Album Review – In Flames / Siren Charms (2014)

A mediocre album by Swedish Melodic Death Metal giants, possibly the worst they will ever release in their career.


in flames_siren charmsWhat’s happening with the most prominent Melodic Death Metal bands from Sweden in 2014? After the just average new album by Arch Enemy, it’s time for Swedish Melodic Death Metal icons In Flames to release what’s probably their weakest album of all time, the pedestrian Siren Charms, their eleventh studio album and also an unfortunate stain on their remarkable career.

Before fans come cursing me or anything like that, let me say I’m not asking for a new The Jester Race (1996) or Clayman (2000). Quite the contrary, I’m an advocate of bands that evolve during their careers, or even some that completely change their music style. I even like their previous album, the controversial Sounds of a Playground Fading (2011), and didn’t find any issues in the music by In Flames without founding guitarist Jesper Strömblad. However, in my opinion, there’s an invisible boundary for what a band can or cannot do with their music, and that’s something called INSPIRATION, which is pretty much inexistent in Siren Charms.

The opening track, In Plain View, can be considered a very good summary of the whole album: weird vocals by Anders Fridén, more noise than melody (or maybe just noise and no melody at all), and where are those good old characteristic riffs they became famous for? Although slightly heavier than the previous track and despite its interesting intro, Everything’s Gone becomes something so uninspired after a while and all instruments sound so sloppy together it’s really hard not to quickly skip to the next track; and if you do that, Paralyzed makes things even worse, with all its electronic elements being totally disposable. Once again, what happened to Anders’ voice?

Through Oblivion is another terrible song where you can barely listen to the guitars, sounding like some garbage not even Korn is capable of recording, while With Eyes Wide Open, despite being a lot more melodic, is not the musicality we were all expecting from this band. And don’t think the title-track will do any good for the album, as Siren Charms is another disappointment with nothing outstanding in it, especially its really weak vocal lines. Fortunately, When the World Explodes sounds like Anders finally woke up and decided to scream properly. It’s the closest we get to what In Flames do best (and the best song of the album by far), with highlights to its much better riffs and the awesome female vocals by Swedish soprano Emilia Feldt.

in flamesThe lead single chosen by the band, Rusted Nail, is just average (not to say it has lots of horrible moments), with its guitar lines saving it from being a total disaster, followed by the slow and tiring Dead Eyes and the slightly more exciting Monsters in the Ballroom, showcasing the best clean vocals of the entire album and an interesting guitar solo. And to end this disaster in a “St. Anger” style, we have more of the same tasteless musicality in Filtered Truth, which sounds like a demo version of something most bands would throw away without thinking twice. And I’m glad I just got the simplest version of the album with no bonus tracks, because it was an arduous job to listen to this album in its entirety (more than once, by the way).

In Flames will forever kick ass live, but I’m a little concerned about what their concerts will become in a near future. I mean, who will enjoy watching them playing most of the songs, if any, from Siren Charms, when they have so many amazing classics in their previous albums? Have they reached that unwanted stage of their career where they will just release new albums for money, no matter how bad they sound, as long as they keep headlining tours and festivals and fans keep paying to see them live anyway? I really hope not, so let’s just consider Siren Charms a lapse in their creative process, completely forget about it, and wait for their following releases.

Best moments of the album: When the World Explodes.

Worst moments of the album: Paralyzed, Through Oblivion, Siren Charms and Dead Eyes.

Released in 2014 Sony Music

Track listing
1. In Plain View 4:05
2. Everything’s Gone 3:24
3. Paralyzed 4:15
4. Through Oblivion 3:37
5. With Eyes Wide Open 3:58
6. Siren Charms 3:05
7. When the World Explodes 4:39
8. Rusted Nail 4:55
9. Dead Eyes 5:23
10. Monsters in the Ballroom 3:53
11. Filtered Truth 3:31

Band members
Anders Fridén – vocals
Björn Gelotte – guitar
Niclas Engelin – guitar
Peter Iwers – bass
Daniel Svensson – drums, percussion

Guest musicians
Emilia Feldt – guest vocals on “When the World Explodes”
German Jesterheads (In Flames fans) – guest vocals on “Rusted Nail”


Album Review – Ektomorf / Retribution (2014)

A very good “primitive” album from a relatively new Eastern European Groove/Thrash Metal band.


ektomorf_retributionAlthough Retribution is already Ektomorf’s 9th studio album, it’s the first one from this Groove/Thrash Metal Hungarian band founded in 1993 I’ve ever listened to, and to be honest with you I felt really happy to know there are still some new bands in the world doing this more primitive and aggressive type of music, even though it’s not totally original.

