Published Jul 06, 2011What would you do if you were told that life as you know it, would end in a year? Would you focus on your relationships with your family, your friends or simply yourself? This was the question that In Flames tenth album, Sounds of a Playground Fading ponders. Despite the somewhat depressing theme, coupled with the departure of founding member Jesper Strömblad in early 2010, surprisingly, neither the album nor the melodic death metallers who recently headlined one of the three nights at France's Hellfest Festival are feeling any pain. "If you knew that all of this was going to end, it would open up a bunch of interesting questions," explains guitarist Björn Gelotte, who chatted to Exclaim! from his home in Sweden, preparing to come around these parts with the upcoming Rockstar Mayhem Festival in July. "It's not a concept album, but it is a collections of different thoughts about that idea."
Both you and Jesper Strömblad were the main songwriters of the group. As Sounds of a Playground Fading is the first album without him, how did the music writing go?
Usually Jesper did a lot of the writing, but I decided to write the album myself with a lot of help with Anders [Jespen, vocalist], since we started writing the music around the vocals for the first time, so that helped a lot. And Peter [Iwers, bass] and Daniel [Svensson, drums] contributed a lot to the album. The riffs and arrangements we did together, but the rest I did. It's very guitar driven, very melodic. We try to make it a little bit more interesting, a little bit more challenging with each album, but we really like to always get new music out there so we can continue touring. That is what we do.
There's been a lot of buzz around the solos the two-guitar harmonies on the album, as not a lot of bands are doing that nowadays. Successfully, that is.
Tell me one guitar player who is not into that. That has been a staple in such a great amount of bands: Maiden, Judas Priest….(incorporating them) was important to me, as I knew I was going to be doing all the guitars on the album. I had a lot of time to not only practice but to explore what I was capable of doing, and it was a lot of fun… a lot of night shifts, but a lot of fun. It was really worth it in the end, as I'm extremely proud of the results.
Fridén has made great strides on this album. Why all the clean vocals?
I think we did what was necessary for the songs. That's how you need to approach it. First and foremost, we had a lot of time to work on the vocals, and we shaped a lot of the songs around the vocals ― we never really had done that before. Vocals have always been done in the last week ― you usually save the last six or seven days on that. Anders wants to evolve and try new and challenging things, and see what he can pull off, and he is a really good singer, so we had the opportunity to explore that more. Another things is that when the demos were done, he started working on the vocals, so that gave him about a month and a half to work on arrangements, what would fit and what we could arrange to make it stand out.
You guys do not have a keyboardist in the band, yet the album is laden with synths and samples. Who does that?
We were fortunate enough to have the guy [Örjan Örnkloo] who was doing the programming and the samples with us for a couple of weeks while we did the pre-production, so he had a good feel for the songs, and we could discuss everything at length and really get the right vibe for each song. He has been with us since [2002's] Reroute to Remain so he knows us really well.
In metal, the record company you are with is almost as important as how your band is marketed to the public. Why switch to Century Media? What are the differences?
Basically we were out of our contract [with Nuclear Blast]. We felt that we wanted to do something different than we had done with our last label, as we had been with them for so many years in Europe. We grew up together and we had grown apart, so we wanted a label that was really flexible, because the music industry is not the same as it was ten years ago, so we needed to be able to reach people in a new way. You can't just rely on record sales ― you need people to hear the music, to be able to really get in people's faces, because there is such a huge amount of bands out there, all really good. So with Century, they were willing to explore a new ground with us, stuff that we hadn't done in the past and we feel that our music is accessible for everybody. It can be extreme, but it also can be very, very mellow within each song, but can still hold the attention of a large amount of music listeners.
One of the things that people discuss when talking about In Flames is that there is a lot of copycats (Trivium, Scar Symmetry, etc.). Does that bother you?
This is the way that every musician starts out ― you are influenced by something. If it is In Flames, it only makes us proud. Seriously, it couldn't be better proof that what you are doing is right. We're doing this for us, but if so many people are influenced by it, or likes what we do, than we know we are doing something good and keeps us motivated and pushes us to develop our music further. It makes me really proud.