The Runner – Online Edition: February 6, 2012
Gothenburg, Sweden’s In Flames are credited with inventing melodic death metal, and after their set at the Commodore Monday night, they should also be credited with perfecting the genre.
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The Scandinavian metal pioneers played the first of two shows at the Commodore Ballroom with support from Los Angeles hard rock trio Kyng, Chicago deathcore four-piece Veil of Maya and Orlando thrashers Trivium.
The show wasn’t sold out, but that just meant the true In Flames fans were in attendance, and they were probably returning to 868 Granville St. the next night.
The band opened with the title track to their new record, Sounds of a Playground Fading, and riled up the crowd with the song’s heavy riffs and lung-strengthening vocals.
In Flames’ performance of “Deliver Us” – the album’s first single – only emphasized how impassioned their fans are. Those in the front row, some with tears in their eyes and “In Flames We Trust” scrawled on their arms, outstretched their hands to lead singer Anders Fridén and sang the lyrics back as he screamed into the microphone.
By that point, the ballroom floor was surely gathering pools of sweat, but the fans kept the energy up through the new track “All for Me”. They were perhaps the least unruly metal crowd the Commodore has ever seen, even with the ensuing circle pit.
The band performed at least one song from six of their past seven albums, including Reroute to Remain, Clayman and Whoracle. Guitarist Björn Gelotte unleashed a wicked solo during “Trigger”, and the heads kept banging during the classics “Alias” and the extremely heavy “Swim”.
The band delved further into their discography and performed the more-melodic-than-death “The Hive”, pushing the lanky frontman’s vocal chords to its guttural limits.
But despite any vocal wear ‘n’ tear, In Flames went non-stop through their highest-charting single, “The Quiet Place”. The song opened with a scream, and from that point on, all one could see through the flashing strobe lights was a sea of metalheads jumping in unison.
The band returned to the new tracks, performing their newest single, “Where the Dead Ships Dwell”, and drummer Daniel Svensson brought some earthquaking double-kick for “Fear is the Weakness”, carrying a primal rhythm throughout the song.
When the acoustic intro to “Come Clarity” sounded, everyone sang word for word and raised their lighters – not iPhones, lighters – in the air. They kept harmonizing through the ariose “Delight and Angers”, and not one sweat-soaked hardcore fan had had enough.
After the supremely technical “Ropes” and the band’s debut single, “Cloud Connected”, In Flames stripped down their sound to something faster and louder. They closed the show with the rough-edged “The Mirror’s Truth”, then ripped into the core of death metal, pitting kick drum versus eardrum with “Take This Life”.
The show was as much a visual spectacle as it was an audible one. There was no pyro, no wires and no gimmicks – just some pulsating lights and a killer melodic death metal band. As long as they have a dedicated fanbase in Vancouver, they’re bound to come back and reignite us again.
|Interview with Niclas Engelin | January 27, 2012|
[ Gothenburg, Sweden is the epicentre of melodic death metal, and with over two million records sold since the early ‘90s, the city’s own In Flames is arguably the most successful group of the niche genre. With the release of their 10th studio album, Sounds of a Playground Fading, the band is currently touring North America, performing two nights at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom. In Flames’ long-time, on-and-off guitarist Niclas Engelin told The Runner about being in the band on four different occasions, recording the new album without founding fretburner Jesper Strömblad and the experience of shredding on a Ferris wheel with fireworks erupting outside his window. ]
You’ve been a prominent member in three Swedish melodic death metal bands: In Flames, Gardenian and your current band, Engel. How has pioneering such a successful style of music changed you as a musician over your career?
[laughs] I don’t tend to think about that too much. As a musician, you always strive to progress and to reach goals all the time, and to be hungry as well, to keep the flame alive and really go for it. I make music and I perform the music live and I really enjoy doing it.
Since 1997, you’ve been in and out of In Flames four times, finally landing a full-time position. How has rejoining the band been this time around?
I’ve known some of the guys since ’89 or ’90, so it’s a long time. It feels like we’ve known each other forever. I was in the band back in the ’97, then I helped them out back in ’06 when Jesper was ill. At the same time, I’ve been doing Engel. Here I am, permanent member of In Flames, which is really good. We enjoy hanging out and playing music together, and I think we deliver perfect live shows as well. I’ve known the guys for so long, and when we are touring as much as we do, it’s nice to have a good chemistry and to really enjoy being around it. It’s never been a problem, it’s just been a smooth ride.
Sounds of a Playground Fading is the band’s first album without founding guitarist Jesper Strömblad. How has the dynamic of the band been with his departure?
Jesper has his problem, he needs to work on that, but we have fun and we enjoy playing music together and going on tour together and hanging out together. The audience really loves what we are doing onstage, so it’s the perfect chemistry.
In the current line-up, you and Björn Gelotte are both on guitar. How do you divide up the guitar duties when you play live?
It’s mostly Björn on the solos, but I tend to do some as well. We’re really tight, me and Björn. Of course, I’m filling in for your Jesper, I just had to learn Jesper’s part, and then it was touring, touring, touring, touring. And a lot of time to record a new album, and all of a sudden, let’s tour again.
The album debuted at #12 on the Canadian Billboard charts, and it has a lot of heavy tracks. How did the name Sounds of a Playground Fading come about?
I think it was during the demo sessions when all the songs blend together, the riffage and song structure and melodies. We brought everything to the table and it was like a playground.
The video for the album’s first single, “Deliver Us”, features fireworks exploding next to Gothenburg’s Wheel of Excellence Ferris wheel, while each of the band members rock out in separate cabins. Where did the inspiration for that video come from?
We wanted to show people outside Sweden that Gothenburg can be really lovely. We had this wheel in the middle of the city and we got to use that for this event. At first, it was a little bit confusing, a little bit scary being in those small cubes when you’re rocking out in one of those and the wheel was spinning at the same time. First you had to overcome the fear of actually being in one of those. Then, when you feel comfortable about that, the fireworks started. I had to get used to it. It all went shaky, rocking back and forth.
In Europe, there are a lot of large heavy metal festivals like Rock am Ring and Wacken. What’s the transition like when playing more theatre-type venues in North America?
I love theatres. It couldn’t be more epic than playing theatres, that’s for sure. For me, I’m not used to [festivals] so much. Maybe when we tour over here and stuff, but in Europe, there’s mostly clubs. In some other parts, we do play arenas, but we don’t have the theatre-look at the clubs.
You’re about two weeks into the North American dates with Trivium, Veil of Maya and Kyng. How have they been as opening acts?
To be precise, we’re two-and-a-half weeks in. (Laughs) It’s been really good so far and I really like the bands we are touring with. Kyng is a really cool band, Veil of Maya is a really cool band and Trivium I’ve toured with a lot. It’s a smooth ride and we’re all having fun, just having a blast. It’s really nice when it’s like that, laidback. We just go for it, play and have fun, and that’s the way it should be.
You played Winnipeg a few nights ago, you play Edmonton tonight and then Calgary tomorrow. How have Canadian fans responded to your music so far on this tour?
It’s always good to play in Canada, it’s such a metal scene over here. I love it. Here it’s more like, a little bit similar to Europe, in the sense of the scene itself. I think it’s really cool. It reminds a little bit of back home, the mentality and the scene and all.
Recently, you’ve performed songs like “Fear is the Weakness” and “Darker Times” live. What tracks from the new album can Vancouver fans expect to hear at the Commodore?
I can’t give you all the tracks because that would ruin part of the show, but I can give you “Deliver Us” and “Where the Dead Ships Dwell”, and then – oh, you have to come and see.