Just about any genre or style of music has had skillful crossover artists who managed to win won over some nonbelievers. Grover Washington, Jr.'s tasteful jazz-funk reached a lot of people who hadn't necessarily developed a taste for the straight-ahead bop of Clifford Brown and Sonny Stitt; Willie Nelson's country-pop reached a lot of listeners who weren't necessarily into the hardcore honky tonk of Buck Owens and Lefty Frizzell. And in the metal world, In Flames has served as a bridge between the death metal/black metal underground and the more melodic power metal of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Queensrÿche. Originally released in Europe in 1994, In Flames' debut album, Lunar Strain, attracted an interesting mixture of death metal/black metal, power metal, and thrash metal enthusiasts. Like the early releases of At the Gates, Lunar Strain helped write the book on what came to be known as "melodic death metal" -- an approach that combines death metal elements (extreme vocals, blastbeats) with the type of intricacy, musicality, and craftsmanship one expects from old-school masters like Dio, Maiden, Priest, and Black Sabbath. Most death metal favors brutality for the sake of brutality, but Lunar Strain does not govern by brute force alone and is -- by power metal standards -- much more accessible than the albums that extreme bands like Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, and Carcass were coming out with at the time. In 1994, the best was yet to come for In Flames; even so, this was a promising debut that had a major impact on melodic death metal and symphonic black metal.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson