In Flames

Dismiss The Cynics

By Aedan Siebert

30 May 2008

Words by Aedan Siebert

These days it's extremely uncommon to hear a metal head proclaim: 'In Flames? Nup. Never heard of em'. As well it should be, for who among us could honestly ignore the steady - and certainly warranted - rise to fame that Sweden's melodic metal masters have undertaken since the release of their ear-shattering '94 debut, Lunar Strain. Fast forward 14 years to the present, and it's time for the Jester to rear his ugly head once again, the band dishing out their ninth full length, entitled: A Sense Of Purpose. I caught up with the band's skinsman Daniel Svensson to chat about this fantastic new addition to the In Flames family, the evolution of modern metal and a band at the very top of their game...

In Flames

“It's our ninth album and I don't think you will get surprised if I say it's our best album so far! (laughs) - the new one usually is,” begins a very pleased Svensson as I ask him about the new album. “It's always hard to describe your own music when you're in the middle of it - it's easier from the outside. But if you liked the previous In Flames albums then you will definitely like this one! It's still melodic metal with great choruses - I mean they're the trademarks of In Flames. I think the biggest change on this album is the production. We really worked on it this time. The album was recorded in our own studio which meant that we didn't have any time issues - we could really work until we were totally satisfied with everything. I think this record is more solid than ever before - there's no detail we haven't worked with, because we had so much time.”

It's not often a metal band - even a bigger one like In Flames - gets the opportunity to sit back, take the time and get things just right during the recording process. And it certainly seems as though it was an experience that the band well and truly relished.

In Flames“No, I mean usually you rent someone else's studio for a couple of weeks. And during the time, problems will appear and then you stand there with seven days left in the studio and you have seven more songs to record and you have to really stress out. But this time we could work for as long as we wanted. I mean sometimes you lose inspiration - then you can go home for a couple of days and just forget about the album for awhile, and then come back when you get the inspiration back. I think that's the key to why this album sounds so good.”

That being said, Svensson does concede that there is a chance - albeit a small one - that the band may once again return to record in a different studio.

“You never know - we'll see. I mean now days when we have families and stuff like that, and were travelling so much with the touring and everything it's not very exciting to travel away during the recording as well. It's more convenient if you can be in your home town. But I mean you never know - we've never worked with a big producer before, maybe we'll try that some time. I mean we take one album at a time, we'll focus on this one and all the touring and then we'll see what happens.”

To my ears, A Sense Of Purpose has a slightly different feel to it than the standard In Flames release, something subtle and organic that even Daniel finds a little hard to nail down.

“It might sound more happy. It's not as dark as Soundtrack To Your Escape was - that's probably the darkest album we did. As I said, it's really hard to say. I mean I will always have my experience recording the songs and that's what I think of when I hear those specific songs. I will definitely get different feelings from listening to the album than you will get - it's really hard to say. It's a little bit more happy - which could maybe reflect that this is the first time that we were together recording an album in awhile. For the previous three albums at least I've been recording drums alone with a producer in one studio, and then we'd record the guitar somewhere else and then Anders did his vocals alone in another studio. This time it felt like a band effort again. We could hang out and have fun during the recording and I think that's why this album sounds more happy - because we had a really, really good time!”

Most fans may be unaware of exactly how long its been since the lads actually recorded a record together in the same room...

“I think the last time we recorded together was on Reroute To Remain - yeah it was like six years ago. But now days you don't have to be together because you can record your bits and pieces here and there and then you can just send them on a computer. Back in the old days you had to be in the same place because the recording was more a physical thing with the tapes and everything. Now days it's just computer files that you can send wherever, however.”

While Svensson certainly agrees with the convenience of current recording technology, he doesn't necessarily see it as the be all and end all of album creation.

In Flames' A Sense Of Purpose“No. I mean, as I said you lose a little bit of the band feeling when you do it that way. I mean of course it's convenient - especially if you're a band that has members all over the world. Then its perfect! Then you can record your own stuff at your place and just send it. But we are a band and it's much more fun to create a product when you're all together. This studio that we own is built out of many small studios, so we were recording drums and guitars at the same time. We could go into each other and come up with new ideas and make small changes and stuff like that - it was more like a big workshop this time.”

Most bands or artists that have been around for ten years or more are often quite surprised with both their success and progress through the years - the In Flames skinsman proving not to be an exception to the rule when I ask him if he ever thought he'd be where he is today when In Flames was still in its early days.

“No. No not really. I mean when you start a band - especially in this kind of music - your happy if you get a job at a local pub! (laughs) But I think our career has gone steadily in the right direction - we never got big just overnight. We kind of grow into every step. It still feels natural for us to be at this level. I think it's really hard if you're a new band and you release an album and it gets really big - I think you'd get really anxious about the rest of your career, or what you can do now to make it better. The way we have done it has been very healthy for the band and for us as individuals - and for our egos as well - because we have had the time to adapt to every level of our career. We didn't get huge overnight. Of course if someone told me ten years ago that I would play these big shows and sell these amounts of records I would've just laughed! We've had some luck and we've been working really, really hard so we definitely deserve it I think.”

That being said, good luck isn't the only egg in the basket of the band's success...

“Good songs and a lot of touring. I mean you can be the best band in the world in your own rehearsal room, but you need to prove it as well - on stage. I mean if you want to reach far you need to promote yourself. And this promotional work - touring - that's the part that we love the most. It's a lot of hard work, but at the same time we love to do it!”

