IN FLAMES
"Reroute To Remain"

(Nuclear Blast)

01. Reroute To Remain
02. System
03. Drifter
04. Trigger
05. Cloud Connected
06. Transparent
07. Dawn Of A New Day
08. Egonomic
09. Minus
10. Dismiss The Cynics
11. Free Fall
12. Dark Signs
13. Metaphor
14. Black & White

RATING: 8.5/10

Quite remarkable how far this band has come from their ever-so-humble beginnings on a small Swedish death metal label to their internationally successful status of today, having inspired not only a great deal of metal bands in the process, but whose melodic twin guitar attack has already seen its influence seep into the hardcore scene as well. While they made great strides on their first few albums, it seemed that after their third full-length album Whoracle the band were at risk of simply repeating a successful formula ad nauseum. Follow-ups Colony and Clayman contained little that hadn't already been done by the band before, perhaps other than locking more solid, mid-paced grooves within their structures. While never guilty of a bad record, they seemed unlikely to change a profitable formula…and sure, why should they?

While Reroute To Remain (a title obviously not meant to be screamed aloud by their numerous Japanese fans) still has all the familiar IN FLAMES trademarks you've come to expect and perhaps demand, it also takes them into some daring new ground as well. First and foremost, the band jettisoned longtime producer Fredrik Nordström and instead handed control over to Daniel Bergstrand, the producer whose short-term collaboration with Devin Townsend many years back still yields some undeniable influence. This can readily be heard on the expansive choral vocals scattered liberally throughout this album as well as Bergstrand's work with bands such as DARKANE. Bergstrand normally employs a somewhat more "gritty" production than Nordström, which comes through here as well, through perhaps more on the vocals and bass than guitars. There's more of an emphasis on choruses than before, but the end result isn't so cloying (or desperate?) as was the case with the latest SOILWORK.

Vocalist Anders Friden gives a more varied performance than ever before, using his well-travelled vocal rasp and mixing in the clean vocals that he's experimented with on the past three albums, but also using varying degrees of distortion, compression and restraint to lend even more colors to their already-overflowing melodic palette. Along the way, subtle electronics and keyboards that (for the most part) manage not to be invasive are also utilized, while acoustics, clean guitars and even a fiddle add to the ambience of some of the tracks. While normally extraneous instruments just clutter what could have been a good song, here IN FLAMES see fit to pick their moments when to riff it out (such as the opening title track, or the involuntary neckbender that is "Cloud Connected"), push the envelope a bit ("Transparent", absurdly detuned and weighty with a nearly anticlimactic chorus), or really forge new paths ("Dawn Of A New Day" with acoustics and lilting melodies that nearly verge on JETHRO TULL territory).

With 14 songs clocking in at over 50 minutes, it's easy to weigh the "value for money" outlook versus "sometimes less is more" on the strength of the songs alone. As the band dole out the heaviness and restraint in measured doses, it actually flows better with a healthy amount of songs. If all the material had sounded identical, on the other hand, they would have been wiser to pare the four or five weakest songs out of the album altogether. While only a handful of songs will rank among their career's best, the breadth of material keeps things lively and creative, and gives them even more highlights to squeeze into their already formidable live set.

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