“I carry masks, we all do. We all carry masks with us for different situations. We use them as shields and protect ourselves from the outside. I think, for the most part, we need to get rid of those masks and get down to what is real.”
In Flames is undoubtedly one of Sweden’s most prolific metal groups. They are credited with pioneering the melodic death-metal genre, often utilizing machine-gun-like distorted riffs with dynamic synths, versatile guitar-leads as well as a sharp contrast of soft vocals and inner-demonic screams. Together for nearly 30 years, In Flames are about to drop one of their most profound releases to date: I, The Mask, due March 1.
“People carry a lot of darkness within that we need to address,” vocalist Anders Fridén says. “That’s where the title comes from and what a lot of the songs are based around. Instead of hiding behind something, you need to address it so you can see what’s ahead and see what’s around you.”
When it comes to specifics, Fridén holds the exact meaning of his lyrics close to his heart. I, The Mask, though not a concept album, seems to have a lyrical through-line. The idea of society hiding behind a mask is prevalent, but there seems to be a much deeper meaning when you dissect each individual track.
“Instead of going and talking to someone, I sort of do therapy on myself with the way I write,” Fridén explains. “There are a lot of metaphors which, in itself, is maybe a mask I use because I don’t want people to come too close. I always need that safety net. I deal with a lot of things to get lyrics out of me, and when it’s written on paper, it’s out for good. That’s a good session for me.”
Musically, the record seems to fuse elements of the band’s classic style with some ideas explored in recent years. Spectators could say the last few In Flames records swayed in a bit of an alternative-metal direction as opposed to melodic death. I, The Mask feels like a perfect concoction of old and new, blending a little bit of 2016’s Battles and 2011’s Sounds of a Playground Fading with classic energies from records like 2002’s Reroute to Remain and 2006’s Come Clarity. A fresh record with potent hits of nostalgia. That being said, I, The Mask still has its own unique identity.
“In a perfect world I would want people to listen to this album from side A to side B, by themselves in a dark room, and just absorb everything,” Fridén concludes. “When it’s over, you should just think about what you heard and then you can decide if you like it or not. Overall, this record is a great representation of who we are these days and what we do musically and lyrically. It’s a great document, and I’m so grateful I could still do this after all these years. It’s our 13th album, which is crazy. It’s been a long career and I’m so grateful we have people out there listening to what we do so we can continue doing something that we truly, truly love.”