In Flames – Destroying the Gyroscope

Saturday, 30th March 2013

(This content originally appeared on in July of 2011)

Affable and funny, In Flames frontman Anders Friden couldn’t have sounded more at ease on a warm Swedish summer evening while speaking to Blistering. And as he should – the band’s 10th album, Sounds Of A Playground Fading was just released, drawing the usual spread of reactions, which means people still give a flying you-know-what about the long-running Swedes. An In Flames album still draws major attention from the metal scene, the residual effect from the band’s monster output in the 90’s, which essentially have come to define melodic death metal as we know it. And while Friden and company are no doubt cognizant of their standing in the Swedish metal annals, 2011 is not the time nor the place to pull the usual “back to our roots” album.

Indeed Sounds is hardly melodic death metal; rather it’s an accessible, mostly memorable display of downright melodic metal the band has been spitting out since 2000’s Clayman. Songs like “The Puzzle,” “Where the Dead Ships Dwell,” “Enter Tragedy” and album closer “Liberation” surge forth with streamlined guitar melodies and Friden’s surprisingly agile clean vocals. In fact, Friden’s performance might be his best since he began utilizing clean vocals in 2002.

Lots to discuss with Friden, including the loss founding member/guitarist Jesper Stromblad, the songwriting role assumed by guitarist Bjorn Gellote, touring in North America, and quite a bit more. As the summer Swedish wind blew through Friden’s phone and into Blistering’s (this is us being poetic), it was time to get down to business… What was it like doing an album without Jesper? Was it weird to not have him in the studio with you?

Anders Friden: No, not at all. It didn’t go from one thing to another. We had touring, where he wasn’t with us for a lot of A Sense of Purpose and we had a year off, so to speak, so it would be strange if he would leave us in the middle of the recording. Me and Bjorn have been in the band since ’95 and Peter [Iwers, bass] and Daniel [Svensson, drums] since ’97, so it’s not like he was the main guy and we were standing around, waiting for his moves. He’s still a good friend, but his alcohol addiction got in the way of the group. We’re unique individuals and the unit just wasn’t working. One day he was super-happy, the other he would be the total opposite and it’s really hard to work like that. I miss the guy. I sat down with him two weeks ago. It’s hard for him, but we still had a good chat for a couple of hours, which felt good. There is already some degree of familiarity with Niclas being that this is his second stint with the band. How is he fitting in this time out?

Friden: We’ve known him for the early days of the Gothenburg scene, even when I was in Dark Tranquillity and he was in other bands. He’s a very good friend. We spend more time off the stage than on the stage, so it’s important we have someone that’s on your level…whatever that might be. He fits in. I don’t know what we would have done he had said no [laughs]. The transition from him to Jesper would have been so much harder. We were going on a tour around 2009, but a few days before we were flying away, Niclas had to step in and he learned the songs, spent many hours playing the songs. He’s really been a savior. We decided to do the album without him – he didn’t record anything. Let’s talk about Bjorn and how he shouldered the songwriting load this time out. How do you think he did?

Friden: I know he was a bit fucking desperate when Jesper decided to leave because they’ve been partners for a really long time. It’s usually me, Bjorn, and Jesper writing, and I’m usually there talking about music, the big picture, but they’ve been the ones writing the actual guitars – I’ve been doing the melodies. To be honest, he’s the more talented of the two of them. Don’t get me wrong – Jesper is a great guitarist, but he’s more of a melody-maker so to speak and Bjorn is more skilled at the guitar. I would say he really stepped up and I encouraged him like, “Come on, we can do this!” I’m not the biggest fan of guitar solos just for the sake of it [makes guitar solo sound] and I think every note, every guitar solo is awesome [here]. I don’t think he could have done any better. He was always a real tasteful player to begin with, you know?

Friden: I’m really happy people can see that Bjorn is a really good player. He’s always been in the shadow of Jesper. Jesper has always been perceived as the “main” guy of In Flames; the one that writes everything, which has never been the case. Again, I don’t want to take anything away from Jesper, he’s one of the main reasons we’re here today because he founded the band and was with us for a very long time, but now Bjorn is really shining. You’re doing a lot more singing now, as opposed to doing your usual screaming voice. How does that feel knowing you’ve reached this point as a singer?

Friden: It didn’t come to me one day, it’s been a transition over the years. The music needed more clean vocals and you can’t do it for the sake of it being there. The drummer gets it, like “Daniel needs to have a drum solo! Let’s do it for five minutes!” I remember we did the song “Ropes” and Daniel was producing the vocals and he said, “Stop. Do you realize what you’re doing? So far we haven’t made any screams on this song.” It’s such a natural thing for us, like we don’t need it. The song is still aggressive, but it should be like that. We can still do fast and crazy stuff, but I don’t feel it anymore and I think a song like “Enter Tragedy,” the fastest song on the album, was the hardest to do because we’re so familiar with those type of songs. It’s harder to make those interesting.

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