Daniel was stumped when I asked him what he thought he'd be doing if he wasn't drumming for In Flames. And who can blame the man? Who wants a day job when you could belt out some blast beats for one of the biggest metal bands in the world?

“I don't know. I mean I've been doing this my whole grown up life. I probably would've studied somewhere at a foreign university. I don't have a clue actually! I never really got a real day job, I'd just been jumping around working a little bit here and a little bit there, I hadn't really decided what I wanted to do - and all of a sudden I was the drummer for In Flames so then I solved that problem!”

Many fans and press alike quote In Flames as being one of the bands responsible for shaping and directing both the Gothenburg style and the sound of modern European metal - which has inturn, influenced the new wave of modern American metal. While Svensson agrees that this may be true to the fact, its not something the band had always set out to achieve.

“Mmm. It might be true. I mean us, and some other bands of course. Yeah, that's possible. I mean its nothing that you walk around and think about everyday. Of course we've understood that we've become an influential band for other bands and that's great! It's really flattering that you can inspire people to start playing music. But it's not an ambition, it just happens. I think we always try to write songs that we are comfortable with and we never try and catch any trends because that's really dangerous. We always try to find new ways in working with the songs and writing songs. We've never tried to follow any other bands and I think that's the secret.”

For some musicians, coming up with new ideas can be a chore - not so for these long-haired metal legends.

“Not really. It comes naturally for us, I don't know what it is. I mean right now I feel like 'Ok. It's going to be really hard to top this album'. But now we're going to tour for 1 and a half years and then take a month off and then we're going to start writing new songs. Every time we do this, new songs pop up as if nothing had happened before, and they always seem to be better than the previous ones. We've never had a problem when it comes to that - luckily. I don't know what it is. We love playing music, and I think sometimes you need to force yourself to be creative. But when you get going the songs just pop out.”

That being said, Svensson doesn't think that every band or musician out there has a responsibility to be creative.

“No. I mean you can choose yourself I think. The best thing is that we don't have any obligation to anyone else. It's only the five of us and what we say and what we think that matters. That's also the good thing with our career so far - we've had record labels that have had nothing to do with the creative part. They only take care of promotion and distribution and then we do the rest. And I think that's really important as well - that you don't have any other people that interfere in your creative process.”

I also wondered if the band's creativity stemmed from the fact that they all seem to be damn good mates.

“Yeah! Definitely! I mean this line up has been together for over ten years now. I think we have the same ambitions and the same goals. You have to have that otherwise there will be conflicts. I think we have almost the same vision on how In Flames should sound every time we go into the studio to record a new album. We never have any disputes about how we should sound or about the music itself. I mean that could definitely kill your creativity if you fight about stuff like that”

When asked about his views on today's metal scene Daniel brings a very sober, and ultimately mature approach to the table. One that many metal heads would do well to take on board.

“To be honest, I really don't have time to listen to so much new metal. There are some really good new bands. I mean the latest trend in the U.S is obviously metalcore. And always in the US when something gets trendy - everyone starts bands to catch the momentum. And of course there are some bands that aren't as good as the others. But I really enjoy listening to Killswitch (Engage) and As I Lay Dying and stuff like that. I mean music needs to evolve otherwise it will get stagnant. Those bands took the American hardcore thing and mixed it with a more melodic European style and came up with this new thing and created a new branch in the metal tree - that's how music evolves.”

In Flames

It's been four long years since the lads belted out their melodic metal melodies on stages across Australia - surely it's about time for an encore?

“Our plans are that we're going to come down under this year sometime after summer - in between Summer and Christmas. Nothing is decided but that's what we want to do. I think it'll be that way but I can't really say.”

Rumour has it that last time In Flames were in the land of Oz, they had a damn good time.

“Oh yeah! It was the best tour we did! It's always fun to find new countries and Australia was treating us really good last time. We had some days off as well which we usually don't have so we could really explore some things. Yeah, we had a really, really good time and we're looking forward to coming back. I mean now it's been four years since we were there so I think it's definitely time to come back.”

With a massive nine albums under their figurative belts, I remark to Daniel that it must be a difficult job for the band to decide what they're going to play on any given night.

“It's impossible! That's maybe the thing we argue about. Especially if you play as a support band on tour - then you can only play for 50 minutes and it's totally impossible! You need to promote your latest album, so obviously we'll play some songs from that one and then we try to mix as good as we can from all the previous albums. I mean some fans will be pleased and some wont be, but that's how it is. We try to change some songs here and there during the tour. But that's the biggest problem we have - we've got more than 120 songs I think!”

But surely there's some sort of logical systematic process to it all?

“Nope. I mean we know that some of the songs don't really work out well in the lineup so we can cut some of them away. We have some live favourites and some songs that we can't really take away. It seems like you have to play the singles more or less - but then we try to circulate things as good as we can.”

Before we parted ways, Svensson wanted me to pass this message onto all the Aussie In Flames fans out there:

“I really hope that we can come down under this fall to play in Australia again because we really had a good time, as I said before - time will tell!”

In Flames' latest album, A Sense of Purpose, is out now on Nuclear Blast Records through Riot! Entertainment. For more information on In Flames, check out www.inflames.com.

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