Review by Jeff Maki
Only a weekend had passed since In Flames released its 12th studio album, Battles, and despite my less-than-enthusiastic review (read here), I was still ecstatic to be seeing the Swedish metal pioneers kick off their U.S. co-headlining tour with Hellyeah at the Fillmore Silver Spring. Since I discovered the band in 2004, its albums have been my go-tos time after time, even as the years have gone by.
I arrived at the Fillmore in time to catch most of the set by newcomers From Ashes to New, a nu-metal band complete with duel-rapping and clean singing in the vein of Hollywood Undead and Linkin Park, (Former Hollywood Undead vocalist Deuce actually is featured on one of its tracks, “Lost and Alone.”) At one point during the set, one of the vocalists thanked everyone for supporting a band that combines metal and rap. Is this a new style of music? Maybe they didn’t think the In Flames/Hellyeah fans would be receptive? The songs were good if you like this kind of style. The standout was “Through It All” (which I happened to hear on Sirius Octane that morning for the first time ever). From Ashes to New’s debut album, Day One, is out now.
These days, Chad Gray isn’t sporting gorilla suits or playing “math metal”—the former Mudvayne vocalist now fronts the Hellyeah, featuring none other than former Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t Vinnie’s band, at least not anymore. Gray—now looking like a relative of Dee Snider or Marilyn Manson—is a wild man onstage, strutting about in a Rob Zombie-like redneck swagger. He addressed the crowd, saying how “the first metal you heard is the one thing that touches your soul that no one can take from you.” He also called metal fans a “family,” which everyone seemed to appreciate.
When he wasn’t giving motivational speeches, he led Hellyeah—which is out supporting its new album, Unden!able—through a raucous, noisy set of tracks from the new album. “X,” “Human,” and its current single and Phil Collins cover “I Don’t Care Anymore” were featured, alongside hard-hitters “Demons in the Dirt” and “Blood for Blood” (during which Gray had blood sprayed in his face by dreadlocked bassist Kyle Sanders). These songs and “Moth” kickedstarted the energetic set, which climaxed with a circle pit during “Startariot,” also featured on Unden!able. Rounding out Hellyeah are guitarists Tom Maxwell and Christian Brady. Like I mentioned, Vinnie didn’t play a huge role, other than rising from behind his drum kit a few times to acknowledge the crowd—this is Chad’s band now.
Hellyeah Set List: “X,” “Demons in the Dirt,” “Blood for Blood,” “Moth,” “Cross to Bier (Cradle of Bones),” “Human,” “War in Me,” “Say When,” “Startariot,” “I Don’t Care Anymore,” “Hellyeah!”
In Flames took the Fillmore’s stage close to 10 p.m., and to everyone’s surpris,e the opening riffs of “Bullet Ride” were heard, the first track from its 2000 album, Clayman. Was this going to be an old-school setlist from In Flames? That thought was squashed quickly when the bandnext played “Where the Dead Ships Dwell,” from 2011’s Sounds of a Playground Fading, an excellent song but a good representation of “new In Flames.”
It’s the great debate among In Flames fans—new versus old —with the die-hards (the “Jesterheads”), of course, preferring the band’s melodic death metal days. I am in between. I became a fan toward the end of that era and then discovered the older albums. But I’ve also found a wealth of great material in the newer In Flames albums. I’m always eager to see what musical direction In Flames will take next but also ready to jump back on the melodeath circuit if they ever so choose that path again.
The new album, Battles, nearly lost me. It’s emo-style lyrics and lighter metalcore material was further off than I expected, but still, there are a few of these new songs I was curious to see performed live and how they would fit into the set. Since the band is out supporting the new album, a greater emphasis was put into the performance of these songs—older cuts like “Only for the Weak” and “Cloud Connected” were kind of walked through, while songs from Battles, “The End” and “The Truth,” and “Through Oblivion” and “Paralyzed” from Siren Charms were played note for note, lyric for lyric, with a lot more energy, particularly from vocalist Anders Fridén.
The current lineup of In Flames is Fridén, lead guitarist Björn Gelotte, bassist Peter Iwers, rhythm guitarist Niclas Engelin and new drummer Joe Rickard, replacing longtime skinsmen Daniel Svensson, who departed the band last year. According to Fridén, this was only Rickard’s second-ever performance of “Deliver Us” from Sounds of a Playground Fading. Even though the band technically contains no original members from the Lunar Strain/Subterranean beginnings, this is an all-star caliber lineup. The sound and the mix were the best I have ever heard from the band live, and I’ve seen them numerous times. Whether due to pure musicianship or the venue’s excellent PA system, you could hear each individual instrument. Fridén’s vocals were at the forefront, loud and clear, which has been a problem in previous live shows I’ve seen; in the past, I couldn’t hear the vocals depending on where I stood from the stage.
If I had any gripe, it would be that the band needed to play with a little more fire and urgency. At times, it looked or sounded as if it was walking through some of the older material (not finishing lyrics, playing or singing parts differently). I remember this being the case with Metallica years ago, as well. When you’ve played a song in excess of 500 times, it must eventually set in.
The set featured some surprises, such as the catchy, “System” from Reroute to Remain, and “Leeches” and crowd-favorite “Take This Life” from Come Clarity.
Fridén introduced the band midway through the set and proclaimed they came all the way from Sweden to play “their kind of metal.” The kind of metal In Flames plays now is drastically different from the days of old, but it doesn’t mean they don’t put on a solid live show for fans of all eras.
In Flames Set List: “Bullet Ride,” “Where the Dead Ships Dwell,” “Leeches,” “System,” “The End,” “Alias,” “Only for the Weak,” “Cloud Connected,” “The Truth,” “Through Oblivion,” “The Quiet Place,” “Paralyzed,” “Deliver Us,” “Take This Life”