In Flames - The Jester Race
Nuclear Blast
Melodic Death Metal
10 songs (40'14")
Release year: 1996
In Flames, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Adam
Gothenburg. One cannot help but revere this Swedish city as the birthplace of melodic death metal. For more than ten years, the giants of the genre have hailed from this location. This includes the three bands that most credit as those responsible for the rise to prominence of this unique sound. I am referring, of course, to At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity, and In Flames. The years 1995 & 1996 would see each of these three bands create some of their finest work, with In Flames delivering the beautiful concept piece, The Jester Race.

The shake up that occurred prior to the recording of The Jester Race is worthy of note, as it would give final shape to some of the more famous Swedish melodic death bands as we know them today. Prior to The Jester Race, In Flames employed the services of Mikael Stanne (as session vocalist for Lunar Strain) and Daniel Erlandsson (as drummer for the EP Subterranean) while Dark Tranquillity contained both Stanne (as guitarist) and Anders Friden (as lead vocalist). As many of you know, all three would soon switch to their current positions: Stanne dropped his guitar and became full-time vocalist for Dark Tranquillity, Erlandsson would soon become the drummer for Arch Enemy, and Friden stepped in as the vocalist for In Flames. Got it? Good, that’s enough melodeath 101 for today, on to The Jester Race.

The soft acoustic intro and following distorted melody for the opening track, Moonshield, are really a microcosm for the signature In Flames sound. Truly, the only “death” aspect of their music is Friden’s shrieking growl. The rest of the band takes their cue more from the lead guitar driven sound of bands such as Iron Maiden and the like. However, this statement is not meant to cast In Flames as simple copycats in the musical department. On the contrary, the dueling guitar harmonic compositions of Jesper Strombald and Glenn Ljungstrom are certainly unique and interesting in their own right. At some points during this album, such as the instrumental The Jester’s Dance, it seems as if you’re listening to a melodic metal orchestra. The intricate interwoven guitars are the unopposed focal point of The Jester Race. Almost every song contains an elegant and captivating guitar riff, played at a pace slow enough so the listener can really bask in its brilliance.

One particular gem is Artifacts of the Black Rain. Belying the double bass drum speed metal pace of the introduction, Strombald’s and Ljungstrom’s guitars go steadily back and forth, keying off of a repeated guitar tune that is right up there with the best of In Flames catalogue. At about 2 minutes in, an equally gorgeous riff is ushered in to close things up in stunning fashion.

As previously stated, The Jester Race's lyrics are conceptual in nature and tend to focus on the shortcomings of the human race. Friden’s vocals are nothing spectacular, but they aren’t bad either. They are fairly low volume, and contain just enough emotion as to not detract from the superb guitar work. If at any point during The Jester Race Friden really shines, his effort quickly becomes a faint memory as the guitars proceed to steal the show once again. For instance, his tortured and agonizing vocals near the beginning of December Flower soon fall by the wayside as a guest guitarist Fredrik Johannson (of Dark Tranquillity) delivers an awe inspiring solo which is easily the best on this record. In actuality, The Jester Race would not lose many style points had it been recorded as a solely instrumental piece.

No matter what you may think of the current state of affairs as it pertains to In Flames, the influence this album had and continues to hold over European metal from the late 90’s through today is wholly undeniable. An excellent show of songwriting and dual guitar harmonies, The Jester Race deserves its place as one of the most adored albums in Gothenburg’s history.
Killing Songs :
Moonshield, Artifacts of the Black Rain, December Flower
Adam quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by In Flames that we have reviewed:
In Flames - Sounds Of A Playground Fading reviewed by Khelek and quoted 55 / 100
In Flames - A Sense Of Purpose reviewed by Chris and quoted 86 / 100
In Flames - Colony reviewed by Dylan and quoted 95 / 100
In Flames - Come Clarity reviewed by Jason and quoted 95 / 100
In Flames - Used And Abused: In Live We Trust DVD reviewed by Ben and quoted no quote
To see all 13 reviews click here
22 readers voted
Your quote was: 100.
Change your vote

There are 25 replies to this review. Last one on Mon Nov 20, 2006 10:22 am
View and Post comments