In Flames continue to push their sound into new directions with latest album Siren Charms — and they’ll be bringing that sound to Australia this month with Florida’s mighty metal juggernaut Trivium. It’s a perfect pairing, as Trivium’s Matt Heafy has gone on record many times as saying that if it wasn’t for In Flames, he wouldn’t be doing what he’s doing. But there’s no such thing as In Flames — at least not in terms of a static sound. The band has never made the same album twice, and their latest, Siren Charms, is probably even further out there than anything they’ve done before. It represents the pinnacle of their latter-day focus on melody and song writing, with some of their most mainstream-friendly material ever.
“We’re not very good at writing between albums, on tours and stuff like that,” vocalist Anders Fridén explains. “That’s why every album is different, in a way. We get new influences, we grow as people, and I feel music should be evolving. It’s not something that should be stuck in a corner, at least to me. I believe it should be embracing the future. We had to set a date, we had to get a studio booked, and then we started writing.” When it came time to write Siren Charms, the band headed to Hansa Studios in Berlin, an exceedingly famous studio where David Bowie recorded Low, Heroes and Lodger. Fridén found the new surroundings to be a breath of fresh air, especially after the band had recorded in its own studio for so long. And the Bowie connection was appealing too. “He disappeared from drugs to be by himself, although I guess he did a lot of drugs there with Iggy Pop,” Fridén laughs. “But for us as well, we also needed to get away from our safe environments at home. I need to be by myself and totally mentally go into a place where I can create, and I can’t do that at home with all the things you have around you, so Berlin was a great place to do this album.” The band showed up for the sessions with ideas, sketches, parts of songs and “a big bag of riffs,” spending the twist two weeks putting the basic skeletons of the songs together before beginning the recording process proper. For Fridén’s part, he had nothing ready to go at all going into the sessions. “I had four weeks to create from nothing. I had nothing! I had blank paper. No ideas, no nothing, and the songs just spoke to me in a certain way. I did it, it worked out …and then I passed out afterwards. That’s the way it should be. You should give all you have.”
Fridén’s vocal technique ranges from clear, distinctive clean-toned singing to the most brutal of screams — but don’t ask him how he does it. “I have no idea what I’m doing, to be honest. I’m super home-schooled. I never aspired to have the best vocals and I would never be part of Australian Idol. I would probably get written off pretty fast. But for me, it’s my voice, it’s my instrument, it’s what I use — and I want to be able to reach out through the speaker and grab the listener. And often me and the vocal producer will go with the right feeling, rather than, say ‘the perfect G,’ y’know? That’s boring to me! Obviously you shouldn’t sing totally off or that would be weird, or play totally off-beat, but all those small imperfections here and there can create something that’s more interesting. When I get the song idea, 80 perfect of it has been done and then I have to use my various brushes to make it more ‘me.’ I have a lot of different voices and the producer has a lot of different names for them. ‘Bring this guy forward. Oh I haven’t heard that guy before — bring him out!’”
The album has been complete and waiting for release since the beginning of the year, and Fridén says he’s glad to have had some time off between the intense recording process and the promotion side of things. “Now that we have some distance, I’m really happy that we made the choice of releasing in September,” he says. “There were talks about us releasing this album in May which I think would have led to the band imploding in a couple of years. It would have been too tight if we did that because I was exhausted after the whole thing, and going straight into promotion and more tours would have been really difficult. But now I can listen to it and feel happy. I’ve done everything I can. I took this album to a place where I wanted to be. And it’s the relief, for me. Now it’s for everyone to judge; it’s not a secret, I don’t have worry and it’s out of my hands. I can’t control it and it can go anywhere, so now I don’t care any more! It’s up to you, it’s up to other people everywhere. I can’t control it and that’s great. That’s the way it should be. It shouldn’t be forced into peoples’ heads.” And now fans are free to interpret it in all sorts of unique ways that you didn’t intend. “Exactly, that’s the way it should be. I like to use a lot of metaphors, and it means something to me but if you hear something else I would never tell you it’s wrong. Because then I feel your feeling, I feel what it meant for you, and that could destroy the feeling for the music that you have. It’s not one person that owns music. It is for freedom and it should go places.”
Siren Charms is out now. In Flames tour Australia with Trivium. For more information visit www.inflames.com