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Every once in a while you stumble upon a band that makes you rethink your opinions. I’ve never been into death metal at all mainly because of the vocals but also because it’s usually just a full-speed ahead onslaught and wears on your nerves after a while. Or it’s a painstakingly slow and plodding onslaught that, well, wears on your nerves after a while. After seeing In Flames open for Iced Earth I was so impressed I went out and got The Jester Race. Sweden’s In Flames is leading the charge of what has become known as the “Gothenburg Sound”, melodic death metal that shares little with its brethren besides the throaty vocals.
The Jester Race opens with an acoustic guitar and drum intro of all things on Moonshield before leading into a harmonized version of the main riff. The vocals throughout the album are mixed lower than normal but are actually discernable if you pay attention. Another note, there aren’t that many vocals on the album compared with its length and there is always interesting guitar work taking place to smooth over the rough edges. The Jester’s Dance, the first of two instrumentals on the album, is next and features a dream-like arpegiated guitar theme showcasing In Flames’ penchant for melody over volume and aggression. The album moves on in a similar manner, showcasing solid songwriting skills, cool guitar riffs, well placed time changes, and hooks and melodies that will be stuck in your head for days afterwards. The title track features galloping muted riffs reminiscent of vintage Metallica while Anders Fridén somehow manages to give catchy melody to his growls. Sticking to the melodic theme, harmonies abound throughout the guitar riffs. Dead God In Me finishes the album, bringing the whole thing together with a mixture of single-note licks, double time, and a great arrangement. While there may not be an overabundance of new stuff happening in our own backyard, check out what’s going on in some other places in the world and you may be pleasantly surprised.
John Rovnan is a staff writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.