In Flames Album Discography: Drummer Touches ‘Em All
The man who pounds the kit for one of the best-known death-metal bands in the world isn’t an angry dude. He’s not even tense. In fact, he’s so mellow at times that you might be tempted to take his pulse.
At ease, demure and handsome, Daniel Svensson is someone who doesn’t wear his profession on his sleeve. And that’s not only when he’s kicking around his hometown of Gothenberg, Sweden – mere hours before bringing the ruckus at Pomona, California’s Fox Theater late last September, Svensson was all mellow yellow backstage.
Dressed in sweatpants and a tee, he didn’t mind having his serenity disrupted; the courteous drummer was down for an interview before grabbing some grub.
In all likelihood, Svensson has always been this laid-back. But if he needs a reason to be, he has more than a few. He gets to play drums for a living. Along with his In Flames brothers, he has a wife and kids. And his band is locked in a groove so firm that it could only be shaken by one of dreadlocked frontman Anders Fridén’s trademark windmills.
Indeed, the past few years have been kind to In Flames. They now own their own studio. Their penultimate album, 2006’s Come Clarity, was just named the best Swedish album of the ’00s in a readers poll by one of the country’s major newspapers.
And beyond the borders of In Flames’ homeland – they’ve long since reigned as one of Sweden’s most popular music acts, regardless of genre – they’ve seen their audiences in the U.S. grow incrementally since a pivotal tour with Slayer and Soulfly back in ’02. A band that has opened for countless others over the years, now In Flames are the ones who regularly seek support.
Such Stateside dividends did not pay off immediately, that’s for sure. While many foreign extreme-metal bands don’t log enough time touring the U.S. to get big here, In Flames have worked hard for their money, as the saying goes. Since cruising through here for the first time, during their Colony trek in 1999, they’ve hit these shores at least three times for each new record cycle, according to Svensson.
“The first [In Flames show in the U.S.] was actually the year before, I think, in Milwaukee,” he qualified. “It was called Milwaukee Metal Fest. We flew over only for that show and played for like 20 minutes and flew back home. That was a weird experience, but it was a lot of people attending that show, so we noticed that there was a big interest.”
And ever since then, In Flames have been after U.S. metalheads like a dude pursuing a hot chick. They’ve had good reason to be confident: Across the world, Svensson said, “We can play a show almost wherever and always have 2,000 people.”
So what is it about this death-metal crew in particular that is launching them so high above the underground? Well, as any devoted fan will attest, they’ve got the full package: stage presence, a natural gift for heavy-rock melody – and, of course, a formidable back catalog.
For the interview, I toted along all the band’s CDs in the hopes that one of the bandmembers would share a morsel or two about each. Svensson was game, so I busted them out backstage to help jog his memory. The good sport touched ’em all, even the early records, before he had entered the Flames fold.
Here are the insights he had to share about each:
[Fair warning: This In Flames discography does not pretend to be comprehensive in detail. Fans, brace yourselves: You’ll get more 411 here about The Tokyo Showdown than Clayman.]
[Mikael Stanne,] the singer of Dark Tranquillity that sings on this one, I’m a good friend with his younger brother, actually. [He] brought this album to my house, and we listened to it over and over again. We thought it was really unique. It was really cool back then.
Did you learn the parts on your own, before you joined the band?
Yeah, I did. I had a band before, and we recorded our albums in the same studio at the time. So when In Flames needed a new drummer, the producer actually told them, “I think you should try this guy. He’s pretty good.” Then, when I did the audition, I already knew all the songs.
It must be something for the rock history books that In Flames had Mikael singing on their first album, while Dark Tranquillity’s original vocalist was Anders.
Gothenberg is a very small scene, and everyone in the scene knew each other and basically had bands together that would mix up [lineups].
So none of those bands thought they were going to get big.
No, I don’t think so. You never do, when you start just for fun. Then you realize after a while that you might have potential. But back in those days, I don’t think that they had that in mind. Of course, it was a dream, but …
That was also an album I bought the same day it was released.
Any favorite tracks?
Back then, I think “The Jester Race” was one of my favorite tracks. I haven’t heard it in a while, actually.
You guys don’t sit around listening to old In Flames albums.
No. [He laughs.] At least not on tour. You get tired hearing yourself all the time.
What about the songs themselves? Do you get tired of playing some of them?
Rehearsing them is boring. But presenting them live is fun, because you have an audience that enjoys it.
We hardly rehearse our songs anymore. Maybe two days before a tour, just to take away the rust. Otherwise we don’t need to rehearse. We’ve already played some of the songs 1,000 times.
Almost all these songs are classics. “Jotun,” “Food for the Gods,” “Gyroscope” for sure. “The Hive” definitely.
We’re playing “The Hive” tonight.
