In Flames

Come Clarity

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In Flames' most recent LPs, 2002's Reroute to Remain and 2004's Soundtrack to Your Escape, made them poster boys for the dreaded "evolve or perish" maxim in heavy metal -- a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't dilemma, where the din unleashed by jilted die-hard fans usually drowns out any positive overtures from both new and faithful supporters. However, such was In Flames' talent and reputable cachet coming into these experiments that the conflicting parties appeared to have pretty much fought each other to a draw by the time the Swedes unleashed their next opus, Come Clarity, in early 2006. Pre-release hype had actually hinted at a more uptempo record, and neo-thrashing numbers like "Vacuum," "Versus Terminus," and album opener "Take This Life" certainly delivered on that promise. But perhaps these were merely calculated concessions intended to get the usual grouches off the band's back, because the vast remainder of Come Clarity sees In Flames getting right back to this "evolutionary" business, and looking for new ways to express themselves through bite-sized melodic metal nuggets. Really, that's always been their standard m.o., and if current material like "Leeches," "Crawl Through Knives," and the superlative single "Reflect the Storm" let their catchy choruses speak louder than their guitars, more often than not -- as long as those troublesome flirtations with nu metal are never mentioned again (and they aren't on this occasion) -- there's absolutely no reason to get hysterical here. Sure, "Dead End" gets little to no traction from doing the beaten-to-death guest female vocal thing (provided by Swedish pop star Lisa Miskovsky) and "Scream" is an embarrassing candidate for one of those Jock Rock compilations, but the only overarching criticism that can be leveled the album's way is that some of its more unconventional offerings (such as the semi-balladic title track and atmospheric closer "Your Bedtime Story Is Scaring Everyone") have their full potential edited out of by the band's obsessive succinctness (that too, by the way, a career-long In Flames trademark). Ultimately, Come Clarity's trump card may well be those frequent -- if altogether brief -- resurrections of the thrilling twin-guitar harmony runs typical of In Flames' melodic death metal glory years (see "Pacing Death's Rail," "Vanishing Light," the aforementioned "Dead End"). Quite possibly reflecting a very considered act of strategic compromise on In Flames' part, it epitomizes this album's very successful reconciliation of past, present, and future, to come out overwhelmingly victorious in the end.

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