The first thing you notice about In Flames' forthcoming album, A Sense of Purpose, has to do with aesthetics. It's vibrant and multihued, brimming with bright colors, which is to say, it's not very metal at all — at least not very death-metal.
But according to guitarist Björn Gelotte, In Flames wanted to buck the deep reds, depressing browns and dreary blacks that blanket most LPs churned out by bands of their ilk. "It's important for us to do something different when it comes to the artwork," he said.
The band commissioned Alex Pardee to handle the cover, which he based around a crude labyrinth game featuring a board punctured with 36 holes and a small metal ball. The object of the game is to avoid these holes. According to the band's rep, the game "represents life and the holes represent difficulties you may face during your lifetime." The cover depicts a small boy in an owl mask trying to get to the end of the labyrinth. Throughout his journey, he encounters various monsters and characters he tries to avoid.
"It's too easy to be categorized just because of your album artwork," Gelotte said. "I like that it has a lot of colors in it, because it just makes it easier for us to do cool artwork for the stage shows and for our merch. And the cover actually makes sense when you listen to the lyrics. But yes, people aren't used to aggressive metal bands having colors on their albums. It's supposed to be black-and-white with a corpse on there and blood, and that's death-metal, you know? But it doesn't always work like that. We've done that, and we've moved on."
It's doubtful that other death-metal bands will follow suit, but then again, In Flames have always been the kind of band that sets trends instead of following them. After all, the Swedish metallers are considered pioneers of what has become known as the Gothenburg sound, and they've influenced scores of other musicians since forming back in 1990.
"That makes me feel really old sometimes," Gelotte said with a chuckle. "Most of the bands that sort of sounded like a rough copy of In Flames on their first demos have evolved into something of their own, and that's all that matters. You always have to take what you're inspired by, mix your own juice with it and come up with something that hasn't been heard before. It's always been really cool, being an influence to someone else, and it's very flattering. You still want to see these bands evolve and have their own niche."
For In Flames, A Sense of Purpose, due in stores April 1, marks several firsts: It's the first LP they've recorded in their new studio ("A really cool place to hang out, with clean toilets," the guitarist said), which makes it the first album they've recorded without time constraints.
"It was comfortable for us," Gelotte said. "It was easy for us to get home after we'd finish tracking. And there was never another band knocking on the door, saying, 'Our turn.' It was really relaxed and there was very little friction. The whole process was extremely smooth, and we're super-psyched by the result."
The band is also on a new label, Koch Records, after putting out 2006's Come Clarity through Ferret. Perhaps it was the studio or their new working relationship, but Gelotte said this was also one of the first times that In Flames were perhaps a little too inspired.
"We recorded 16 songs this time, where usually we only track the songs we're going to put on the record," he said. "But we had a lot of inspiration this time around, which gives us a lot of bonus material for EPs."
The songs, too, aren't standard In Flames fare.
"We had a clear vision of how we wanted it to sound, so instead of having this really static drum sound, for instance, we wanted it to be really organic," he said. "The whole production should sound organic, like a live band playing. We also wanted to focus a bit more on the guitars, which is always fun for me. There are way more solos than we usually do. I'm excited about that, because we're not shredders — we do melodies and we do riffs."
It's going to be a busy year for In Flames, whose touring plans have already been booked through Christmas. They'll be heading out on this year's Gigantour come April 12 in Denver with Megadeth, Children of Bodom, Job for a Cowboy and High on Fire. That tour wraps May 22 in Phoenix. After that, it's back to Europe for the summer festivals, then they'll head to Japan and Australia. Sometime in late fall, the band plans to return to the States for a coast-to-coast headliner.
The rest of the week's metal news:
Shadows Fall will embark on a headlining run this April, with Kataklysm, the Showdown, Arsis and Droid in the support slots. The trek commences April 13 in Buffalo, New York, and is set to conclude April 26 in Worcester, Massachusetts. ... Divine Heresy, Sworn Enemy, From a Second Story Window, With Blood Comes Cleansing and Dance Club Massacre will be joining forces — also in April — for a 10-date run that kicks off April 19 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and wraps April 30 in Rochester, New York. ...
On April 29, Roadrunner Records will be reissuing a classic. Life of Agony's 1993 LP River Runs Red will be repackaged with several bonus tracks and a DVD. The bonus tracks include "Here I Am, Here I Stay," "Depression," "3 Companions" and "Plexiglass Gate." ... So much for Brain Drill — the band seems to have thrown in the towel. According to a MySpace post from guitarist Dylan Ruskin, the split all comes down to weed. He claims he advised the rest of the band to leave their marijuana at home before their last tour, but that advice was ignored. He said the band was pulled over by police in Utah recently, and the boys — and their van — were searched. While they weren't charged, Ruskin said he later told the rest of the band to ditch the herb. They didn't, and when the band's van somehow ended up reaching the Canadian border, they were searched again — only this time, they submitted to body cavity searches. You can read the rest of this fantastic tale over at the band's MySpace page. ...
Nuclear Blast has signed extreme-metal masters Keep of Kalessin. The band's forthcoming album, Kolossus, will hit stores in June. ... The dudes in the Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza were met with some misfortune last week, wrecking their van in Texas, but the band's tour is carrying on. In a statement, the band said, "We were involved in an accident with a minivan, and it left us without a tour van. We just got the van for this tour, and we are still making payments. We left the van in a graveyard in [Texas], and a great friend in Plano was so kind to tag along with us and let us tour in her van. So the wreck has not stopped us [from] delivering the chart-topping hits."