Sound — 3
In Flames has fallen so far, both pre- and post-Jesper Stromblad, as to be nearly unrecognizable. "Siren Charms" is a perfect example, the epitome of mediocrity.
Since the departure of founding guitarist (and last member of the original lineup) Jesper Stromblad in 2010, In Flames have released two albums. The first, "Sounds of a Playground Fading" (2011) received panned reviews, mostly skewed toward the positive side. The second, and the newest release, "Siren Charms," is caught between radio rock and radio metal, with neither side sounding even remotely passable.
The first few seconds of the beginning track, "In Plain View," offer a brief glimpse of hope that is taken away immediately when the rest of the band kicks in. The Gothenburg sound is gone without a trace. Guitarists Bjorn Gelotte and Niclas Engelin deliver a tired and uninspiring barrage of riffs taken straight from the likes of Trivium or Disturbed. There are occasional moments of solid groove that are dashed as soon as they appear. Even the occasional solo offers nothing that hasn't already been heard before. The typical harmonies are still there, but again, nothing new to write home about.
Daniel Svensson carries himself well enough on the drums, even implementing a few techniques that are fairly unique, sometimes a little bit jazzy or even exotic. However, for most of the album, the drums are simply there, carrying the beat and doing nothing more. This must be why they are so distant in the mix.
In the bass department, Peter Iwers plays the rhythm and nothing more. Sometimes the bass is so loud that it's annoying, especially so in "With Eyes Wide Open." Other times, however, the bass is hardly present at all. In the very next track, "Siren Charms"
the bass volume goes down so drastically, that I actually checked my
subwoofer to make sure it hadn't conked out. (It hadn't.)
"Siren Charms" also uses many electronic elements, some better than others. "In Plain View" has sort of a neat electronic introduction that reminded me of the tunnel chase in the movie "The Terminator." However, the most glaring misuse of electronics can be found in "When the World Explodes" (which is, in my opinion, the worst song on the album). The song has a synthesizer break that sounds like it should be on a Europe album from the 1980's. It's bizarre and incredibly out of place.
Lyrics — 4
Anders Friden is back to his "Soundtrack to Your Escape" style whiny vocals. Despite "Soundtrack"'s poor vocals, "Siren Charms" is the first In Flames album where Friden's vocals don't even fit with the music. They're much too loud in the mix, and carry a gratuitous, spacey reverb on most of the tracks.
I've always found Friden's lyrics to make either too much sense, or no sense at all, but I cannot make heads or tails of "Siren Charms." It seems like most of the album carries the "discovering yourself" kind of theme, with some observations about malevolent people. I don't know. You try to interpret this, taken from "Everything's Gone," and tell me what you come up with: "Once you had enough / Break out / Room to breathe / To love / Before you're gone / I'm the one / Who brought the mountain down."
Overall Impression — 3
If In Flames' discography were a line graph, it would begin to descend at "Reroute to Remain," with a high point being "Come Clarity," and after passing "Sounds of a Playground Fading," the line would sharply drop to the bottom of the graph. There is almost nothing enjoyable about this album. Fans of old In Flames will revile this, and I doubt fans of new In Flames will like it either. The least offensive song on this album is "Rusted Nail" which sounds like it's just a leftover from "Playground." It doesn't fit in at all with the rest of the tracklist.
To sum up this entire review: I used to wear an "In Flames We Trust" livestrong bracelet. I took it off after hearing this album.