I suppose the best way to introduce someone to In Flames who has never heard of them before is also the best way to sum up their importance: In Flames essentially invented melodic death metal. I grew up studying the work of this band, and most anyone who plays metal will cite them as an influence.
Siren Charms is the band’s 11th studio album, and it’s every bit as good as the previous ten in their discography. It’s a testament to the band’s vision and execution, but proves they’re not just mailing it in. It’s a love the band still has for touring, writing and performing that bleeds over into their music. The second he no longer feels that, vocalist Anders Fridén would tell me, he’ll hang it all up. Until then, they’re about one thing: metal. Here, Editor David Stagg talks about the new album with Fridén.
How are you? What are you up to?
I’m good. I’m trying to cook, as we speak. Making food for my kids, and I have some guys here working on my yard, and I’m cooking for them, as well, at the same time.
Just trying to not burn it. I’ll try to focus on you and the food at the same time.
Not burning your food. I appreciate that.
Such a metal morning for you.
Cooking and kids.
After 20 years, do you ever feel pressure to follow up an album anymore?
Not from the outside, but maybe from myself. I don’t want to do the same thing again and again. For this album, we wrote 13 songs, and you don’t want the songs to sound the same. After a while, you have to work a little bit not to repeat yourself.
From an outside perspective, the record company, the fans, or anyone else, I don’t feel any pressure anymore.
Do they put pressure on you at all? Or, do they trust you a lot now?
No, not at all. It just comes from within the camp. We try to better ourselves; we’re trying not to repeat ourselves, and we never get any pressure from fans or from record companies. They can try, but it doesn’t really affect us.
If you asked 10,000 people, everyone wants their own In Flames. It’s very hard to both listen to everyone and satisfy everyone. We have to trust ourselves and our own instincts really.
When you go off your own instincts and you have to live up to a barometer that the five of you guys set, what gets you most excited about writing the music then? Where do the ideas come from?
Beer, rum, whiskey (laughs).
It’s the satisfaction of going into the studio with a blank sheet, with nothing, basically, and after a couple of weeks, leaving with a complete album. That’s what you’re searching for the whole time, that satisfaction.
I never want to leave the studio 80 percent happy; I’ve got to be 100 percent happy. It’s always a struggle to get there, obviously, but it’s a great struggle. I’ve really, really enjoyed the atmosphere and the environment of being in the studio and creating.
The whole creation process in general gives me a lot excitement and pleasure. It’s not just one thing for me; all the elements are important within a song, within an album.
Because people listen using certain streaming services like Spotify, you don’t listen to a whole album anymore. For me, a whole album is important; the way it starts, the way it ends and everything in between. I still put a lot of effort and focus in getting all the details correct in there.
How much do you feel a recording studio’s environment plays into the success of a record? And also, following up, didn’t In Flames just switch studios for this record?
The reason? We sold the studio. There was no point owning a studio when we were there every third year. Since we’re touring quite a lot, we don’t have time to be in the studio.
When we were searching for something else, we already done the “rent a house and build up a studio.” We did that and didn’t want to do it again. I was thinking about, “Okay, what other studio options do we have?” Then, I start thinking about this Hansa Studios, which is legendary within the pop and rock scene. David Bowie recorded there. Iggy Pop recorded there. It has a lot of history running back to the 1900s. It’s a really legendary place, and I was like, “Wow that could put a little spark into the old machine.” It’s actually not that far from Gothenburg or Sweden. It’s only a one and a half hour flight, not that far away from home.
So Siren Charms is going to sound a lot like Ziggy Stardust then (laughs).
Not really. At the same time, it’s pretty inspirational to know that David Bowie has been here. He recorded here. U2 were standing right here and that’s the amp Iggy used or he was singing through. You can decide if you want to get affected by it, or you can decide to not really let it affect you at all. Maybe to some guys in the band. It’s like, eh, whatever it’s just a studio.
But to me, being a fan of music in general, not just metal — I f-cking love metal, I’ve been metal my whole life — but I’ve been listening to a lot of genres. Obviously, this Studio has a lot of history. From a selfish perspectice, personally, it’s been great to now be a part of this history. I have now recorded in the same studio where David Bowie recorded his trilogy.
What do you think it would take to label the record as a success, in your mind? My bet would be you don’t care to much about album sales or care to much about the way that it’s perceived. So for yourself, how would see it as a success?
I do, to a certain extent. I do need album sales; that means people are interested and listening to what we are doing, and therefore we can continue to tour, which is what I want to do.
