Monday, February 20, 2006

In Flames Live - February 18, 2006

Jesper 'James Hetfield' StrombladIt seems that every time I attempt to see In Flames live I get served. Usually it's because I've just missed them ("Let's see when IF is playing. was yesterday."), but this time 'round I managed to find out about their current tour a whole month before they showed up at the Worcester Palladium. And a damned entertaining live show it was.

For those not in the know, In Flames burst onto the Swedish heavy metal scene in 1994 with their own style of "melodic death metal" - a flavor of thrash characterized by its grunted vocals and harmony-laden guitars. It's been an uphill battle to take to these guys, but with time their intricate riffage and soaring lead work sold me. Over the last year I've enjoyed listening to their late 90s trifecta: Whoracle, Colony, and Clayman, but generally stayed away from their later efforts due to many fans' complaints of them selling their souls to the demons who rule the satanic planes of nu metal and metalcore (screamed lyrics, less riffs and leads).

Forget all this for a moment: the concert was stylin'. Borrowing a page from Rush's handbook by using "La Villa Strangiato's Gates of Heaven" laser effect during their opener, "Pinball Map", they blasted triumphantly through popular material such as "Moonshield", "Behind Space", and "Episode 666", plus a healthy dose of material from their later works (including their new album, Come Clarity). The sound mix was a bit iffy at first (yee gods it was loud), but the techs redeemed themselves by the mid-point, and the band galloped effortlessly through the hammer-ons and pull-offs that punctuate the main riff of "Colony".

Note to the masses: always expect the unexpected. The show took an unusual turn when lead singer Anders Friden acknowledged that his voice was going, and asked someone from the audience to come up to the microphone to sing "Bullet Ride". Since no one was jumping at the idea, he placed the microphone on the stage, proclaiming that it would be "right there" for someone to use, and walked off the stage.

At this point some kid who couldn't have been older than 20 was pushed up on the stage by his friends, and he proceeded to introduce himself to the band. Then with great audacity, he sauntered to the drum set, took a swig of bottled water, and readied to sing as the band kicked in with the opening riff. By the time the grunting/yelling/screaming started, the surrogate vocalist was in full-on metal god mode as he jumped about the stage, twirled the microphone by its power cable, fraternized with the guitarists, and even sang along with the guitar solo. Remarkable, and if you think it was all an act, check out the guestbook entry by Zach Dionne (2/19/2006 - 20:22) at the In Flames website and rethink your stance.

The show inspired me to buy Come Clarity yesterday. The album's a decent effort, even though the DVD included isn't them live in the studio as implied (it's video of them playing in the studio as the album versions of the songs play along). The songs are screamed more than grunted, but the style of older albums resurfaces to attract those who felt In Flames lost their way. Experimentation aside (catchy choruses rather than complex lead guitar tend to be the norm rather than the exception), I give them credit for winners like the groove of "Scream", which is undoubtedly their best (perhaps only) classic thrash riff to date.

(Edit: Here are some photos from the show. Enjoy!)


Anonymous AJB said...

I was afraid that when Dionne took the stage, he'd freeze like a deer in the headlights, but he really came through. And the fact that he had enough self-confidence to twirl the mike and drink the band's water was even more astounding.

Björn Gelotte's reaction when Dionne started doubling his guitar solo vocally was hilarious - he clearly thought it was a riot.

2:57 PM  

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