Tuesday, 24 April 2012

IN FLAMES - Lunar Strain (1994)

01  Behind Space
02  Lunar Strain
03  Starforsaken
04  Dreamscape
05  Everlost (Part I)
06  Everlost (Part II)
07  Hårgalåten
08  In Flames
09  Upon An Oaken Throne
10  Clad In Shadows

'Lunar Strain' is the debut album by Swedish melodic death metal band In Flames released April 1st 1994 via Wrong Again Records. The band was founded in 1990 when Jesper Strömblad (guitar/drums) quit Billdal band Ceremonial Oath due to musical differences and recruited Glenn Ljungström (guitar) and Johan Larsson (bass) to form the first official In Flames line-up. Since In Flames did not have a vocalist at that point, Strömblad asked Mikael Stanne of Dark Tranquillity to provide session vocals for 'Lunar Strain'. Like all bands, their earliest recordings show their roots, their influences, their true desire to play metal and that is why 'Lunar Strain' is one of the best In Flames albums. It has all the elements of good death metal. Growling vocals, harmonized licks, thumping bass slaps, powerful drumming, and fast palm muted guitar riffs. All the early hallmarks of the "Gothenburg Sound" are here.

In Flames keeps the basic energy level rather high for most of this album, with the riffs coming fast, thick, and catchy. There's some fantastically expressive guitar solos and a strange appeal lying within Mikael Stanne’s garbled ranting about astronomically-related nonsense. Even though certain instruments do get neglected under the unrelenting avalanche of sound, namely the bass and drums, it's doesn't have a maor impact on the listener's enjoyment. Slowing down to let those instruments shine some more would have certainly put a cramp on In Flames’ fairly unique style anyway…

Carried on the strength of "Upon An Oaken Throne," "Everlost," "In Flames" and "Clad In Shadows," 'Lunar Strain' is a precursor to In Flames' subsequent mainstream evolution. The album has some flaws, but the folk inspiration and death metal roots can be rightfully explored by those new to In Flames music (thanks to their controversial success as of late), and those who have never dug deep into the In Flames catalogue.

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