Before I start, I should explain why this review arrives so late. Ahem.
Excuse one: I've been busy. Doing stuff. Getting paid for it. The usual.
Excuse two: I really wanted to do this album justice. I've been a fan of In Flames for a good few years now, since Come Clarity- and it wasn't easy. I really didn't like the singles released before this album came out. But I like this album a lot.
As bands grow older, the music they make changes with them. For some, this change is more subtle than others- and not just in terms of perceived quality. Iron Maiden's sound is more noticeably consistent than, for example, Linkin Park, regardless of whether you prefer Hybrid Theory or Minutes to Midnight. This can be for better or for worse, depending on the fanbase; Metallica could afford to make Lulu because they also made Master of Puppets.
Gothenburg pioneers In Flames have made a lot of changes to their sound in Siren Charms, and for the most part this comes across as quite a big risk. Many, many fans have longed for a return to the sound of Colony or Whoracle, melodic death-metal juggernauts that cemented In Flames firmly onto the heavy metal scene. In this sense, alone, they haven't delivered. Siren Charms is a very different beast to the music that made In Flames famous. But they can probably afford it.
In Flames are, certainly, no longer a death metal band. There is nothing on this album like Only For The Weak or Embody The Invisible, in terms of aggression or in style, or anything at all close. Anders' paint-stripping howl is an accompaniment to his developing range of clean vocals, rather than the other way around, and occasionally disappears completely. The riffs are less engaging, the songs are less pacey...and (I assume) tellingly, the album's one "heavy" track is called Everything's Gone.
Despite this, however, Siren Charms is still a very good album. It is more radio-friendly, without a doubt, but that doesn't mean In Flames' fans won't necessarily enjoy it. As implied in the lyrics of Dead Eyes, a song that exemplifies best the direction Siren Charms has taken, this is the album In Flames clearly wanted to make.
Songs like Filtered Truth & Paralysed highlight the sense of defiance In Flames have rediscovered since Come Clarity- not merely a softer version of their old sound, but something new and bold. Come Clarity's title track, it's worth reminding, was very different to what we'd come to expect, and Siren Charms in some ways simply takes that one step further.
Fans will still hunger for a return to the original sound. Siren Charms won't change that, and In Flames are unapologetic about the direction they are now taking. The ship has well and truly sailed on their time as a melodic death metal band. This album confirms it.
As one of those fans hungering for more tracks like Colony, I feel I aught to be more disgruntled about that, and appreciate Siren Charms far less than I actually do.
It's hard to argue when it sounds this good.