Sound — 5
While In Flames originated as a small side project that didn't have a concrete lineup and independently produced their modest debut album, "Lunar Strain," they would soon bloom into an influential force in the metal world; being one of the main bands responsible for the Gothenburg metal scene and pioneering the melodic death metal subgenre with their next few albums, "The Jester Race," "Whoracle" and "Colony." As their inspirational style started to catch on worldwide, In Flames would resultantly grow more popular, though many have felt that as the band strived towards more popularity, their sound took a detrimental turn for the soft, as evident in their early noughties albums, "Reroute to Remain" (which, despite its chilly reception, was a good album name for its intention), and "Soundtrack to Your Escape."
As the breadth of original In Flames fans would wane on sticking with the band that had strayed away from their remarkable sound from before, In Flames would bring forth another lightning-in-a-bottle album, "Come Clarity," which earned high regard for re-administering the original strengths of the band and augmenting them to a more accessible sound, and would mark the band's zenith of popularity. In Flames' last couple albums may not have made as much impact as "Come Clarity" (though it's inherently tough for any album to have to follow a standout record), but they continue on with their eleventh album, "Siren Charms."
What seems to be the biggest riddle for In Flames and their sound as of lately is how they want to direct it: "A Sense of Purpose" was essentially an echo of "Come Clarity" that didn't yield as much acclaim, and "Sounds of a Playground Fading" started to stray away once again from the band's rediscovered heaviness to a less-aggressive, guitar-solo-centric alt-metal style akin to Demon Hunter.
With "Siren Charms," In Flames are moving further towards a more commercial-friendly metal sound, but in the variance found in the tracks, it seems that they're not exactly sure how they want to do that. With all songs spreading out amongst a spectrum of heaviness, it ultimately displays a wishy-washiness for how the band wants to sound: they sound like Slipknot in "Everything's Gone" and tread on deathcore territory in "When the World Explodes," but also travel in the polar opposite direction with the flaccid "Through Oblivion" and the ballad metal songs "With Eyes Wide Open," "Rusted Nail" and "Dead Eyes," where the large investment in clean vocals and timid metal instrumentation makes them sound more like Breaking Benjamin or Staind - which, for those that knew and liked In Flames during their classic era, will be utmost jarring for you.
However, "Siren Charms" isn't a full-on amnesia spell, and In Flames shows some calling back to older material: with the integral usage of synths, songs like "In Plain View," "Paralyzed," and "Monsters in the Ballroom" are reminiscent of "Soundtrack to Your Escape," and the guest female vocals of Emilia Feldt in "When the World Explodes" attempts to channel the spirit of the band's track "Dead End" from "Come Clarity," which featured guest vocals from Swedish pop star Lisa Miskovsky. Generally, though, the overbearing triteness of "Siren Charms" echoes the same problem that In Flames had when they moved towards a commercial-friendly sound the first time around, which comes off as watered down.
Lyrics — 5
Within the last few albums, In Flames' lyrics have shown numerous cases of introspective ponderings of aging and finality, which ties with the band having been around for so long - from the beginning "Come Clarity" line "rushing through thirty, getting older every day," to the poignant self-awareness of feeling "past their prime" in "Sober and Irrelevant" in "A Sense of Purpose," to "The Jester's Door" in "Sounds of a Playground Fading," which, at its time, seemed like a clear message of the band signing off.
It's clear that the song wasn't a curtain call, though, now with In Flames bringing forth "Siren Charms," but the album shows the lyrics once again including the allusion of the band's final days- from "this life is killing me/my feelings inside, I can't explain/I'm awake, but not for long" in "Siren Charms," and "my destination, my mission, my intuition/so close I feel it changing me/suddenly I know I have to let it go" in "Through Oblivion" - and even if the band has been feeling this way for years, with a message that's about the looming end, its insightful potency is reduced the further it's stretched along.
However, In Flames doesn't exclusively harp on this, and a good amount of "Siren Charms" shows the lyrical matter taking a more positive and uplifting direction, like in "Rusted Nail," "Dead Eyes," "Monsters in the Ballroom," and even the aggressive-sounding "When the World Explodes," which, while not a saving grace for the album, is a case of variance that's better than seeing only more of the same.
Overall Impression — 5
First and foremost, "Siren Charms" is not a return to the vintage In Flames melodic death metal sound that many still hope will come someday, but since the past couple of albums, it seems pretty clear that In Flames isn't interested in revamping the 20th-century version of themselves.
But more than anything, it's the uncertainty of direction that makes "Siren Charms" flounder, and the band's inability to commit to how they want to sound leaves the album with a lack of cohesion. Even the previous "Sounds of a Playground Fading," which was unsurprisingly panned for not bringing back the band's melodic death metal style in full effect, still managed to have a clear goal, and the commitment to the alt-metal style turned out feasible. "Siren Charms" shows no clear goal, and consequently, doesn't succeed.