar Strain). Another minor technicality is that the end to Clad in Shadows is not quite as epic as on the Lunar Strain version with the lack of echo, but it's still a great ending to a great demo that leads you very hungry for more. You won't find this anywhere, so get it on the Lunar Strain Remaster.