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Soundwave: In Flames

Written by James Cotterell on January 5, 2009

It’s been a big year for In Flames – the release of their ninth album, “Sense of Purpose” (which has sold nigh 200,000 copies worldwide) a new record deal with Koch Records, and a slew of big tours. The group even broke a few attendance records along the way, including their show at Grona Lund in May, which saw the highest concert numbers since Bob Marley played the same stage in 1980.

According to a recent press release, the band entertained over 300,000 punters at 17 European festivals this past summer season. leaving a larger ttrail of sweaty and satisfied bodies than John Holmes and Ron Jeremy combined.

What made “Sense of Purpose” such a success (after an inconsistent stream of material) was it’s depiction of In Flames as a band aware of their influence on modern metal; one that refines it’s craft to the point of perfection, rather than completely overhaul its sound each record, like many of their newer peers. Jesper muses, “We don’t try to reinvent [ourselves], but we don’t want to sound the same. We’re not like ACDC or bands like that. We like to develop and experiment with the music to see what we can do. But then again we don’t want to take away the ‘trademarks’ of the band”.

It is this certainty and confidence that has garnered the band its fair share of fans and detractors. Since 2000’s seminal “Clayman”, the band has often received flack for the top-notch production values absent from their earlier releases.

However, most of the material since then, bar 2004’s “Soundtrack to Your Escape” hasn’t been too bad. Jesper levels this criticism at a fickle metal underground, quick to scoff at a band’s success. “I don’t think it has to do with the sound of those records, I think it has to when you reach a certain level; you sell a certain amount of records and people will complain, because they notice that they’re not the only kid in their school who listens to this ‘underground’ band. Then all of a sudden to them that band is crappy.

A perfect example is when we released “Clayman” in 2000, and six months later we did a tour with Slipknot in the UK, and a lot of people claimed that it was a ‘sell out album’. We’ve been hearing that criticism for eight years now, so we don’t really care anymore”.

Another progression since the band’s explosion on stages across the world has been the bastardization of the Swedish Gothenburg sound. Long harking back to the days of At the Gates, Dark Tranquility et al, the style has been moulded ever since such bands hit American shores in the late 90s.

What has resulted, amidst the American metalcore trend (slowly dying in the arse after five years), is blatant copyright infringement by US bands all too ready to go ‘Gothenburg’. It seems American bands are sounding more ‘Swedish’ than the Swedes themselves.

Jesper laments, “American audiences hadn’t seen a lot of Swedish death metal bands touring there. In the last ten years, a lot of European bands have been over there and the influence has crossed over. Now it’s weird because metalcore has now hit Europe”.

Following its 2007 departure from US Metalcore/Hardcore stalwart Ferret Records, the band’s move in January of this year to Koch Records (the largest independent label in the States) turned a lot of heads. Usually limited to gutter rap (Clipse, Jim Jones) and children’s albums (The Wiggles), Koch’s signing of In Flames was unusual.

Known for its relaxed reins in relation to creative control, Koch has given the band a new sense of stability, since it’s been with three distributors in three years. “It’s important to have a record label that believes in what you do – we have creative freedom to do whatever we want to do.

I think a lot of labels nowadays now that metal fans are loyal and still buying the albums… America is weird though, it’s really suffering from downloading. I think I saw a figure in the US that they’re closing down 30% of the record stores over there every year; the market is really shrinking. Our fans have gone in the other direction – and our record sales have shown that”.

So In Flames hasn’t been too badly effected? “In Europe it’s not that bad – but I guess it will be if they [the record companies] don’t come up with a decent way to distribute music. I think people want to pay for it, if it’s convenient enough”.

As the band prepares for a US tour through December, before heading our way for a slew of dates on the mega-huge Soundwave Festival, Jesper reckons audiences should be prepared for an onslaught of the senses.

“We’ll do something special with the lights that we couldn’t last time, and we’ll be playing in the daytime which is always a bit weird. We always put on a good live show and we’re very energetic, so brace yourselves”.

In Flames’ “Sense of Purpose” is out now through Riot! Entertainment & the band play Soundwave ’09 throughout February. Check gig guide for dates.

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