Album Review – In Flames – The Jester Race

April 29, 2014 — Leave a comment

In Flames – “The Jester Race” (1996)

“He cried for the night, but the night did not come
So, swept in the shroud of misanthropia he went away
and fed the empty galleries
with the artifacts of the black rain
Sunken into the shadows with a dry, sardonic smile.”

The crown jewel of the In Flames catalog features the character described above on its iconic cover–dry, sardonic smile and all, like a ram’s head on a hulking, Lovecraftian, machinelike fortress-city. The artwork was done by Andreas Marschall (who also designed the album cover for Sodom’s “Agent Orange”).

It establishes the theme present in many of the songs contained herein–that for all of our achievements (represented by the city), humanity is a cosmic joke, a “jester race.” Misanthropic, yes, but the music is so well-executed that listeners who disagree need not dwell on it.

In Flames had found a sonic approach that emphasized the power of the almighty, fuzzed guitar riff, backed by sharp, melodic twin guitar attack. The growled vocals are a bit lower in the mix, making the lyrics an underrated part of “The Jester Race.” Gems like “How I lust for the dance and the fire/deep of the nectarine sunset to drink” are not to be missed.

1. Moonshield
2. The Jester’s Dance
3. Artifacts of the Black Rain
4. Graveland
5. Lord Hypnos
6. Dead Eternity
7. The Jester Race
8. December Flower
9. Wayfaerer
10. Dead God In Me
11. Goliaths Disarm Their Davids
12. Gyroscope
13. Acoustic Medley
14. Behind Space (live)

The entire package epitomizes the melodic death metal sound of Gothenberg, Sweden, and is the 3rd in the trio of masterpieces hailing from there (the other 2 being At the Gates’ “Slaughter of the Soul” and Dark Tranquillity’s “The Gallery”).

In Flames’ gypsy guitar lines have their most flawless moments on “Moonshield” and “Artifacts of the Black Rain,” the two biggest hits of the band’s early career. “Lord Hypnos” and “Dead Eternity” are noteworthy for their pummeling starts and their shimmering, melodic midsections. The title track features an insistent guitar solo, while “The Jester’s Dance” demonstrates the versatility of the In Flames melodies in both electric and unplugged format.

“Black Ash Inheritance” EP was added as a bonus to this reissue, featuring 4 songs. One of them, “Goliaths Disarm Their Davids,” is simply one of In Flames’ finest moments as a band, and another, the “Acoustic Medley,” is recommended listening before taking in the rest of the album as it introduces selected excerpts from the other songs.

But the most underrated gem of all on “The Jester Race” is “December Flower,” which tears along at breakneck speed while its melodies and solos blend right in. The kicker for this anthem is the mission statement, roared by Anders Friden with all his might to mark the start of a metal career that spans more than 20 years:

“WE ARE IN FLAMES!!!”

Anders Friden
Jesper Stromblad
Glenn Ljungstrom
Johan Larsson
Bjorn Gelotte

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