In Flames’ I, The Mask takes you for an emotional roller coaster ride with every twist and turn of every song. Self-proclaimed by the band to be a loose concept album about the toll social media is taking on our lives, there is not one bit of this album that doesn’t feel like it’s necessary to tell it’s a particular story. And it does so with attention-grabbing melodies, dynamic guitar work, and well-written lyrical content.
Part one is all about finding and addressing the problems in society. The first couple minutes of “Voices” are cold and ominous before it bursts into the heavy, aggressive guitar melody of the pre-verse. Punctuated by his hysterical screaming right from the beginning, Anders Fridén’s lyrics paint a vivid picture of desolation and panic for the cultural issues he’s witnessing. The screaming continues into “I, The Mask,” becoming even more dynamic and hurried. Even the guitar work is faster here, doubling down on the inner longing to be free of societal barriers.
With “Call My Name,” starts the inner turmoil. The guitars become even heavier here as the lyrics begin turning toward diagnosing the problem within oneself. “I Am Above” takes a step back from that. Aggressive and “snappy,” the song brings the narrator to the realization that one has to “rise above” and change themselves.
By “Follow Me,” the dynamic has shifted. We hear something more delicate, the strings of the guitar now being plucked rather than shredded. As the title suggests, it’s a soft call to action that doesn’t use force, instead of pleading with you to come along. That vulnerability is followed directly by most dynamic track on the album, “(This Is Our) House.” The song is anthemic, driving and powerful. The chanting in the beginning and end drive home an urgency hinted at in the previous songs. They have you on their side now. That confidence lasts through “We Will Remember,” There’s bravado to the track that drives home the “fight for our lives” aspect of “House.”
The next few tracks take you through the ups and downs of the journey. You see the low points where the search seems fruitless, and self-control seems too difficult to exercise (the ballad “In My Life”) as well as the renewed and re-motivated moments of clarity (the aggressive vigor of “Burn”). “Deep Inside,” with its Middle Eastern vibe that guides the song’s melody on an up and down coaster of its own, reiterates the inner turmoil and longing to be free of “I, The Mask,” only with a much deeper awareness and understanding of why this is necessary. “All The Pain” is the gut-wrenching realizations of a broken man finding clarity and confronting his demons. There is so much emotion put into the song’s performance that you can really feel the pain in Fridén’s voice as he sings against the melodic backdrop.
“Stay With Me” is a fitting conclusion to the whirlwind album. Softer and more melodic, the song weaves together elements from previous tracks, most notably the intricate guitar picking from “Follow Me.” The echoed vocals and repetition feel very much like Fridén is pleading with his listeners to take notice and heed his warning.
There’s so much content buried in the lyrics and instrumental arrangements of I, The Mask. The album at times is both aggressive and vulnerable as the music takes you on this journey of self-realization and social awareness. Fridén’s words propel the listener to actively see the world around them, take a stance and compel them towards taking action. The music makes the listener feel the struggle for themselves.
In Flames’ I, The Mask will be released this Friday (1st) via Eleven Seven. Pre-order the album here.
- I, The Mask
- Call My Name
- I Am Above
- Follow Me
- (This Is Our) House
- We Will Remember
- In This Life
- Deep Inside
- All The Pain
- Stay With Me