Swedish metal outfit In Flames has made an unusual choice of musical direction in recent years. Originally purveying a distinctive brand of melodic death metal, the band has recently shown a tendency to draw on other musical influences (most noticeably metalcore). Siren Charms is the band’s eleventh album in a career that’s well into its third decade but the decision to change up the sound could be as much of a hindrance as it could be an improvement.
In Plain View opens the album with some extremely chintzy synthesiser melodies before the timely eruption of both guitar and drums reminds the listeners that yes, they are listening to a metal album after all. The vocals alternate between some strained-sounding clean vocals and some harsher vocals typical of death metal. The ballad-like overtones render this particular track perfectly serviceable. Conversely, Everything’s Gone rushes headlong into chugging guitars and throaty vocals as if to prove even further than In Flames is still a metal band. It is here that the metalcore influence really starts to make itself felt. It still takes about a minute to start sounding especially interesting.
Paralysed marks a shift back to the band’s softer side as a synthesised intro once again gives way to a metal number, albeit a rather mid-tempo and passable one marked only by the anthemic quality of the choruses. Much of the same could be said about Through Oblivion, although this one plays down what little harshness there was in Paralysed. After these two tracks, it’s hard not to feel impressed by With Eyes Wide Open, which covers much of the same ground with slightly more success. Those big, swelling choruses are mildly impressive, but the overall track is still fairly bland and the album runs the risk of sounding played out after only five songs.
The band seems to sense the album is falling into a rut and immediately brings back the heaviness with the title track. Though it takes a while to get into the swing of things, the second half alone is enough to make this one of the better tracks on the album. When the World Explodes is an interesting case because the metalcore-inspired instrumentation ultimately falls flat, it manages to offset such an issue by introducing smooth-sounding female vocals and showcasing how easily the band can change their sound as they see fit. The whiplashing between heavy and light music continues for about three minutes before a surprisingly charming synthesiser interlude plays, but unfortunately it’s over within half a minute. A shame, really, seeing as both the synthesisers and the female vocals are the best parts of this whole track.
After that come a number of tracks that can be merely be described as decent. Rusted Nail distinguishes itself with some rather decent guitar work but not enough to leave much of an impression one way or the other. Dead Eyes is another track that frequently changes its dynamic to good effect, with some good guitar tone throughout and the mellow sections being pretty good. Monsters of the Ballroom employs a notable combination of speedy drumming and mid-tempo guitar melody to serviceable effect. None of these tracks significantly improve or ruin the album aside from possibly padding the album length out too much.
Closing track Filtered Truth isn’t all that different from most of the other heavy tracks with elements of balladry in them, but for some reason I find this particular one rather appealing. Much of it can be attributed to the hook, with the line “How come you feel so alone?” building off an excellent melody. It seems as if this song manages to focus all the disparate musical ideas that can be found all over Siren Charms into a single great track, but one great track isn’t enough to save the album as a whole. The band’s decision to ingrain popular post-hardcore trends into their songcraft may be a sincere artistic decision or simply a stab at selling out, but either way the end result is extremely uneven and showcases a fair amount of wasted potential.