In Flames has been around for three decades. During that time, the band has morphed genres several times and has become one of metal's most fluid bands. Once the champions and founders of the Gothenburg melodeath sound, they've gone through a steady shift towards alternative metal, culminating in their last three albums – Siren Charms, Battles, and I, The Mask. Their fourteenth album Foregone doesn't backtrack on that trend, but it's the closest they've come to their roots in fifteen years.
Foregone is extremely good. In Flames has aged into elder metal statesmen by continually reinventing themselves and never letting things get boring. Foregone is full of the things that made these guys stand out from the pack way back when they were young: soaring melodies, thrashy bits, a sense of wonder that verges on power metal without being cheesy, and a couple of earworms that any metalhead will be humming for days. There's no meandering or wasted space. Everything is tight, laser-focused and sharp, the way any great album should be.
It's also the first time the band have had a stable lineup between albums since 2008's A Sense of Purpose. In spirit, Foregone is closest to that album, along with the mid-2000s classics like Come Clarity and A Soundtrack To Your Escape. There are a few forays into older and newer territory too, showing the scope of In Flames' ambitions. The new members have had four years to grow into their roles and the effect of the songwriting is instantly apparent.
The two-part title track sounds like something straight off of Whoracle, while "The Great Deceiver" and "In The Dark" channel later material like Come Clarity. Hidden gem "Cynosphere" has a bass lead that shows off Bryce Paul's skills in a way I, The Mask never did. Early track "Meet Your Maker" has one of the album's heaviest sections, with an intro riff that could have been written by Deicide and a couple breakneck moments from drummer Tanner Wayne. But the main focus, as it was on the best melodeath releases, is on the melodic death metal guitar.
Björn Gelotte remains one of the most underrated guitarists in metal. He's been responsible for some of the most well-crafted riffs in metal history, the ones that helped create the Gothenburg sound, raised a generation of musicians and still inspire guitar players to this day. Gelotte has help on Foregone from ex-Megadeth and Act Of Defiance shredder Chris Broadrick. This is the best choice imaginable, a seasoned thrash master who understands how In Flames can balance classically inspired guitar work with a modern metal sound. Together, they breeze through the different eras with ease, sounding like Bad Omens one moment and At The Gates the next. The way they play off each other in the middle part of "State of Slow Decay" will blow people's hair back.
Frontman Anders Fridén has undergone a more radical transformation than any other aspect of In Flames over the years. Anyone expecting him to bust out the gutturals like it's 1996 is kidding themselves. He sounds truly comfortable here more than he ever has, allowing his voice to mesh with the melodies like another instrument rather than the main focus. His clean voice retains just enough rasp to make it heavy while his scream remains just as iconic as it was on Colony. He gets his stadium rock star moment on the mid-tempo ballad "Pure Light of Mind" and commands the respect he's due on "The Great Deceiver," one of the album's many standout tracks.
Foregone is a gift to fans who have stuck it out with In Flames all these years, as well as the new fans they've picked up along the way who might be ready for something heavier. It covers every genre and style the band has ever messed around with, bringing them into one cohesive whole. Don't skip any songs on Foregone. There aren't any bad tracks. The album's second half is marginally better than its first, but both are so good it feels unfair to compare them. It will all depend on which era of the band the listener prefers.
In Flames seems to be on the verge of starting another new chapter. Thought that's par for the course when dealing with one of heavy metal's most influential bands.