Swedish kings of melodic death metal are on the market for about a quarter of a century and no wonder they are not limiting themselves. Hard core fans have to count on the fact, their shows are getting more crowded, as their idols are investing with every release into production, electronic effect and melodic arrangement. Latest release Battles, which was created under the supervision of well-known producer Howard Benson, is on the peak of this trend. Invitation for an interview was accepted by a guitarist Niclas Engelin, who is used to split his time between In Flames and the band he formed more than a decade ago, Engel. Good topic to start with.
I am glad you are calling, as I spoke with Björn few years ago at Brutal Assault, but till this day I can remember seeing you with Engel at Masters of Rock festival 2008. It was hell of great afternoon show, so thank you for that.
(Laugh) Oh, I am glad you liked it. It was really long time ago! Nine years already. Wow.
Back then you managed to accomplish some great things with Engel. If I remember correctly, you were chosen by some respected charts and magazines as a “newcomer of the year”.
Yeah, those were some great years, but the band is still around and we are recording a new album.
This fact really surprised me, as you formed the band, but you are not touring with Engel. It would personally piss me off, with all the respect, if I would write some great material but didn’t present it live for the fans…
…I know what you mean and I agree with you. It’s a little bit strange and odd. But we got used to that already. They are touring themselves and its way better without me. (Laugh) With all honesty, they are doing great and I am really glad to see how they are pushing Engel further.
Full time writer!
This leads us to a second surprise, which is your current role within In Flames. Did I understand correctly you are splitting your time for writing with Engel and just touring with In Flames?
No, that’s not correct. Let say on Battles, Wallflower is my song. I had crucial input for The End, but to be honest, I am all over the place on this album. I definitely took some writing tasks with this record as a proper In Flames member.
Glad to hear that, as from the press release it seemed that Björn and Anders went to California, had some lovely time with a producer Howard Benson and they wrote all the music, coming back to you with saying: “Now you have to learn it!”?
Are you kidding me? I would like to see that press release, because that sucks. I’m not going to get upset here. I didn’t know about this. Let’s leave it with a fact, I had a crucial role in writing.
Well, I believe you, as I can really feel your input. In addition, as a long term In Flames fan and ex-member of a Czech band Oblivion where we used to do some In Flames covers (God, I hated to learn Moonshield on drums) I have to say this is my most favorite In Flames album so far. I believe more people will say that, as this is the most accessible album from you guys yet.
Give us please more details about the songwriting.
First of all Björn came over to co-write on songs, which I did. Then, when we started to record the album and still wrote music together in LA! Not by themselves, as I was there too and I wrote let say Here Until Forever and Wallflower.
It is important for us to be on the move all the time and to be open-minded
There are plenty of signature elements of In Flames on the album, but there are also some attractive enhancements, which are presented mainly on your latest albums as electronic effects and now even choruses which remind of younger bands as Bring Me the Horizon. They will sound great live, but it might be also a bit of a shock for hard core fans of In Flames. Were these innovations coming from all the members or a producer?
This was coming mainly from a producer Howard Benson, who is an amazing vocal producer. If you listen to his previous works, he did with other bands, he tends to work a lot with choirs and electronics. On the other hand, within keyboards we worked with Örjan Örnkloo, as we always did, bacause he is amazing in building these epic keyboard structures.
Next to the catchy pieces, there are also songs as Through My Eyes, which is much heavier. What approach have you chosen for these sort of songs?
On those songs, I think Björn actually started writing them from a chorus and went further from there. Radio friendly songs are built in a simple structure, as chorus is a main point. However, we know how to be adventurous as well.
You are personally active on the scene for a few decades, where you went through number of bands and also witnessed the progress of other musicians. How do you judge the development of bands as In Flames, Soilwork, At the Gates or Dark Tranquillity, where we can say each act went its own direction…
You can’t compare us, as we are different kind of individuals and bands. In the case of In Flames, it is important for us to be on the move all the time and to be open-minded. I think this the priority in writing for In Flames. Of course there have to be twin guitar attacks and riffs, but you can combine in various ways. It really doesn’t have to be pure metal. It can be really anything. (Laugh)
I was also wondering, if every member of the band contributed for the lyrics, which are sometimes very personal, or was it all Anders’ work?
On this album we actually worked with a lot of external writers. We had numerous people helping us out, even though Anders is usually the main lyricist of the band.