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In Flames: Whoracle

In Flames: Whoracle

05/03/10  ||  Smalley

Introduction

Yeah, I know “Whoracle” already has a regular review on GD, and “The
jester race” still needs re-covering (I might do it later), and the
Class6 format sucks, but I’m willing to overlook all that for this
write-up, since I love “Whoracle”, and have absolutely no reservations
with calling it a classic. You see, before In Flames lost their balls in
’02 and started imitating American metalcore, they were making the
albums those bands would imitate, and “Whoracle” is definitely a
case where the progenitor of a sound kicks the shit out of its
offspring, then holds it down and cuts that stupid giant emo cowlick off
its head with a pair of rusted scissors. No doubt, the previous IF
albums were very good in their own right, but it was here that Flames
smoothed out most of the rough patches that made those albums a bit
bumpy, and created one triumphant piece of melo death, one of the very
best (if not the best) records to emerge from the movement.

Songwriting

9. Dynamic, energetic, and well-composed all the way, Flames does a
great job of combining the riffs, the generous amount of soloing, Anders
Fridén’s singing, and even the fucken acoustic guitars in a way so
every single element gels tightly together, and contributes to the
overall strength of the songs. While IF ramped down the energy a bit
from “The jester race”, this only results in an overall more compelling,
enjoyable experience, and there still isn’t a single dull moment to be
heard here anyway. The overall track flow is great as well: I love how
the up-beat opener “Jotun” grabs us right away, how the relatively
relaxed “Jester script transfigured” makes for a perfect little
stand-out song in the middle, the one-two punch of the inspired Depeche
Mode cover “Everything counts” and the dramatic, eerie title track at
the very end, and more. Okay, so the beginning of “Food for the gods” is
very similar to “Slaughter of the soul”, to the point where I expect Fridén to scream “GO (rip off one of your peer bands)!”
, but “Whoracle” is a much better album than “Slaughter” anyway, so IF
is just redistributing the melo death wealth towards the more deserving.

Production

7.5. In Flames and veteran Gothenburg knob-twister Fredrik Nordström
did a fine job here, giving “Whoracle” a much clearer, improved sound
from “The jester race”, and made sure every instrument had a comfortable
place within the overall sound: the lead guitar has a properly light,
flexible tone to it, the rhythm guitar is a bit higher-pitched than
what’s normal, but still retains the right amount of roughness, the
drums have a nice, strong sound, the bass is pleasingly low and thick,
and the acoustic guitars always sound beautiful and crystal-clear.
Fridén’s vocals are often a bit low in the mix, but that’s probably a
result of the middling style he was using back in the day, so just
forget I said anything.

Guitars

9. Glenn Ljungström gives effectively catchy, energetic riffs with
his rhythm guitar, but the real guitar heroes here are Jesper Strömblad
and Björn Gelotte, on the leads. It’s no surprise the band needed two
guys to take care of the lead guitar work, with the incredible amount of
agile, winding solos that had to be played, which was probably the
single element that best defined the old IF sound (so you know they
couldn’t just neglect it). The dynamic duo also gives articulate,
full-bodied performances with their acoustic playing, so extra kudos for
that.

Vocals

5. Anders Fridén was smack-dab in the middle of his “subdued
talking/hoarse growl-screaming” phase at this time, sometimes
unexpectedly (and inappropriately, in my opinion) raising his volume for
some quasi-roars, and I can’t say I’m a fan of any of that. If only he
had sung more like he does on Colony
, you’d have an almost-flawless IF album here, and while he does have a
pretty decent growl (relatively) on “Worlds within the margin”, that’s
about it.

Bass

7.5. Johan Larsson’s bass lines are pretty straight-forward and
usually just mimic the riffs, so Steve Harris he isn’t, but doing
anything else would be an unnecessary distraction from the riffs, so I’m
going to score this a bit more on the sound than the performance. As I
said before, the bass on “Whoracle” is suitably low and thick, I can
hear it well enough, and it sounds especially good on “Episode 666” and
the title track, so I have nothing but good things to say about it.

Drums

6. Björn Gelotte is adequate behind the kit, showing good energy,
but sticking to basic, predictable patterns, and okay fills that never
really impress, but he provides acceptable back-up for the guitars, so I
can’t criticize him too much. Why the hell would you listen to an In
Flames record for the drumming, anyway?

Lyrics

8. “Whoracle” is supposed to be some concept album about the total
breakdown of Earthly society, but it’s often written in this disjointed,
obtuse way that makes it so I have no idea what the hell the
connection/story progression is between the songs, or even what the
individual songs are talking about. Whatever, I never cared much about
the “concept” portion of concept albums, and I get the feeling that even
Flames didn’t care too much about telling a coherent story, since they
included a fucken Depeche Mode cover near the end. “Whoracle”‘s lyrics
are still trippy ‘n cool despite all that (“I often dream of huge numb
buildings/Jet-black sinister architecture/Being installed when nobody
sees/Their appearance so sudden/That few would take notice”), so I still
like ‘em.

Cover art

6.5. The mouth-faced demon/prostitute lady is a nice start, since
she’s probably supposed to represent the tempting-whatever that breaks
down Earth’s society, and she works very well in that regard, but then
In Flames just had to travel three years into the future and put that guy
from “Swamplord” to the left of her, and a little emo kid holding a
teddy bear to the right, who make for unnecessary clutter. I also don’t
like the demon-lady being just inside a building, since this would’ve
worked a lot better if it was just her standing next to the rubble
outside, but whatever.

Logo

6. It’s legible, and tells you the name of the band, so I guess it’s fine. Why the hell is this even a Class6 section?

Booklet

N/A. I never keep album booklets, so all apologies (but not really).

Overall and ending rant

This is the very peak of old In Flames, an intensely enjoyable record, and the band’s very best album (which it’s very likely to remain), so don’t be a InquisitorGeneralis, and pay up for a wild night with “Whoracle”! Trust me, she’s high class.

9

  • Information
  • Released: 1997
  • Label: Nuclear Blast
  • Website: www.inflames.com
  • Band
  • Anders Fridén: vocals
  • Jesper Strömblad: lead guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboards
  • Glenn Ljungström: rhythm guitar
  • Johan Larsson: bass
  • Björn Gelotte: drums, lead guitar, acoustic guitar
  • Tracklist
  • 01. Jotun
  • 02. Food For The Gods
  • 03. Gyroscope
  • 04. Dialogue With The Stars
  • 05. The Hive
  • 06. Jester Script Transfigured
  • 07. Morphing Into Primal
  • 08. Worlds Within The Margin
  • 09. Episode 666
  • 10. Everything Counts
  • 11. Whoracle
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This entry was posted on June 29, 2014 by in Class6(66).
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