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Throwback Thursday: IN FLAMES' Colony Showed us the Melodic Side to Death Metal

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Hello friends, and welcome back to Throwback Thursday! This is the place where we get to indulge in nostalgia and wax poetic about excellent metal of years past.

This series embarks on a journey in search of albums that have primed the canvas of today's metal music scene. For this, the sixteenth edition of this series, let's talk about an earlier album from a prolific band – a  band you've no doubt had a crush on at one point or another. How could you not love the sweeeeeeeet dulcet tones from one of Sweden best exports…

IN FLAMES'S COLONY

Release Date: May 21, 1999

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Record Label: Nuclear Blast 

If you're newer to metal and always wondered about America's obsession with European metal-band exports, you can blame groups like Gothenburg-born In Flames for creating the love affair with Scandinavia.  These guys have been around for almost 30 years, which is an insane amount of time for any band to still be together. Not only are they still together, they are still releasing new material AND still touring. In Flames formed in 1990, have 11 studio albums and have sold 2.5 million albums worldwide. They're on tour right now in Europe on the heels of their latest 2016 release Battles.

I chose Colony to talk about this week because I feel like this record really set the tone for modern In Flames and marked a transition point for the group. Part of this transition had to do with a change in the band's lineup. Björn Gelotte, who had been on drums for Whoracle and The Jester Race, transitioned from his percussion throne to guitarist. Alongside fellow guitarist Jesper Strömblad, the two created the dancing, tight-harmonied, mid-tempo melodic guitar work that established In Flames as a band for years to come.  Daniel Svensson replaced Gelotte on drums, Peter Iwers was brought on as their bass player (who has since left the band with founding member Strömblad to create CHYRA), and Anders Fridén was set as their official lead singer – who is still with the band today.

Not everyone is a fan of transitioning In Flames. Prior to the release of Colony, In Flames had 4 other albums which proved groundbreaking in their own right. Among them, in my opinion The Jester Race stands out as a truly remarkable album that had little or no parallel in it's release year of 1996. I think the 1999 line-up change spurred a groove/sweet spot for the band in which they found great success. With that success came a bit of a safety net, and I'd say that Colony is less of an exciting release than titles like The Jester Race. The songs on Colony are beautiful, but predictable. Even still, Colony rips, man. It's interesting and full-sounding. Opening track "Embody the Invisible" shines in two areas – guitar and vocals. They're so good, so warm, and so catchy it's hard to focus on other parts of the song:

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Colony is easy to listen to. Is that a thing? Easy listening melodic death metal? Well, it should be. The entire album has a smooth polish over it's catchy, meaningful riffs. Even though the lyrics are dark and the pitch low, there is a current of a feeling I'd describe as positivity to the sound on Colony. The melodies are deft and moving like a rushing river through a long, twisting valley.

Check out fan fave song "Ordinary Story":

I love the mix of cleaner, slower vocals/talking parts in contrast to unforgettable hooks. It feels like you're listening to someone's private thoughts, and it gives the song a remarkable point of view.

Moving on down the track list, "Scorn" is fast and experimental with vocal effects, but returns to their death metal roots in the chorus. Next song and title track "Colony" is another standout from the album. Check out this well-done fan-made video (I'm pretty sure it's fan-made anyway) for the song:

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Here we see Anders Fridén channeling his inner Johnathan Davis (of Korn fame) with his shoulder-length dreads  – a look Fridén kept for yeeeears (let's be serious, it was the other way around. Johnathan Davis channeled his inner Fridén). We also see bunch of people just havin' a good old time hair whippin' and head banging to some fuckin' good music. That's why I love this music video – because it shows In Flames at their core.  Here we have a bare-bones, stripped of pomp video where we have a band who makes good-ass music for people who like good-ass music.

Which bring me to my next point about In Flames: Their albums have been… controversial. I don't mean controversial in a political or counter-culture sense, but they've been a hot topic for debate since the release of their 2002 album Reroute to Remain, which some fans hearken to as the album that 'sold-out In Flames'. The album of today's TBT, Colony, was for sure the 'gateway' drug for the band to find themselves recording Reroute to Remain. You don't have to like newer In Flames, but let's keep in perspective what the band has done on the whole: Because of In Flames, melodic death metal is a mainstay in metal sub-genres. I know that there is room for it all, folks – room for bands to grow in which ever direction suits them, not the fans. I am not defending their newer material (I'll leave that discussion for another TBT), but I am saying that the perspective we should have about In Flames should focus less on what they should or shouldn't have done – but it should be about what they HAVE done, which is create memorable, catchy, immediately identifiable music. You know an In Flames song from it's signature vocals, riffs, and energy – 3 characteristics which have followed them throughout their ENTIRE career.

Colony makes what In Flames does sound effortless. Go on, try to get "Zombie Inc" out of your head:

The formula established on Colony works, man. It's endlessly appealing and motivating. If you want to see what In Flames is up to, check out another article from today Looks Like IN FLAMES Is Releasing A Covers EP Tomorrow, Teases ALICE IN CHAINS & DEPECHE MODE Covers.

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What do you think of Colony? Are In Flames better off because of the direction Colony sent them in? Sound off down below, I love hearing from other fans. Thanks for stopping by and I'll see you all next week.

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