In Flames

In Flames
One of the creators to the often replicated "Gothenburg Sound,” In Flames have been belting out melodic death metal for 18 years and are responsible for influencing more bands than they will ever know. With a few line-up changes down the road they have released nine studio albums — their most recent being March’s A Sense Of Purpose — and have had their share of praise and disapproval surrounding their music, much like any band that has been around for nearly two centuries. Drummer Daniel Svensson, being very modest and off-putting, spoke with Exclaim! over the phone from his home in Sweden while he took a hot, soothing, relaxing bath. (Yes even metal drummers need to rest themselves by enjoying an age-old therapeutic soak in the tub.) During his time resting up he shared about how In Flames are essentially just another metal band, what it was like trying to be experimental on their most recent release and switching record labels in the U.S.

It has been awhile since you have had any changes to your band’s line-up, but your music seems to have changed a lot since 1999. Why is that?
I don’t know. I don’t really agree that we’ve changed so much since ’99. Of course, if you listen to A Sense Of Purpose and then you listen to Colony then there is a difference, but if you listen to every album in between those steps really aren’t that big [of a transition]. It’s been ten years since we recorded Colony and things happen in our lives and we developed as musicians and songwriters and individuals.

Does it bother when people say your music has changed a lot when you don’t really feel like it has?
Not really. It’s a matter of taste, how people listen to your music. Maybe I listen to our music differently then someone else. You can have whatever opinion. I don’t really care. I can’t force anyone to think what I think or force them to like our music. No sorry, I don’t really care what they think.

Do you consider In Flames to be one of the godfathers of Swedish metal?
Ummm no. Maybe we are, but I don’t think about it. We are definitely not alone; there are other bands as well. I mean if you listen to a lot of the metalcore bands you can defiantly hear the Swedish influence. It’s the American hardcore mixed with the Swedish death metal.

What do you think of the credit In Flames has been given as creators of the "Gothenburg Sound”?
Now that I see it I’m used to it. I’m not a big fan of labels and categorising music. But to read it in a magazine you want to know, if you’re reading an article about a band, how they sound like. This Gothenburg sound is like melodic metal. There are a lot of Swedish bands that play melodic metal and it’s nothing unique. In the early ’90s in Stockholm with Entombed and Dismember and basically you’re a bunch of people who listened to the same kind of music and you play in all the bands and you talk music and you hang out together and that’s how you create a new genre. You know the grunge thing in Seattle, I guess it was a lot of people who knew each other and played in different bands. The Gothenburg sound is nothing unique, it’s a geographical thing and that basically how it is.

Would you say it’s an easy way to describe and relate the music to others?
Yeah, I think you have to.

Do you feel that your music is responsible for shaping heavy music that comes from your home country?
No. You have to concentrate on your place. We concentrate on doing songs we really like and can be proud of. Now we talk to other people about these big questions of what we think about it. Maybe we do, but it’s nothing we think about.

Do you feel there is a certain obligation on the band’s part to make everything top-notch?
It has to be top notch for us, for our sake. Umm, we are always trying to top the previous album. We aren’t interested in just releasing another album; it has to be better in our opinion and our opinion is the only one that counts in this matter. But I mean you can’t satisfy everyone and there are always a lot of people who hate a new album. As long as the five of us are really proud then we’re satisfied. We don’t have any pressure from the outside it’s always from the five of us.

Do you feel pressure from the band to produce really good music?
No, but I think there might be pressure individually. I know when I go into the studio I can feel some pressure if the other guys didn’t like my drum parts and that’s maybe my hardest pressure and I think that maybe the other four guys have the same pressure.

Do you feel like In Flames are leaving a legacy on the metal world?
I don’t know. Maybe. It’s like the previous question, I don’t know and I don’t really care either. It’s cool if we do.

Do you consider your music to be death metal?
Maybe… not anymore. For me death metal is really fast and brutal. Like the bands I started listening to when I joined the band. I don’t even know if our first records are death metal.

Are you aware that a lot of press writes about your band as death metal?
Yeah, it’s melodic death metal. I mean that’s fine with me, but as long as you put melodic next to death metal it’s totally different from death metal. That’s fine with me, I don’t really care, melodic death metal is fine. It’s really hard to label music, especially within metal because there are so many sub-genres and everything, so it’s really hard. It’s fair enough calling us melodic death.

Do you think it might be people misunderstanding what kind of music you really play?
Yeah, maybe. It depends, for me death metal is really brutal, but for someone else it may not be death metal for them, it’s really hard.

