In Flames can be proud of their influence on heavy music as one of the pioneers of melodic death metal along with At the Gates and Dark Tranquillity. For inexplicable reasons, this reviewer must admit they passed him by when Colony exploded onto the scene in 1999 and Clayman followed in 2000 with equal acclaim. The band’s sharp decline since 2002’s detested metalcore sell-out, Reroute to Remain, is reason enough to stay away from their output over the last twenty years, although it would be wise to listen to 2016’s alternative rock disaster, Battles, before passing judgement. But you wonder how many chances In Flames need to correct the mistakes of the last two decades. One can predict with certainty that the original fanbase will be disappointed once again with Foregone, but it has a few moments of genuine quality that cannot be ignored.
Though responsible for one of the most saturated genres in the metal canon, In Flames remind you on ‘State of Slow Decay’ and ‘Meet Your Maker’ that melodic death metal can be ferocious when executed in the right manner. Listen to the guitar interplay in the former between drop-tuned crunchy riffing and haunting ambient melodies – the drum tempo and grotesque voice abrasions are enough to make your eyes pop out. The double-kick groove and rapacious vocals on the latter remind you of the band’s influence on everyone from modern Machine Head to Trivium since the turn of the century. An album of twelve high-energy cuts like these would be more than enough to place In Flames back on the pedestal they vacated with such indignity in the last ten years.
Of course, the problem with Foregone is the same one that haunted Paradise Lost in their barren years between 1999 and 2007. Who remembers the days when it looked like the Yorkshire pioneers of gothic metal and death-doom would never recover the glory of their early years? Fans of In Flames will be wondering the same thing, but their endurance levels must be close to exhaustion. Only ‘In the Dark’ (track #9) matches the urgency and might of ‘State of Slow Decay’ and ‘Meet Your Maker’. Every other song suffers from the usual flaws their fanbase dread with each release. Why is this music so formulaic? ‘Bleeding Out’ uses the good cop/bad cop approach to metalcore with predictable results; ‘Pure Light of Mind’ is radio rock drivel; ‘Cynosure’ might appeal to the Five Finger Death Punch listeners if they show patience. True, ‘The Great Deceiver’ reminds you of their extreme metal heritage, but it would be more effective without the cliched metalcore chorus of the early 2000s. Even the mellifluous guitar solo cannot save it.
In Flames are an intelligent band. Their musicianship is exquisite; the group’s song writing ability is not in question. Bringing in Chris Broderick (ex-Megadeth) as a full-time guitarist and recording artist should give them the impetus to start the process of recovery, but these are small steps. Foregone will struggle to convince the diehards that they can experience the zeal of the first five albums after so many setbacks and disappointments, and you must ask if the band have any more lives left after this record.
“We are but empty vessels with no ambition,” roars Anders Fridén on closing song, ‘End the Transmission’. As stated, In Flames are an intelligent band. One assumes they’re aware of the irony of these lyrics.
Release Date: 10/02/2023
Record Label: Nuclear Blast
Standout tracks: State of Slow Decay; Meet Your Maker; In the Dark
Suggested Further Listening: Trivium – The Sin and the Sentence (2017), The Lurking Fear – Death, Madness, Horror, Decay (2021), Darkane – Inhuman Spirits (2022)