When you're a pioneer of a musical subgenre, especially one as widespread and imitated as the Gothenburg scene, the expectations are likely to fall heavy on your shoulders. Such may cause other bands to fall to the pressure, weakening in musical quality, or collapsing from within. In Flames, however, set out on this one knowing that their collective genius would pull through once again. So did it? Well, In Flames has stuck to the formula that has gotten them to their current status, yet built upon it by maturing their sound without compromising it. The songs still sparkle with intensity, but they sound so much more planned, more conceived. There's a certain epic sensibility in the structure. The songs are drawn out a bit further, developed into a complete thought, with a range of dynamics. As opposed to being all-out intensity, it allows the melodic build-up, a quick pause, and then it strikes at you like a fucking power surge!! My first concern was that their new structure would change their powerful live set, not invoking the pittable fury I've grown used to, but with more defined dynamics, the ferocity will be more guided and proper.
Aside from the more epic structure, the main improvement here is the individual contributions of each member. The excellent recording quality has greater bass predominance, emphasizing the importance of Peter's bass and Daniel's drumming, each which have proven themselves to have more of an important role. The guitarwork, being the core of their sound, has seen great improvements as well, beyond the expanding of new melody arrangements, the leads seem much more appropriate, and flow more delicately into the songs instead of sounding like they are thrown in to show off. There are also a lot of synthesized guitar effects which soften the abrasive riffs when needed. And Anders has expanded his vocal stylings, still singing a majority of the songs in his usual way, but attempting clean passages in a few songs such as "Square Nothing" and the title track. Besides the fact that this style works well with these songs, it also helps diversify and distinguish the songs. They do well to stand out from each other anyway, each track is its own experience, each delightful in its own ways.
As the well known Gothenburg scene began to stagnate, In Flames reclaimed their thrown by taking the much needed step towards maturity, fine-tuning their original, intense and aggressive sound without taking any steps down, in musicianship, in commercial attractability, in speed or in drive. It's still as melodically superior as ever, and it's generally upbeat, but often in a darker sense. This is damn good. Bravo, In Flames, who'd have thought you could top Colony??
-- Lady Enslain