For Come Clarity the band switched over to Ferret and now you’re on Ktch for A Sense of Purpose. Is that weird for the band considering you have been on Nuclear Blast for so long?
I don’t know yet. We are still on Nuclear Blast for the rest of the world, except in the [United States] and Come Clarity was the first album for years that we changed labels and were really satisfied, but this is the first time we have changed twice. It kind of worked out; it’s a pity we didn’t continue with Ferret, but we thought that Koch had put in a lot more effort for touring than Ferret could.

Are they going to put more effort into marketing and recording or other areas?
Yeah, marketing, marketing. That’s been our problem in the States before. Especially with Nuclear Blast being too small in the States by comparison. It didn’t really matter how much we toured or how many tickets we sold during the shows because people couldn’t find the album in the store and we saw a big difference when we change to Ferret already. They presented two different marketing plans and we decided we were going to see what Koch can do. It’s a one-off record deal.

In the song "The Chosen Pessimist” there is a different style, it’s more atmospheric. What were you trying to attempt with that music?
We wanted to try and do something totally different from what we did before. Since we recorded this album in our own studio we had a lot more time. We already had 14 or 15 songs recorded when we started to work on this song. We felt like the album was so intense that we needed something to take it down a little bit. Usually we write metal songs in a pop format of verse-chorus-verse-chorus. We just wanted to experiment and work outside of our norms when we write the song and see how it would sound. So that was one of the experiments and it turned out to be good at it and became a record song.

What’s it like trying to move on to something experimental for the band?
We were just thinking outside the box, as you usually say [laughs], not thinking the In Flames way of making a song, forgetting about song structure and just working more with atmosphere and different sounds and dynamics. We put on layer after layer and the song grew into a monster.

How did the band interact with each other when creating an experimental song?
In the beginning we didn’t have any drum parts at all. We had one guitar part and then we added another guitar part and experimented with all kinds of stuff adding percussion. This is how it came out, it was very different and it was really cool to do something that we usually don’t do.

Were you guys comfortable trying that?
Yeah, definitely. We’re not a jamming band, we almost never rehearse the songs. It was a lot of sitting down and discussing back and forth, throwing around ideas.

Is it something you consider to do again or to do more of on another album?
Yeah, maybe the way of working definitely, I don’t think we will have an eight-minute song on the next album, but definitely try to work outside the box.

Have In Flames found a permanent sound with more harmony and tempo or is that just a step at this point in the band’s career?
It’s probably one of the steps in the band’s career. We never really discuss how the next album should sound. I mean we write the songs how we are playing songs today. Whenever we write the songs we think about how they are going to sound live. On previous albums, like before Colony, we didn’t think about the live environment when we wrote songs. There were too many guitar harmonies and too much of everything. Then we realised when we started touring that those old songs don’t work like the newer songs do live. They weren’t really meant to be played live and we are a live band that enjoy touring so we need live songs that can be presented well live. It should sound the way it sounds on the album.

I read: "In Flames have maybe gone in the wrong direction musically and are heading towards a radio ready nu-metal sound.” What do you think about that?
Today I don’t react anymore. People have their say and that’s that. It’s odd because we don’t get played on commercial radio. Only on metal stations will we get play. What is nu-metal? People compare us to Linkin Park and it’s totally ridiculous. I think when you reach a certain level of how many records you sell and it doesn’t matter what you sound like because you are too popular.

On "The Mirror’s Truth,” do you feel that people don’t see who they really are? What’s the band’s take on it?
It’s more that you have to take responsibility and not let everyone else do it for you. Everyone has to do their share and take responsibility for all sake and everyone. I guess that’s it. It can be about whatever. A lot of people brush the problems away, but they will always pop back up and you need to solve them and only you can solve them.

Is that a philosophy the band employ?
Problems, especially on the tour bus, you always get problems. If you have a beef with someone you can’t hide it you need to cleanse the air. In a tour environment it’s defiantly better to solve the problem than let it become something huge.

What does it feel like going from sharing stages with Metallica and Slayer to having worked with producer Toby Wright? Is there a sense of accomplishment or maybe that the band have evolved to that big of a band?
It’s really cool. I mean we have played with most of the big bands, but the first time that was ridiculous. If someone had told me ten years ago your going to play with Metallica, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest I would have just laughed. On the other hand once you’ve done it once it’s like okay what’s next? I think that’s how we react for everything; we are always looking for the next step even if it’s just to buy a new car. Well you have to save up your money for a while, then you buy the car, then after a week it’s not a big deal. I mean as a human you’re easy to adapt to situations, you get used to things quickly. Those memories stick with me with great honour, if the band split up today I would be proud to look back.

What’s next on the band’s list of goals?
I don’t know, maybe we will tour more. I don’t know. I think it would be really cool to headline a huge arena tour, like really huge, but I don’t think that’s possible anymore.

Why not?
First of all I think our music is too extreme. I don’t think it will ever be like it was in the ’80s.