You guys used to close with “Episode 666” all the time. Did you just get sick of that one? ‘Cause I don’t hear it too often.
Yeah, we don’t play it anymore. Not right now. We might take it back, but it’s so hard choosing a set list. We have nine or 10 albums … I’ve lost count. [<em>Nine studio albums, one live record. -ed.</em>] It’s maybe 100 songs at least. And we need to pick 16 out of that.
How do you decide, then?
That’s a big problem. We all have different tastes, and we enjoy other songs more than other people. It works out. We try to flip it over sometimes and change some songs here or there during a tour. But it’s hard, definitely.
That was my first album. … After Colony, we started to do some serious touring, and I think I was the last one who joined for this lineup before Colony. And the guys before that [who] left didn’t like touring, so while we released Colony, we tried to see how far we could reach by touring. We tried to give everything. When we started to record this one, we actually had, not a huge, but a really good fanbase. This was the next big step for us.
What was it like joining the band?
That was huge for me, of course, since this was one of my absolute favorite bands. So it was overwhelming to record an album with my idols, so to speak. I was kind of nervous during that recording. I mean, it was good, but I didn’t really dare to take too much space. So I maybe held back a little bit. But it’s cool.
But you wrote all your drums parts, right?
We actually think musically the same way. When someone comes up with a riff, we all know what kind of drums are needed.
Can you explain that?
“This sounds like In Flames,” “This doesn’t sound like In Flames.” It’s hard to explain.
If I’m not mistaken, it was with Colony and Clayman that you really modified your sound. Would you agree?
Yeah, because we had the same lineup for two albums in a row.
That would explain it.
Are you happy with the quality of this one?
No, we’re not. I’m not a big fan of live albums anyways; you can’t re-create a show on a CD. You need video and everything; you lose half the thing. I don’t really know why [we recorded this]. We felt, “Yeah, it’s time to do a live album.” But that’s probably the least satisfactory release, if I had to choose.
Does Japan have a special place in your heart, is that why you chose that location?
I don’t really remember, actually. Back then, we had the biggest crowds in Japan. They had all the stuff we needed to record; we didn’t need to fly over anything or ship anything. So it was convenient as well.
How do you explain In Flames’ huge following in Japan?
I think it was kind of new for European metal bands to go to Japan. First time we went was ’97, I think, and back then it was kind of exotic to have a Japanese crowd. Nowadays they get tons of bands, so it’s not as exciting anymore for them. And you can see that, because ticket sales are going down there. Back then it was kind of fresh.
We took a big step here, because this is the first time we changed the studio [from Studio Fredman to Dug-Out] and the producer. On all the previous ones, we worked with a guy called Fredrik Nordström, and we felt like we needed to try something else after all these years. So we tried a guy called Daniel Bergstrand, who’s also Swedish.
We wanted to change the sound of it, but to get something fresh. Not that these [songs] sound really good, but yeah, we needed to do something different. So that was a big step. We didn’t really have a goal with it. You just need to change something sometimes to get it interesting.
Is the Jester (In Flames’ version of Eddie, if you will) on the cover of this one?
I don’t think so. It’s in the artwork somewhere in the sleeve. He’s usually there [on the cover].
What memories do you have of this one?
I wasn’t that involved. I had my first kid right before the recording. I recorded the drums with [Bergstrand] in his studio, and when I was done with the drum parts, we rented a huge house in Denmark and set up a studio in there to get out of the normal studio environment. Also, again, to try something different. Lots of elaborating. That was a really cool album.
So how did you build the studio?
We rented this big mansion and brought equipment. We didn’t really rebuild it, but we used the rooms and the different sounds and acoustics.
A friend of mine has a Ford Escape, and he was playing this in it one day, and I said, “This is the soundtrack to your Escape.”
Come Clarity was also an album [for which] we recorded our parts separately. I recorded the drums alone, and then I took my drum parts and sent them to Gothenberg, where we recorded the guitars. And the same with the vocals – [they] were recorded in another studio. So it was also a different way [of recording].
Now … we have our own studio. So of course we recorded that there. But this was the first time in a while that we’d actually recorded together. We were there, all five of us, for the first time in a couple of years, actually – like we did on the old albums. So we had a really good feeling, and we could throw ideas back and forth.
Since it’s our own studio, we didn’t have time pressure either. We could stay there forever if we had to. ‘Cause otherwise you rent a studio for a certain amount of time, then you have to be done. But this time, we were working until we were really satisfied.
Did it have more of a family feel when you were making it, then?
Yeah, definitely. And I think [listening to the album] you can feel that it was a good vibe going.
I was watching the videos you posted during the recording, and it seemed like you guys were really enjoying yourselves in the studio.
Yeah, we did. It felt like we were recording the first album again.
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