A perfect summary of a band following its own path - A review of In Flames' ''Sounds from the Heart of Gothenburg''
A few days ago, I had a rather interesting discussion with my father. It wasn’t even about In Flames’ live record but about the upcoming live album of the medieval folk metal group In Extremo. The band is going to release a live album of a concert my parents had attended in Cologne a few weeks ago. When I realized that the band had chosen to only put seventeen out of the twenty-four tracks played in show on the new album, I told my father that it was regrettable that the band wouldn’t release a double-album with the entire set. My father’s reaction surprised me quite a lot: ‘’They only cut the old classics from the upcoming release that are already included on numerous live records anyway. Who needs the same songs over and over again? That would be nonsense!’’ He supported the band’s decision to focus on its more contemporary tracks and said that only idiots with too much money on their hands would buy another release with similar track and set lists to those that have already been produced in the past. I have given this some thought and in the end, I realized that he was absolutely right about this. I already own all the band’s live albums and I’m glad the band focuses on new material that has never been played before and since the previous releases included entire concerts with lengths around or even above two hours, I don’t mind having a more concise version around seventy-five minutes this time around.
What does this have to do with the new In Flames live album, you might rightfully ask. It’s quite simple. The band chose to release a rather short and intense concert that lasts less than one and a half hours and which almost exclusively focuses on the band’s last few studio outputs. The numerous old-school fans complaining about the set list and the fact that several classics from the early years aren’t included here simply don’t have a point and should listen to the band’s previous live outputs such as ‘’The Tokyo Showdown – Live in Japan 2000’’ released fifteen years earlier.
The band’s new live release will obviously please to those who appreciate the group’s last few records. If we take a look at the unchained crowd in a packed concert hall in Gothenburg with a capacity of about fourteen thousand people, this doesn’t seem to be a minority. The fans are banging their heads, cheering loudly, clapping their hands, jumping around, singing along and starting mosh and circle pits. The band on the other side is giving both an energetic and energizing performance, offers a great light show with some visual effects and communicates well with the fans without talking too much and losing any momentum. Just like on the band’s previous live record ‘’Used and Abused – In Live We Trust’’ eleven years earlier, it’s a little bit sad that these interactions are obviously all made in Swedish and that international fans won’t really understand what’s going on. On the other side, this home game transmits such a great atmosphere that I don’t mind the occasional short dialogue in Swedish. It’s not comparable to HammerFall’s live album ‘’One Crimson Night’’ for example, where the band would communicate in Swedish with the fans for several minutes and completely lose my interest at times.
The tracks from the band’s previous studio album Siren Charms work surprisingly well in concert and are sometimes even better live than in studio. I always thought that the complex ‘’In Plain View’’ wasn’t the best choice to open an album but the track builds up a tense atmosphere right from the start in concert and the crowd is immediately into it. ‘’Everything’s Gone’’ turns out being a sinister tune that sounds more like a contemporary extreme metal song in concert than the Marilyn Manson clone it appeared to be on the studio album. One song that must be pointed out is ‘’When the World Explodes’’ that was among the more unspectacular tunes on the last studio effort but turns out being one of the highlights on this live record. The band invited Swedish soprano opera singer Emilia Feldt to perform the song she had recorded with the band two years ago in concert again and the chemistry between the unique Anders Fridén and her works much better in concert than on the studio version. Emilia Feldt’s emotional and skilled performance is adding a magic and psychedelic note to the live show and the beautiful artist has a very charming stage presence as well. This new live release shows additional qualities of the songs from the band’s last studio effort and proves its legitimacy and legacy.
Among the songs which aren’t taken from the last studio effort, one has to point out the band’s diversified, emotional and hypnotizing performance of ‘’The Chose Pessimist’’. I can understand when people claim that the song sounds whiny, overlong and mellow but I’ve always appreciated this unusual tune for these qualities. It’s a courageous experiment that sounds very different from anything else In Flames has ever released which is quite meaningful since the band keeps experimenting and shifting its style while always sounding like itself. In this live version, the tension of the track is build up very carefully and the dragging tune slowly quickens up the pace before it explodes with a firework of emotional intensity. Anders Fridén’s perfectly imperfect vocals work in this track and he really sings his heart and soul out in the final part of the track which gets me every time I listen to it. I’m a rather emotional person myself, so this might explain my appreciation for this particular song.
In the end, ‘’Sounds from the Heart of Gothenburg’’ is almost like a greatest hits release that brings to the point everything In Flames represents nowadays and perfectly summarizes the path this band has taken for the last fifteen years of its career. Those who are still stuck in the band’s first ten years of existence might reject this record but those who have appreciated the majority of the band’s career will see this as a highlight in its extensive discography. In my opinion, the band’s emotional, powerful and varied concert proves why this group is much more relevant than several comparable bands like Dark Tranquillity and Soilwork that keep releasing the same type of music in lesser quality over and over again. In Flames we trust.
Final rating: 80%
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