In Flames

The Tokyo Showdown

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Recorded in 2000 during the band's Clayman tour, this hourlong live CD -- consisting mainly of songs from the Clayman, Colony, and Whoracle albums -- gives a good idea why In Flames has earned such wide appeal among metal fans. They're heavy and intense enough to satisfy a good portion of death/black metal listeners, but they also have a melodic flair and a general old-fashioned metal spirit likely to resonate with people more at home with bands like Iron Maiden or Rainbow. And while singer Anders Fridén's raspy, shouted vocals are mainly expressions of anguish and personal pain, these feelings are offset by the hopeful and often triumphant tone of the guitars. Plus, the band has written some great songs over the years, among them such set list highlights as "Behind Space," "Jotun," and "&Clayman." Jesper Strömblad and Björn Gelotte's tag-team guitar work shines throughout, especially on the harmonized dual-lead sections, and the overall performances are tight and energetic. In addition, the sound is clear and well-balanced for a live recording, and there is little time wasted in between tracks on excess applause or stage banter. So, while Tokyo Showdown isn't totally essential for people who have all the band's other albums (all the songs have already appeared on their studio albums), fans will probably still want this one anyway, and they shouldn't be let down. Newcomers, on the other hand, will get a good overview of the band's work, although it's worth noting that there is only one track from their 1995 classic, The Jester Race. In any case, listening to this album, you get the impression that there was a lot of headbanging and fist-in-the-air action at the concert, and those are the same kinds of reactions this recording is likely to inspire.

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