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Classic Review: In Flames - The Jester Race
In Flames
The Jester Race

Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Year released: 1996
Duration: 40:16
Tracks: 10
Genre: Melodic Death Metal

Rating: 3.25/5

Review online: July 30, 2008
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
Readers Rating
The Jester Race

Rated 3.88/5 (77.68%) (69 Votes)

In Flames get talked about a lot. From their early underground Melodic Death Metal days to their later days as a cocky, goofy, streamlined Alt. Rock band, they are a very popular band - for better or for worse. They were at the forefront of the Melodic Death scene and pretty much set the blueprint for the style, along with Dark Tranquillity and At the Gates. This was their celebrated sophomore effort The Jester Race, and while I don't worship it like some people do, I can still testify to its quality.

Let's just get one thing straight: this is not a Death Metal album. Melodic Death Metal is pretty poorly named, I think, because there isn't much Death-y about it, aside from the fact that the vocals vaguely remind of the old school bands like Entombed or Death. The only reason that this genre of music is called Melodic Death Metal seems to be because there isn't anything else to call it. So, a bit of a misnomer, but whatever.

Now, with that out of the way, let's move onto the music itself (gasp). The music on The Jester Race is not that heavy or extreme, rather focusing on simple riffs and ear-pleasing melodies wrapped up in a tight package of mystical intricacy, not complex or involving at all, but still perhaps needing a few listens to really sink in. While I admire the band's ability to create simple and solid melodies, a lot of the time this just isn't too exciting, with most of the songs just sort of blending together into one solid mass of riffs and growling and solos. The guitar tone is a bit weak, but most of the time the band sounds tight and sober here. It's just that they never get you headbanging or staring in awe at your speakers. The music is competent and well played, but not stirring, emotional or even any fun. "Moonshield" is cool, with its acoustic intro bit, and "December Flower" has some very colorful melodies amidst the drolling, pounding riffs, but pretty much everything else, while played well, just isn't anything special.

My problem with this album, and this band as a whole is that a) they have no longevity and b) they are too plain.

When I first heard The Jester Race, I thought it was a great album, but ever since then, it has just been getting more and more bland to these ears. This is due to its simplicity. As is the case with many things that are so simple, its pleasures may not last forever, becoming stale or tepid after hours of listening. Hours of familiarity and intimacy with the material. The Jester Race is a pretty good album, but it lacks any sort of oomph to make it memorable or worth playing more than a few times. This is very plain music, lacking any real sort of ambition, and while bands like Omen or Grim Reaper could make "plain" music work well by adding some fiery pep and kicking energy to the mix, In Flames are trying at a more moody and esoteric style, and they need a little bit more flair to their music for that. Perhaps more weight on the atmospheric side with their acoustic guitar melodies would make this album more interesting. This...this just doesn't really do anything, as it is.

Listening to this is oftentimes like looking at a blank white wall. It might be well flourished and smooth and inoffensive, but it won't provide you with much excitement in the end. I haven't heard all of In Flames' albums, but that analogy seems to sum the band as a whole up pretty well.

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