UPDATE: Due to a terminal illness in one of the band-member's family, In Flames will not be performing at Mayhem Festival
It’s hard to think of a more cheerful place than Scandinavia. With all its blondes, free health care and cheap/ trendy furniture, it’s heaven on earth in many ways.
The bulk of the music coming from there is equally bright and upbeat, whether the disco anthems of ABBA, the indie ballads of Peter Bjorn and John, or the frenetic rock hooks of The Hives. Swedish alt-metal group In Flames may be an exception in that regard, but its members enjoy the positive environment and political climate otherwise.
Then comes the sobering reminder that tragedy can strike in the most peaceful of places.
“We were in shock,” drummer Daniel Svensson said of the July 22 attacks in Oslo, Norway. “We’ve always been so blessed in Scandinavia, and you don’t think of things like that happening there. It’s the worst thing since the second World War for us. I feel so bad for everyone involved, and it’s scary that it happened so close to home for us.”
In Flames’ preference for metal wasn’t born from despair or tragedy, but a simple affection for the heavy riffs of Metallica and Megadeth. Like-minded individuals across the region found each other, and with support from the community around them, In Flames and others formed the Swedish/Scandinavian death-metal scene in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
“Back in those days, the climate for people to perform music was really good,” Svensson said. “The government is really supportive when it comes to cultural things in general. I think that’s the thing that allowed that to grow.”
The five-piece quickly became a hugely influential force in metal, and soon helped pioneer the melodic metalcore subgenre that gave rise to bands like As I Lay Dying and Trivium, the latter of which will appear with In Flames at Tuesday’s Mayhem Festival. In Flames enjoys a godlike status in certain circles, but that doesn’t mean that haven’t learned things along the way.
“We have really tried to start making songs live-friendly,” Svensson said.
“We want to be able to perform the whole thing, as it was intended, live, and that’s become something we always think about. Some of the early songs don’t sound good live.”
Despite the venerable position to which the group has ascended, it is able to approach recording with the same vigor.
“You don’t think about expectations or people being inspired by you. It’s flattering, but it doesn’t put more pressure on us,” Svensson said. “The only pressure we have comes from ourselves, and we just want to keep putting out better and better albums.”
He feels the act did just that with its tenth and latest album, “Sounds of a Playground Fading,” the first released without founding member Jesper Strömblad.
“His departure didn’t affect the recording in a bad way, I don’t think. This is by far the best-sounding album we’ve ever recorded, production-wise,” Svensson said. “It’s also the album we spent the most time working on. We didn’t have a deadline, so we just worked every detail of every song. I think it totally paid off.”