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The legendary Swedish melodic metal band IN FLAMES return with a new album 'BATTLES' on November 11.
It contains their classic Swedish Metal sound combined with a growth in their scope realising with ever more clarity where they want to push themselves regardless of critics and naysayers.
This album is as decisive as it is appealing.
It is both heavier and more radio friendly than previous albums all at the same time.
There are some crushing riffs and yet Anders manages to take the vocals into a purer cleaner sound than ever before.
In that spirit, the band's twelfth full-length 'Battles' sees IN FLAMES eschewing proven formulas in favour of trying new things, most notably finding a new collaborator in Grammy-nominated producer Howard Benson (MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE, THE USED), who was brought into the band's coveted inner circle in order to make 'Battles' an album that will appeal to every type of IN FLAMES fan.
"This album came together much sooner than we thought it would," guitarist Björn Gelotte explains when asked about the writing process.
"I was very reluctant in the beginning but I had a bunch of riffs so I just sat down with [vocalist] Anders [Fridén] and started working on stuff and it began to come together really quickly."
"This was a very new approach for us because we've never let anyone else in the way we did with Howard," Gelotte adds.
"We decided early on we are going to do this band our way and aren't going to think about what the flavour of the month is," explains Gelotte.
We caught up with Bjorn as he went through his exercise routine in a hotel room in Hamburg before rehearsals with the rest of the band.
The band had met up the night before rehearsals and had bonded over a couple of beers which had subsequently turned into a late night.
Marc Stapelberg: How is the vibe in the In Flames camp?
Björn Gelotte: We have so much fun to look forward to now. We haven't played live for almost a year. And that's normally what we do. That's our thing to play live. So we are really excited about that. We do have a new album coming up in November and we also released a DVD from the show we did in Gothenburg. Yeah a lot of things. We have a new drummer, Joel is the new guy in the band. So that's really exciting to have a younger kid in the band.
MS: What are you most proud of on this record?
BG: I pretty much say the same thing as I always say when we release a record. This is our twelfth record and I am super proud, super excited. I am just super proud. I can still do what I want to do. Do what I love to do after all these years, after all these records. That's what really makes me the most proud. I think from the practical point of view it is a little bit more challenging than previous records. That's sort of the way we want to do things. Because we are super lazy guys - we don't rehearse, we don't practice, so unless we put the bar a little bit higher with every record we will just continue to suck. So it is kind of important to put that bar a little bit higher and we did that on this one.
MS: Obviously the experience of playing live over so many years has refined this?
BG: The whole writing process has changed over the years. The more you play live the more I understand about my song writing. I wouldn't say it is the same for everybody. The more I play live the more I understand that I can't put eight guitars there or I can't put double kicks for five minutes. It's not going to work. It's not how you play and it's not how it works live. And so a lot of things like that you just have to learn. And of course now having all that - let's call it knowledge - with you when you record and when you write it changes things. You understand a little bit more about song writing but also the individuals in the band and what everybody is capable of, and what everybody is really good at and how can you capitalise on that.
MS: The new album deals with the theme of personal battles. Is it possible to have a mid-life crisis as a famous rock star?
BS: Well in my head I'm eighteen and I'm probably going to be eighteen in my head until the day I take down the sign, so to speak. And I think that's what musicians are. The whole thing with growing up, getting a job, getting a new haircut, it is not a musician's thing. The whole idea is to continue being a kid, to continue being curious, to continue loving what you do, not conforming to what society wants you to do. Having a mid-life crisis would mean you are questioning what you are doing and I am not. I love what I am doing. I can't even call it a job. I have the best thing to do in the world. Everything is getting a little bit loser, less hair on top, everything is little bit greyer, but that's about it.
MS: The song 'Wallflower' is amazing with a slight Tool vibe and really unique sound. Tell me about how that song came about?
BG: Actually, it was just one of those songs we felt we needed to have. When you need to make the album shine a bit more, you need to have the dynamics on all the songs, but definitely on the album as a whole as well. That (Wallflower) was something that we came up fairly late with. That was one of the songs we wrote in LA and just because something was missing from the record. At the time we were working around 11 song, and again we are lazy, right, so we don't do 30 songs and pick 11 of them - we do 11 songs and put those on the record and those are the best songs that we can do. We felt when we had all these 11 songs - we felt when we put them together in the play order that something was missing. And we started looking at what was missing. And we needed something that was out of the ordinary and not the 'In Flames' A1 format - quickly go into the chorus, lots of melodies, bang bang, solo, songs over. So we wanted to do something different and we had done it in the past with a song called 'The Chosen Pessimist' and it's also more of a long, long build. It starts small and it ends with a crescendo. And it is outside of what we normally we do. And it gives that extra energy to the record. That extra dynamic. I thought it was amazing when it came there. As a song by itself it's strong. But with the rest of the songs it is really strong. That is just the power of having a big thought behind your track list.
MS: You did demo's this time. Did it feel like homework?
BG: I've always done demos. It is sort of my way of explaining to the rest of the guys what I want to do. And for them to grasp a little bit of my idea and sort of what direction I want to take. And obviously this is all up for grabs later and we discuss and work on it later. But where it always starts is with a demo. But I've never done demos this way. Anders was very much a part of the song writing process. With the riffs and melodies he was talking about 'This is cool, this is not cool, let's work more on that'. And I could do the same thing with the vocals. And I've never done that. That was amazing. That opened up so many new ways of writing because you can have a killer vocal melody and you can build around that, instead of the opposite which is what we have always done. You do the music and then you put the vocal on top. This way we could work from the other direction and that was Howard, he wanted to have everything on a demo. He wanted to know exactly what we meant. He wanted to understand what we wanted to say and how we wanted it to sound. So thanks to him we actually had to do these more in-depth demos. They were still super rough obviously, but if you have done this for long enough you understand what the end is going to sound like.
MS: Did the fact that Howard worked on Papa Roach and My Chemical Romance albums which have quite a commercial sound worry you or give you more confidence?
BG: Yeah, but if you also look at the fact that he has done five Motorhead records - I mean that says more about him than any of the others. The thing is, this guy, he's done pop music, he's done rock, he's done f**cking country, he's done everything. That made us comfortable because we know that this guy can do whatever we ask him to do. And he probably has a lot of aces up his sleeve. We don't need to worry about that part. That gave us a lot of confidence going in. And he's done everything. The whole spectrum. And of course that relaxes us because you don't need to tell him 'Don't change our sound, dude' or 'don't make us pop'. It's not gonna happen with this guy.
MS: Was there a riff you just couldn't wait to play?
BG: Yeah, quite a few of them. There was one riff in my head which was so awesome that I just couldn't wait to record it. But when I started recording it, it kind of sucked. It was really hard to play, but in my head it was f**cking awesome. It is called 'Before I fall'. It is one of the last songs that came to the record besides Wallflower. But that intro riff, not the first little melody bouncing guitars, the actual riffing, and in my head it was so f**cking good and then when I started playing it, it was like "S**t this is hard'. In the end I managed to play it properly. It was a b**ch in the beginning. It is a combination of timing and making it clean so you can hear everything and not be sloppy about it. It is just a matter of technique.
MS: You're a self-proclaimed nerd - what has caught your attention at the moment?
Two games actually. Right now I am playing Infinity Warfare, the latest Call of Duty and that is really cool. And Im gonna be doing a small tournament in a couple of days here. Well, actually in two weeks. And Im gonna meet up with some other guys and do a little tournament. So that's going to be really, really fun. I am a huge World of Warcraft fan. I kind of lost it for a couple of years there with some of the expansions, but now with the latest one it is absolutely amazing.