I want to take this album on the road. I want to take the music we’ve done for all these years and continue to tour. To record and to play. That’s a success for me: If we can continue. We’re far beyond success for me.
I could never see myself, 20 years ago, playing in a band that would have 11 albums into their career and still have hunger for recording and for playing. For meeting people, meeting fans, being on stage. That, to me, makes it a success already.
Eleven albums in is pretty stellar any way you look at it. How would a new listener describe Siren Charms if it was the first thing they heard from you guys?
The first thing ever?
From In Flames.
Hopefully they say, “Wow.” The thing is, I don’t like to describe my music and I don’t like to describe what the lyrics mean because then whoever hears what I’m saying thinks it is just that. I’d rather people interpret it for themselves. Hopefully, they find something they like and they say, “Oh, sh-t, this band has another ten albums, I got to go back and listen and see what they’ve done.” Hopefully, they can trace what we are doing today back to the ’90s when we started. We do not sound completely the same, but we still have the same mentality and attitude. We’re still a melodic metal band even though we express it in a slightly different way today.
Was it your decision to release “Rusted Nail” as the first single, or did you have help on that?
The thing is, before or in the past or on previous albums, I’ve been very determined on what to release and what not to release. This time, I was both tired of the recording and very pleased with the result at the same time. We had to make quick decisions when we got home and we said, “Hey, you know what? Record company, you guys decide whatever you want to put out, because they’re all my babies and I can not decide.” You got to call up someone at the Sony office if you want a straight answer.
What do you think drove them to choose that one, then?
I think they decided on that one because it has a little bit of something for everyone. Something for old fans, something for new fans. I don’t really like the description of “old” versus “new.” Why can’t we all get along? I think “Rusted Nail” is a good, middle ground representation of what and where we are today.
Who did it the artwork on the cover?
His name is Blake Armstrong.We did this Jester’s Curse comic book with him and another guy called Andres who worked on that together, like a collaboration. Then obviously, I’ve been there talking and giving them hints of what I’m trying to say.
Which you’re not going to tell me, right?
I can tell you a little bit, sure. If I hold up a painting and explain exactly what it is you’d be like, “Okay.” But if I hold up a window and tell you to look into the window and see for yourself, you’ll be more engaged.
I can give you my interpretation first if it makes you feel better?
Do you remember that book The Big Wave? It reminds me of that book. The album name is a reference to the sirens that set off a thousand ships, and you’ve represented that here with that wave in there. The part I’m curious about, though, is the tree, fur or feather aspect of what’s in the wave.
According to Greek mythology, a siren is a womanly-type of creature that lured the sailors into the sea or into the depths. When the sailors came, the sirens would lure them to crash on the island or whatever — I don’t know exactly how to say it in English — but they did it with that beautiful singing. The feathers/wings represent that part of the siren.
The creature that’s coming out of the wave — you can see it as trying to leave or you can see it as getting absorbed by the wave and these are the wings, not just feathers.
I also saw it a third way. I saw the face as the aggressor, bringing the wave with it as a form…
That’s what I like. That’s not really why I would like to say, “Well this is the way it is.” I like to hear your interpretations of it. Because I want people to have it mean something for them. I think it means more for you if you interpret it on your own.
Yeah, you don’t want to be wrong when you clearly want your fans to enjoy it and embrace for what it means to them.
Other than something like massive health failure, do you ever see yourself giving this up or touring? I know you’ve got kids, you’ve probably a done a wonderful job of figuring out how to manage that lifestyle.
It’s not always easy. When I lose the spark, when I don’t feel like it’s the greatest hobby or job you can ever have, I’ll give it up then. If I leave stage more than one or two times feeling like, “This is not something I enjoy anymore,” it’s time to leave. But when I go on stage, I still feel that connection with the audience and with the fans and I still feel like, “Wow, it can’t be much better than this.”
I love music too much as it is, right now. It’s hard work. To be in a professional band, a touring band, and then to start building a family, it’s hard, but the love for the music keeps us going.
Let’s end on this then. If you could give advice to yourself now to the you in 1994, what would you tell yourself?
Try. When it comes to being in a band, believe in yourself, obviously, but listen to what other people say. Believe in yourself. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Don’t try to change for any trend because you’ll always be runner-up. Trends come and go; it is what it is. At some point, you’ll need a little bit of luck, and maybe some talent.
In Flames was posted on September 13, 2014 for HM Magazine and authored by David Stagg.