Today marks the twenty-year anniversary of Colony by In Flames, and I’m here to talk about why I believe it to be the most concise and best-executed album in their catalog, over Clayman, Whoracle, and even The Jester Race which many regard to be their absolute best.
Admittedly, my love for In Flames comes and goes, simply because I find their discography to overall be spotty. And as time went on, they became more commercial and slowly started abandoning their earlier melodic death metal roots that they had a hand in forging alongside bands such as At The Gates, Dark Tranquility, and English gore-laden band Carcass. All of these bands made that particular genre popular in the early to mid-’90s and beyond, and In Flames was certainly pivotal in its evolution. In Flames, unfortunately, is the one band that succumbed to the ever-changing status of the mainstream metal scene, and released albums that I can’t particularly get into without quickly reaching for their earlier albums for refuge.
By the time In Flames got around to composing Colony, the band had the perfect blend of the abrasive nature of the older albums mixed into the more melodic and mature songwriting that would be found on albums that followed. The riff writing and songwriting on this album shows the band at peak performance. It was still heavy and aggressive, appealing to the extreme metal fans but also catchy and melodic enough overall to allure the average metal listener. It’s as if they took the melodic tendencies of Dickinson era Iron Maiden and forged it with the grinding sound of Carcass, a combination that I have immense guilty pleasure for. Although, I would have to boldly claim that a lot of people might tend to agree with me and it probably isn’t much of a guilty pleasure, but more of a mutual understanding and admiration.
I would go into every single song, and why I think each song has its place and importance, but it also happens to be a lengthy album. That being said, it overall manages to keep a steady and manageable pace. So given that, I could easily write a short story about this album. However, I will say that it speaks for itself and that there isn’t a song or moment in this album that I wouldn’t recommend. The sound is cold like the winters of Sweden but ultimately embracing; chilling but thrilling. It has the elements that it’s going for like mentioned previously, but an entire full-length album’s worth that begs for being put on and played the entire way through. It’s an excellent road trip album that puts you in a trance and takes you for a swim in its sonic lake of melodic death metal goodness. I would easily stack this album next to At The Gates’s Slaughter Of The Soul and even Dark Tranquility’s The Gallery in terms of mandatory records to listen to or even have in your collection for Swedish brand of melodic death metal. (Let’s be honest, the mentioned albums are the reason why the genre ultimately exists in the first place). It’s quite undeniable the amount of influence this album had on bands that came after it.
Unfortunately, In Flames has never quite achieved the same level of prowess as they did on Colony. Lots of their fans claim that Clayman is the album that truly encompasses everything about In Flames, but I would beg to differ. Though that album shortly followed this one and sports a fair bit amount of similarities, when listening to them back to back I tend always to find myself coming back to this one the most. Clayman basically took the formula of Colony, simplified it, and made it slightly more accessible which is what I had alluded to earlier when mentioning their slow decline over time.
For anyone thinking about getting into In Flames, or is simply just a casual fan looking to dive into their back catalog, I would recommend this album first before any of their other releases simply because I believe that this is the best In Flames album. And until they somehow decide to embrace their 90’s melodeath sound anytime soon, it will always continue to be.