In Flames: Anders Friden (vocals); Bjorn Gelotte, Jesper Stromblad (guitar); Peter Iwers (bass); Daniel Svensson (drums).
Additional personnel: Maria Gauffin (vocals); Fiol-Olof (violin); Orjan Ornkloo (keyboards, programming).
Could this actually be European death metal's bid for a pop culture coup? In Flames already has a reputation as one of the best, most melodic death metal bands to come to power in the Euro-metal regime that has swept through countries like Sweden and Norway since the early to mid-'90s. However, with Reroute to Remain, Strömblad and the gang have now unexpectedly announced that they are also undoubtedly the most experimental of their brethren, and furthermore, that they have set their sights not just on broader horizons, but perhaps even complete world domination as well. Maybe that sounds like a huge exaggeration, but even one spin of the 14 songs here will prove that it very possibly may not be. It's obvious that the band has been listening heavily to the popular American metal (nu-metal, rap-metal, etc.) acts of the moment, because most of their venturing heads in that direction; in fact, it's almost as if catchy American-sounding choruses and certain nu-metal attributes have been added to the intense, throttling mixture of the band's already memorable songcraft. "Dark Signs," "Minus," and the title track each contain choruses that could have easily come from bands like Linkin Park or Papa Roach. Actually, most of the songs share these traits, but those aren't the only changes in approach. There is also the laid-back, Incubus-like electronica of the verses in "Dawn of a New Day" (arguably the album's best song), the short bursts of hip-hop-style beat sampling in "Trigger," and "Metaphor," which, at times, almost sounds -- well, country. As usual, the highly melodic songwriting and Master of Puppets-era riffage In Flames is known for are intact and remain unspoiled despite the many additions. This isn't to say that all of the band's experiments work; there are a few that just simply don't. Still, it's surprising how flawlessly and harmoniously most of the new qualities behave with the old; none of the experimentations ever really come off as forced or thrown together. Nothing here is ever so far removed from Colony or Clayman as to give the impression that the band is suddenly trying to be something it is not. Reroute to Remain is the kind of album that will attract many new fans and give the band a wider range of appeal without sacrificing or alienating its core fan base and the people that have been behind the group for years. Is it the kind of album that will break In Flames through to mainstream metal audiences caught in America's musical vacuum? Is it the kind of album that will help rain swarms of Euro-metal bands down upon U.S. shores to topple their melodically challenged American counterparts and take control of the airwaves? Only time will tell. ~ Matthias Sheaks