Only the members of In Flames themselves likely know for certain if the recent emergence of The Halo Effect – a collective comprised of former personnel playing that classic Gothenburg style of melodic death metal – spawned a creative rethink among the Swedish veterans. Foregone isn’t a career standout, but for an act who have been in the creative doldrums for so long, it finally affords both newer fans and disenfranchised early supporters something to sink their teeth into.
No, album number 14 isn’t a return to the type of form akin to definitive releases like Whoracle, Colony or Clayman. To expect such a record from these sub-genre progenitors would be churlish. But most bands perform best when they have something to prove, and that feels like the case here. They’ve essentially taken modern production values and elements of the recent In Flames sound, such as greater emphasis on clean vocals, melodic hard rock-oriented cuts (“Pure Light Of Mind”) and punchy groove (“Meet Your Maker”), and meshed them with more prominent nods to their past.
The group’s mostly bland, formulaic recent material had alienated some devotees, but perhaps their lack of willingness to play earlier material live for a period meant they had become further disconnected from their heavier roots. Whatever the reason for the shift, it’s a distinct improvement. For one, they’ve upped the aggression factor without eschewing the importance of melodies.
Fast and furious “State Of Slow Decay” is akin to Clayman meets Come Clarity, with At The Gates-style riffing added to the mix. It’s not exactly concussion-inducing brutality, but there seems a concerted effort on cuts like “Foregone Pt 1,” “The Great Deceiver” and melancholic “Bleeding Out” to up the stakes in the heaviness and urgency department. Meanwhile, “In The Dark” is one of the stronger cuts; the bipolar vocal attack and lead work resonates, with the acoustic bridge adding a welcome extra flavor.
The band’s long-standing core of frontman Anders Fridén (whose harsh vocals seem hungrier than they have in eons) and Björn Gelotte (guitars) have also cleverly enlisted former Megadeth axeman Chris Broderick. The riffs pack more grunt, while the solos offer real purpose, serving the songs. Drummer Tanner Wayne injects a welcome energy into the ranks, too. The record doesn’t hit the mark with every track – there’s a little filler, as well as other cuts with hooks that don’t land, or moments whereby the band veers into arena-metal autopilot mode.
Perhaps some metallers will be sufficiently relieved to hear In Flames in some respects resembling the act they embraced so long ago, and a few may be willing to forgive them their recent career missteps. Meanwhile, fresh adopters will receive more than enough of the familiar style of latter day LPs that they crave. Foregone isn’t a great album, but there are promising signs for the future – a sentiment this scribe hasn’t uttered regarding In Flames for a decade-plus now.
(released February 10, 2023 on Nuclear Blast)
Heavy Music HQ Rating:
Watch In Flames – “Meet Your Maker” Video