Just over a month ago, melodic death metal pioneers In Flames unveiled their finest album in over a decade with the release of I, The Mask. Touring in support of said new offering, plus hopefully touching on some deeper cuts from their extensive back catalogue, they played London’s Roundhouse on April 5th, a fitting venue for their genre-defining riffs and anthemic choruses. Support came from metalcore stalwarts Norma Jean, and the band formerly known as Devil You Know, Light the Torch.
Helmed by iconic metal vocalist Howard Jones and with last year’s Revival album behind them, Light the Torch were bemoaned for a lack of heaviness in our recent review of that release. This was certainly not an issue which affected them on this evening, with Jones’ effortless cleans and screams soaring over a tight and hook-heavy rhythm section.
The superb Light The Torch track “Die Alone” is ready-made to headline venues of this size.
Interestingly, they were the only band on this night’s bill with just the one guitarist yet their sound is complex and full enough for it to be of no detriment. With closer and Revival stand-out “Die Alone” having those who have wisely arrived early at the venue singing along from front to back, it wouldn’t be long before we see Light The Torch higher up the bill on venues of this size.
With a back catalogue spanning 22 years and seven records, Norma Jean have plenty of material and experience to pull upon in their main support slot to tonight’s even-more-veteran headliners. Vocalist Cory Brandan’s rasping screams captivate the room, with the twin guitar assault laying down a constant forward momentum to their set. There’s barely a gap between tracks as they continue to escalate the atmosphere and energy in the room; little needing to be said with the quality of music on display.
Unsurprisingly, Norma Jean show exactly how they have managed to keep progressing for so long, and maintaining their reputation at the forefront of the metalcore genre, when many of their counterparts have fallen by the wayside over the past two decades with tonight’s excellent performance.
The video for “I. The Planet” from 2016’s Polar Similar displays a hint of the energy you can expect from a Norma Jean live show.
As one of the Swedish pioneers to birth the Gothenburg sound in the early ‘90s, In Flames’ style has evolved over their 28-year existence to occasionally stray a long way from those early melodeath roots. Whilst their genre fluidity has drawn a mixed reaction from some fans, it offers them an enviable variety to a live set.
Opening their performance just as I, The Mask does with “Voices,” In Flames’ sound and stage set-up is immediately fitting of a venue such as Roundhouse. Long-time guitarist Björn Gelotte lays down the rhythm with a beaming smile that barely leaves his face for the entirety of their set, while singer Anders Friden’s entry to the stage is greeted by a deafening roar from the packed room. Friden’s voice continues to get better and better, with live screams sounding exactly as they do on record and his cleans note-perfect and drawing the crowd to join in from front to back.
Tonight’s set covered almost half of I, The Mask, and served as a perfect showcase for its stronger tracks while touching on enough of their earlier back catalogue to keep fans of their older work happy as well. In Flames put on a triumphant show befitting the quality of music being performed, and cemented their reputation as a must-see live band, whether it’s your first time seeing the group, or your tenth. With a superb album right behind them and a live show of such high quality, In Flames are going from strength to strength even this far into their career.
Coming towards the back end of tonight’s set, “I Am Above” is one of the clear standouts from I, The Mask.
In Flames’ Setlist:
02. Everything's Gone
03. Pinball Map
04. Where the Dead Ships Dwell
05. Call My Name
06. Monsters in the Ballroom
07. All for Me
08. (This Is Our) House
09. Deep Inside
10. Here Until Forever
11. The Chosen Pessimist
14. My Sweet Shadow
15. The Truth
16. I Am Above
17. Cloud Connected
18. The Mirror's Truth
19. The End