Sunday, September 30, 2012

In Flames - Come Clarity

Like many others in my generation, this was my first In Flames album. I never played Guitar Hero or Rock Band very much, but it wasn’t hard to avoid the fact that the first track off this album was on one of those games (I don’t really remember which one, but it doesn’t matter). So because they had a song on Guitar Hero, In Flames was one of the bands my friends threw at me along with Lamb of God, DragonForce, Rage Against the Machine, Disturbed, The Fall of Troy, and Killswitch Engage. Now that I’ve come to know the entire In Flames discography very well and grow an opinion on the majority of the releases within it, it’s time that I used the reviewing process to further expand my understanding of my first In Flames album, Come Clarity.

Oh, maybe I should mention a disclaimer for those of you that are Whoracle/The Jester Race elitists: this review just might piss you off because unlike some, I happen to thoroughly enjoy the majority of the newer In Flames albums, my favorite being A Sense of Purpose. I should get it out there that I agree 100% that both Whoracle and The Jester Race have rightfully earned their respected spots as pure classics in the melodic death genre; there’s no denying that. And although I believe that, I tend to like the newer material a little more, especially A Sense of Purpose. Whoracle just doesn’t speak to me in the same way on a personal level that A Sense of Purpose does. I’m saying all this because I KNOW that there will at least be three people claiming that I don’t know a fucking thing about what I’m talking about. Well guess what, I do, and I prefer In Flames’ four most recent albums over the rest of their discography.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, let’s go into what I’m here to tell you about (for those of you that have decided to continue on instead of blindly rejecting it). I believe that it was back in about late 2007/early 2008 when my friend lent a copy of this to me. I’ve now learned that it was this album that brought In Flames back into the metal media for the first time since they changed vocalists. Ever since then, every time they go on a tour, release a new song/ep/album, or anything, it’s a pretty big fucking deal. The thing about Come Clarity that most people point out as being the reason why it sounds so different from all of their other records is the metalcore influence it has.

Most of the metalcore influence isn’t really in the musical composition as much as it is in the melodies and guitar harmonizations. To those that are metalcore-haters, metalcore means numerous simple breakdowns and cheesy melodic choruses. Well to be honest, that’s not what metalcore is, and In Flames has always had breakdowns in their music, it’s in just about every metal band (that might be an overstatement, but hopefully you get what I mean). The really dark melodic sound that Soundtrack to Your Escape had pretty much dissipates in Come Clarity. Yeah, it’s melodic (it’s melodic death, that’s a given), but it’s not nearly as dark as Soundtrack to Your Escape. Instead, you get a sound that’s more similar to that of Soilwork’s. The heavy parts have a really crunchy, yet technical sound, and the melodic parts have an epic groove feel to them.

The vocals fit the music perfectly. Similar to Soilwork, the vocalist does very high-pitched screams that sometimes fade into really nasty yells. I should note that pretty much everything this vocalist does is pretty high-pitched. His singing has a unique powerful sound that can have similarities to Speed’s vocals at times, but it’s pretty much as unique as Speed’s singing voice. The screaming is what I would consider to be the perfect match for the melodic technical sound Come Clarity portrays. In just about every other melodic death band that has a technical style (Wintersun, Soilwork, Children of Bodom, The Agonist, etc.), the vocals are mid-range to high-pitched screams (I literally just now noticed that!).

The drums and the guitars share a complex harmony which weaves in and out of itself. Many of the harmonization patterns have a heavy metalcore influence along with some possible technical death influences. Like I mentioned before, it’s the metalcore influenced-guitar harmonies that makes this album sound so much different from all the other In Flames albums. I know that some people strongly oppose the idea of letting any sort of metalcore influence seep into a melodic death record, but honestly, it’s hard to deny that In Flames pulled it off pretty damn well. The bassist seems to have a mind of his own. And unfortunately, he seems lost in some places. He’s obviously doing improvisation in some places and trying to be excessively abstract in others. But there are numerous times where what he’s playing just doesn’t match up with the rest of the music. And yes, there are bassists that play something completely different from the rest of the band, but the two parts still end up matching up and sounding good. That’s probably why the guitars almost completely drown out the bass for the majority of the album.

Come Clarity is one of In Flames’ best albums. I wouldn’t say that this would be the best first impression, but to be honest, I wouldn’t stop you if you wanted this to be your first sample of In Flames. Come Clarity expresses musical intelligence and creativity through its innovative structure, outside influences, and complex musicianship. I would give this album 15/20.