Released: September 9, 2014
Genre: Alternative Metal
Label: Sony Music
Number Of Tracks: 11
"Siren Charms" has In Flames spanning in a few directions, but it neither reacquire their old sound, nor find a new captivating sound.
Siren CharmsFeatured review by: UG Team, on september 16, 2014 8 of 8 people found this review helpful
Sound: 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. // 5
Lyrics: 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. // 5
Overall Impression: 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. // 5
M3TALL1K, on september 17, 2014 3 of 5 people found this review helpful
Sound: 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. // 3
Lyrics: 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." // 4
Overall Impression: 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. // 3