I read somewhere that due to the gypsy background from lead singer/founder Zoltán “Zoli” Farkas (he’s from Mezőkovácsháza, a small Hungarian city near the border of Romania), he faced a lot of racism and prejudice that held back Ektomorf from an international career. Fortunately, it seems all this bullshit is being expunged from our society and replaced by wise people willing to listen to good heavy music, no matter where it comes from.

Retribution starts in a very brutal way with the excellent song You Can’t Control Me, whose intro, heavy riffs and constant pounding already remind me of the musicality from Sepultura, Soulfly and even Slipknot. One characteristic found not only in this track, but in the whole album, is Zoli’s pronounced Eastern European accent: it’s not bad though, just different, and ends up adding something more rudimentary or “primeval” to the overall quality of the album.

When I listened to the next track, the groovier Ten Plagues, I immediately thought about Max Cavalera being probably one of Zoli’s biggest idols, as well as Anders Fridén, from Swedish Melodic Death Metal icons In Flames. The following track, Face Your Fear, sounds like a heavy sequence to the previous track, while Escape has a more modern sonority and it’s the closest one to the American Nu Metal. Then comes Who The Fuck Are You, the most Thrash Metal track of Retribution, and probably the one with the angriest lyrics of all too.

The album goes on with Numb And Sick, with its great riffs and the clean vocals from Cris Machado (Ill Niño) complementing Zoli’s guttural, making it one of the best of the album. In my humble opinion, this type of partnership with some established North American bands like Ill Niño is extremely important, as it’s usually what opens the doors in the United States and Canada to bands from different parts of the world, like Ektomorf, something that North America is in desperate need due to the amount of prefabricated junk we have to swallow down every single day while watching TV or listening to the radio here.

ektomorfGetting back to Retribution, Lost And Destroyed is for me the weakest track of the album, mainly due to the lack of violence, while Souls Of Fire is totally based on the music from Sepultura, especially from Against or Sepulnation, with its awesome rampant rythym. Then Ektomorf offer us an excellent and damn heavy version for Verbal Abuse’s I Hate You: although I still prefer the version from my Thrash Metal heroes Slayer, I must admit Zoli and his crew did an astounding job here too. Another very good track is Watch Me, which is even more inspired by Sepultura, more specifically in the song Dusted from the classic album Roots.

The last part of the album has Mass Ignorance, another violent track with great riffs and vocals; Save Me, which is a lot slower than the rest of the album, but as heavy as hell anyway; and  Whisper, a song with a very interesting riff and many music elements from bands such as In Flames and Soilwork. The CD version also contains a bonus track called Collapsed Bridge, a nice semi-acoustic ballad where it’s possible to notice the band’s gypsy influences.

The very inspired album art is also another highlight of Retribution, and again it might be just me but I can see a high influence from Sepultura’s Roots and Against there too. In summary, a very good album from a band not many people know about, and a great step for a band that should gain more respect and grow musically and creatively speaking in their path to success.

Best moments of the album: You Can’t Control Me, Numb And Sick, Souls Of Fire and I Hate You.

Worst moments of the album: Lost And Destroyed and Save Me.

Released in 2014 AFM Records

Track listing
1. You Can’t Control Me 2:15
2. Ten Plagues 3:20
3. Face Your Fear 2:23
4. Escape 3:24
5. Who The Fuck Are You 2:32
6. Numb And Sick (feat. Cris Machado) 2:42
7. Lost And Destroyed 4:09
8. Souls Of Fire 4:26
9. I Hate You (Verbal Abuse cover) 2:08
10. Watch Me 3:23
11. Mass Ignorance 2:42
12. Save Me 2:50
13. Whisper 5:56

CD bonus track
14. Collapsed Bridge 3:07

Band members
Zoltán “Zoli” Farkas – vocals, guitar
Tamás “Tomi” Schrottner – guitar
Szabolcs “Szabi” Murvai – bass
Róbert Jaksa – drums

Guest musicians
Cris Machado – clean vocals on “Numb And Sick”