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How Swedish Melodic Death Metal Band In Flames Has Made the European Heavy Metal Scene Better

Updated on June 20, 2020
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Ara is a Journalism graduate from California State University Northridge who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.

What This Article Will Cover About the Band In Flames and What It Won't Cover About the Band In Flames

Swedish heavy metal band In Flames that made a name for itself in the 1990’s through 2000 with great songs as Moonshield, The Jester Race, and Only for the Weak, has as of 2016 still shown that they can be good even with more electronic style sounds in their 2016 album called Battles. Note: at first, this article was designed to be just a single album review of the album Battles. But upon further thought and analysis, this writer thought of analyzing the career of this brilliant Swedish band that has been active since 1990. There will be an analysis of the band’s latest album called Battles but this is not a full length biography. In other words, if you are looking for a full biography of this band, this is not the article to read. But if you want to find out just how the band made the European metal scene better and provided the world with music that has made them an entertainment icon, then keep on reading. Rather, it is also a way to look at how this band from Sweden has made music in Europe even better than in was in the 1980’s.

The Band In Flames is More Than Just Great Music even in 2018

For me, the band In Flames represents more than just awesome melodic heavy metal but since I was first exposed to them around 1997 when I got a copy of the band’s great second studio album The Jester Race, I have followed their career since that time. This band is still great in 2018 as they were in 1997.

In Flames Made Europe's Metal Scene Better by Making It More Diverse

How has the band In Flames contributed to the musical culture of Europe? Europe was either dominated by hard rock (Europe) or thrash metal delivered by bands such as Kreator, Tankard, Sodom, and Destruction. In Flames contributed to the European heavy metal culture and scene by diversifying it. They brought into the world metal music with growling vocals, complex and intricate acoustic parts combined with intricate melodies and ballads. This band has performed music of just about any style and made themselves a super success just like Dark Tranquillity. And neither band has a bad album! If we want to strengthen our analysis, we have to provide some background as to how this band got started.

A Photo of Former In Flames Guitarist Jesper Stromblad


A Little Background Information on How In Flames Was Founded

The person that founded this brilliant band was Jesper Stromblad (born November 28, 1972). Stromblad was in another band called Ceremonial Oath at the time. The very first official lineup consisted of Stromblad, guitarist Glenn Ljungstrom, and Johan Larsson (bass). At this early stage in the band’s career, they did not have an official vocalist so there were a few people that kind of filled in for the band until a permanent replacement could be found. One of these people was current Dark Tranquillity vocalist Mikael Stanne. He does vocals for the very first song on the band’s debut album called Lunar Strain called Behind Space. The original song contains a beautiful acoustic section which is not included in the 1999 remake of the song. It was in 1993 that the band got a record deal with Wrong Again Records. In 1995, Bjorn Gelotte joined the band as its full-time permanent drummer. He would later switch to guitars as Daniel Svensson would eventually take over on drums.

The Song Called "Moonshield"

1999 Was One of the Best Years For the Band In Flames

In 1999 when the band released its 4th studio album called Colony, there would be the first sort of small experimentation with clean vocals but they were more like a whisper sound. The band would embark on an extensive tour, touring in Europe, Japan, and United States, going to the Milwaukee Metal Fest.

In Flames and the European Heavy Metal Scene

Did the Band In Flames Make Europe's Heavy Metal Scene Better?

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Colony or Clayman Both Could Be the Band's Strongest Album

As of 2018, Colony may be the band’s strongest album, years after I had thought Clayman was their best album. You could certainly make the case that either of these two albums may be their best. Both albums are just filled with incredibly great songs. In Colony, there are classics such as Colony, Zombie Inc., Resin, and Coerced Coexistence. From 1990 to 1999, In Flames was easily one of the best melodic death metal bands in Sweden if not the world. After that kind of successful decade, they began what is called a stylistic shift where they used more clean vocals and even experimented with ballad style songs such as the awesome Dawn of a New Day. I’ve given good reviews and credit to their albums Soundtrack to Your Escape (2004) and A Sense of Purpose (2007). No In Flames album has ever been bad even after their major style changes where a lot of people say that the band sounds like alternative metal. By 2010, longtime guitarist Jesper Stromblad had left the band to deal with his alcoholism problems.

A Logo of the Band In Flames


The Band In Flames Contributes to European Heavy Metal Greatness by the Lyrical Themes in the Songs

In 2016, drummer Joe Rickard replaced Daniel Svensson on drums and their album Battles was recorded in Los Angeles. How does this album contribute to the band’s greatness? The band was already great and even though there are now harsh shouts and cleaner vocals instead of death metal growls, the band still continues its tradition of addressing topics such as broken relationships as is the case with the first song Drained or songs about questions surrounding the end of human life such as the melodic song The End. The melody is still there but the vocals are cleaner. Give these guys a chance and you’ll be saved at least from an emotional standpoint. Life is precious so perhaps writing about this band will make some fans see the positive power of music. In Flames can be considered a band that has strengthened the European music scene and provided three decades of musical brilliance. So even if it seems like the world is against us like it suggests in the song Like Sand, persist and you will survive in some fashion.


The Song Called "Here Until Forever"

Battles Is a Far Better Album Than It Sounds Like

Taking a look at reviews on the website called Metal Archives, the average score of the album Battles is a very low 26% which is rather stunning to me considering how great this band has been. It is true that this album is not like the early melodic death metal style that we witnessed in the 1990s but it represents a rather positive transformation for this band. Listening to bands such as In Flames, I am definitely able to sit through entire albums of theirs even more so than Metallica. In Flames is just another level when it comes to overall musicianship and talent. It is like a car that continues to function in optimal form even after you have had it for 30 years. In Flames functions like a group of united members even after its founding member departed because of personal issues discussed earlier. Jesper’s departure could have left these guys deflated but instead they were determined to continue as a band and they are in year 30 of their existence. Even songs such as Save Me are not a desperate musical creation but a song that still fits into the musical repertoire of this band. Save yourself time and listen to these brilliant Swedish guys instead of some of the other cheesy metal out there!

A Map of Gothenburg Sweden, the Birthplace of the Band

The Album Battles Is Another Example of the Greatness of In Flames

In the later albums, In Flames has used more electronics instead of the intricate melodies that we heard on the first five albums. An example of the electronic sound is in the song The Truth. In the song called In My Room, lyrically we are introduced to the story of a person that is behind the wall in his room, yet he remains out of touch with the world being unable to sympathize with others. The song tells us about how human nature functions in the world. At this point, if I had to state which In Flames album is their weakest, my first guess would be Whoracle but even then since every one of their albums is so good, it is really hard to make that kind of determination. I can say with very good certainty that their weakest moment if there is any certainly didn’t come in 1993, 1994, or 1996 when the Subterranean EP was released. The song Battles might as well describe what really matters in life. Pain is no one’s friend while a true friend is priceless. We might as well enjoy our lives fully before it is taken away (our eventual death and demise). Here Until Forever is a relationship song that describes someone that is really missing the love of his life because without her, he feels like he is in a total mess. He will always be there with her even in spirit. Wallflower is a song about a person that looks at himself and wonders what he will do if his dreams don’t become a reality. Would he reconsider what he has done in his life? He wants to have his voice heard and make a difference in the lives of others. Even the album Battles is pretty darn good having solid songs such as the mentioned Wallflower, The End, Like Sand, and Here Until Forever. The bottom line is that In Flames is not only one of the greatest Swedish metal bands ever, they are one of the best metal bands period.

"Like Sand"

© 2018 Ara Vahanian


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