In Flames - I, The Mask review


234 users:
Band: In Flames
Album: I, The Mask
Release date: March 2019

01. Voices
02. I, The Mask
03. Call My Name
04. I Am Above
05. Follow Me
06. (This is Our) House
07. We Will Remember
08. In This Life
09. Burn
10. Deep Inside
11. All The Pain
12. Stay With Me

It's been a long and consistent descent for In Flames for much of the last few years, skating by on their reputation rather than merit to keep their name relevant. It is against this back drop that they release I, The Mask, an album that is born with its back to the wall - can it come out swinging?

To lay my cards out on the table, I thought A Sense Of Purpose and Sounds Of A Playground Fading were good and great records, while Battles is far from being passable, so my level of expectation is somewhat low compared to many In Flames fans. So when I say I, The Mask is a slight improvement, take that with a pinch of salt if you think the other albums I just name checked were poor. If you find anything after Clayman a besmirchment of their name then your time hasn't come and they haven't seen the light; if you are someone who enjoys their run of albums up to Come Clarity then you might find bits here and there that are to your liking. If you are someone who liked their last two albums, then your last name must be Friden or Gelotte, and you will probably find this one to be more to your liking.

The biggest problem with I, The Mask is that it makes passes at the kind of sound you want to hear from In Flames, but they stop far short of where you would like them to take it. Tracks like "I Am Above" or "Voices" sound like they are constructed from the blueprints that past great In Flames songs have been built from, but the band get a quarter of the way to finishing the song and down tools; the shape is there but that's it, the first floor of a towering skyscraper of a song is all you get. Sure, it's a well-built start but you expect there to be more to it than what you get; however, it's ok to settle for what we get.

"Burn" sounds like they're trying to meet fans of old halfway and bridge the gulf that has widened between them; coupled with "I, The Mask", "Deep Inside" and "All The Pain", the band are making a conscious effort to appeal to both sets of fans. If you were to give this record a go, then I would recommend starting with these four tracks; if you enjoy them, then perhaps try venturing further. However, if these songs do nothing for you then I'd suggest you stop and say "at least I gave the album a chance", as the rest of it is unlikely to be for you.

The rest of the album plays out in a bit of a confused mess, with the band experimenting with their sound in different ways but ultimately settling on being bad rather than anything else. Like someone throwing darts blindfolded while spinning around, given enough chances they'll throw something in the right direction or get close to hitting the board; the miracle of them hitting the target, let alone a bullseye, doesn't happen, lest you get your hopes up.

"(This Is Our) House" is a weird track: the vocal pattern in the pre-chorus is oddly hypnotic, but the rest of the track is some strange hybrid of disparate ideas thrown together and shaped into some kind of form. While I can give credit for the experimentation with the vocals and the ok guitar solo, the rest of the track bounces around like a pinball in a machine trying to figure out what it is and what it wants to be. "We Will Remember" reminds me of "Watch Me Shine" and "Enemy" by Fozzy, which should have you recoiling in horror depending on your opinion of said band and the discovery that In Flames are skirting close to their sound. It's not a bad track, but it's not something I want to hear from the band who only did the likes of "Deliver Us" a few years ago.

"Call My Name" features some nice vocals, but the rest of the song is bang average, as is "Follow Me" though sans the vocal quality. It is at this point you realize the main theme of this album, and instead of enjoying the album you spend your time looking for anything of slight merit, almost as a way to justify not fully writing the band off at this point; had this been an album by a brand new band, chances are you wouldn't be so generous and would have packed the album in awhile ago.

Production wise, it's good if you are willing to accept that the In Flames sound died long ago; sonically there is nothing wrong with, though the nagging thought that it isn't what you really want will haunt you throughout the record. While I can't fault it for being bad, it isn't really what you want from an album by this band.

The best compliment I can give I, The Mask is that it is an improvement on their last two records, which given the level of competition is a pyrrhic victory; it is a small first step in the right direction and hopefully one In Flames follows through on, and this serves as a starting point rather than a high point. While I wouldn't rush back to the band just yet, if you have been able to hang on in there over a tough few years then this will be a glimmer of hope that there is light at the end of this tunnel.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 7
Songwriting: 5
Originality: 6
Production: 8

Written by omne metallum | 17.07.2020


Hits total: 223 | This month: 11