Overall Score: 7/10 Musicianship: 8/10 Production: 7/10 Lyrics: 8/10 Pros: There are glimmers of the classic In Flames sound. State Of Slow Decay and Meet Your Maker are particular highlights. Cons: The songs get off to a promising start but will then lose steam or feel incredibly restrained.
Time can be a fickle mistress depending on how you look at it. Moments of infinity pass by with each second. Many alternate paths of our lives die with them. What about the time which has already elapsed? We can’t claw it back or go back to the moment before a split decision. So we’re left in a state of constant existential crisis. Time is running out and we don’t know our purpose. Tackling this theme and the emotions it rouses are In Flames with new album Foregone.
With 47 minutes spanning over 12 tracks, we can but wonder if this is going to be a return to glory for In Flames. Things get off to a strong start with the instrumental The Beginning Of All Things That Will End. Now we wouldn’t normally say an acoustic guitar can sound very melodic death metal but this is something the duo of Björn Gelotte and newest recruit Chris Broderick (ex-Megadeth) manage to achieve. A hum of strings sitting beneath the picked melody buzzes throughout. The song may sound simplistic but this is where the beauty lies as it manages to evoke that feeling of impermanence and the discomfort it brings. So much so State Of Slow Decay’s instant heaviness catches us off guard. The combination of a crisp melody with the frantic drums of Tanner Wayne usher a sense of power for In Flames. Anders Fridén’s “this place is falling apart, there’s no way back” sounds desperate and bereft. Amidst the dual guitar licks, the edge of growls in a clean chorus, and a concoction of juicy riffs, State Of Decay is an incredibly concise song for In Flames. Perhaps they’ve learned from I, The Mask (2019).
Blasting into anthemic Meet Your Maker, we’re treated to more of the same. A distinct swing brews within the instrumental which mimics the passing of time. Confronting our mortality isn’t easy to capture in words but In Flames do that and add the pressure of needing a purpose perfectly. Needing our final words to be “something that makes sense” or “worth the wait” shows this is a band which has put great care into their lyricism. The pendulum-like instrumental may not be anything new but In Flames is a band which know their strengths at this point and play to them extremely well. This militant feeling carries through into Bleeding Out. Unfortunately, this is where the issues begin to seep in. While the instrumentals sound tight and drive the song forward, Bleeding Out feels restrained. Fridén’s cries of “I’m the desolate” could have been so much bigger than they are.
Which brings us to the two title tracks. Foregone Pt 1 has another promising start; a guttural growl collides with a wonderfully heavy riff which houses a touch of grindcore. Lilts of melody litter the verses that talk of darkness “washing over the sky”. It’s fast and packs a punch akin to Mike Tyson in his hey-day. But then the song slows for a clean chorus which gets stripped completely to a singular guitar for a brief moment. While this breaks up the song into specific movements, it makes no sense to the story they’re trying to tell. Momentum then grinds to a crawl after the second chorus as synths and an understated solo sweep in. Had it ended there, it would have made some form of sense, but having the song speed up again in the closing seconds when it doesn’t flow into the counterpart is a little lost on us. Forgone Pt 2 starts life feeling like a power ballad. An In Flames power ballad is an interesting concept. Yet as the full instrumental comes in, the song picks up the pace slightly. The verses house distorted vocals but it’s the chorus which catches our attention. “We watch the world corrode” speaks to humanity’s innate nature to stand by and do nothing while Mother Earth slowly dies, but the chorus lacks urgency for us. To the point it feels slightly flat. Thus the frustration continues.
Things slow completely for the mid-point ballad Pure Light Of Mind. Without using terms like “filler”, the slower song does feel out of place. While it speaks to the notion of knowing our days are numbered, Pure Light Of Mind doesn’t serve a clear purpose in the grand scheme of the album. The Great Deceiver however picks the pace up once more and brings us “back to reality once again”. This song does what the previous didn’t. It cuts straight to the point. The innate sense of doom we all carry is forced out into the light for this almost hardcore sounding chorus. It’s weighty, atmospheric, and doom mongering. There is a slight issue within the somewhat slower instrumental after the second chorus, but the frustration we feel toward that isn’t as strong as it had been previously.
Vexation seems to be the word for this album as many of the tracks get off to a promising start. Then the train derails and In Flames seem to restrain themselves. In The Dark starts off as a classic feeling In Flames song; the riffs have so much density, the ferocity of the verses is simply divine, and it sounds close without being muddy. Then the tempo changes at the mid-point for no real reason. Yes, it shows another side to In Flames and what talented musicians they are, but there is a way to showcase multi-facety. This and A Dialogue In b Flat Minor are not it.
As the closing couplet, Cynosure and End The Transmission, comes around, we can hear the album running out of steam. Bryce Paul’s bassline in the former is beautiful and something we want a lot more of throughout the album. The centre of this song’s attention is the idea of wrestling with our demons on a daily basis. Fridén’s aural battle with the sinister part of himself which admittedly gets the better of him is an interesting listen. While it’s interesting it does feel restrained and could have been a heavy-hitter if In Flames let themselves out of this cage of their own making. Closing End The Transmission is admittedly a catchy song and would do well in the live arena should they choose to take it out. Chatter about the world we knew and how it’s going down the drain because of humanity being a cancer again is nothing new but there’s something about Fridén’s songwriting which makes it sound fresh. Looking at it as a whole however, End The Transmission feels like a very deflated finish for an album which started off strong but lost its steam.
Does this mean Foregone is a bad record? Not at all. Frustration isn’t inherently a negative reaction. It’s the notion of knowing a band or person could achieve better than the current output. It’s the want for the intended to reach their full potential. While In Flames don’t do that with Foregone, there are glimmers of hope within the tracks and this should be a stepping stone in the next stage of the band’s evolution. Foregone may well become one of those cult albums for some and remain a point of vexation for others. For the moment, however, we fall tentatively within the latter.
Foregone is available February 10 via Nuclear Blast.
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