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Don't You Feel The Need For Change? - 80%

TheDeadEndKing, June 10th, 2019

At this point, we've all pretty much come to terms with the fact that In Flames will never be the tour-de-force they were in the 90's, or even the commercial juggernaut they were in the early part of the new millennium. They're absolutely still a bigger presence, but I wouldn't be using "juggernaut" to describe their most recent offerings over the past few years. While there have been bright spots here and there, the majority of the materiel has fallen flat to this listener. At this juncture, every time a new record of theirs comes out, I'm approaching it with more apprehension than I am enthusiasm. That said, I'm still a fan, so this is my attempt to dissect their latest work, "I, The Mask".

Let's get the complaints out of the way. This is very much a consumable album for mainstream alt-rock/alt-metal listeners. Some portions are not all that different approach-wise from every post-"A Sense of Purpose". Some songs come off as extremely generic, and all-together disheartening, considering the talent of the band members. Songs like "(This Is Our) House" and "We Will Remember" were low points. There were a few others scattered throughout like this as well, such as "In This Life" and "Not Alone". To put it in perspective, it's the kind of sound I'd expect from the ______-core bands on Warped Tour bills over the last decade. Monotonous riffing, uninspired lyrics, yada yada. This is why a lot of people fell out of love with In Flames in the first place. But taste is subjective, especially to the artist, so whatever. Not my cup of tea. Luckily, and surprisingly, this is the extent of the negativity.

In a welcome twist, this was a much more riff-driven, somewhat return to "a" form for In Flames. In direct contrast to the aforementioned, there are some killer melodies and hooks that pulled me in like their material at-large hasn't in a long time. "I Am Above" could be a B-side from "Come Clarity". "Follow Me" is a gorgeous, slower ballad that hearkens back to the late 90's/early 00's style shift, and the title track offers a fast, blitzing pace that plays off the style of that era as well. The album's opener, "Voices", would fit in well on "Reroute to Remain". One of my favorite moments is "Stay With Me", who's structure is an almost exact reworking of the melody to one of my favorite In Flames classics, "Goliaths Disarm Their Davids". It's a breathe of fresh air to hear what I consider to be the proverbial soul of In Flames shine out in these songs. While it may seem like this steals away from the identity of the record itself, almost like a collection of covers, it still has enough of a modern flavor to not be a pound-for-pound clone of any other release of theirs. I'm happy to say that the pros really do outweigh the cons in the grand scheme of things.

With "I, The Mask", In Flames seems to have put a little more of their old fire behind this work than anything they've touched in a decade. It feels more whole, more hungry, and more open, almost as if they're trying less to be a commercial entity, and more like (for lack of a better term) themselves. I implore you to give this record a chance. Yes, this album has its flaws. Where it falls, it definitely falls, but it picks itself up pretty well. There's a vigor here that I've sorely missed over the years, and I hope they only ride that wave from here on out.