What started as a series DIY laptop recording sessions in a busy London share house …
With the release of their 13th studio album I, The Mask, In Flames have once again proved to be one of the most diverse and creative bands in heavy metal today.
Vocalist Anders Fridén says in his cool, steady Swedish accent, how happy he is that after a year since the initial recordings, the album has finally been introduced to the world. “We’ve had it in our back pocket for quite some time,” he says.
In recent interviews discussing I, The Mask, Fridén has reiterated how anxious he’s been for people to hear this new material. “Obviously I write it for myself,” says Fridén, “but I don’t let outside fear lean me in certain directions, tell me what to do. But when I’m done with that, I just want people to experience it for themselves, turn it into something personal.
“It’s a way for us to get out there and tour–we love to tour, we love to play live–it’s awesome to see people sing along to your songs. They can’t really do it if they’ve never heard it!”
Given the album’s thematic narrative of not knowing our own identities, not knowing one another’s identities, masking our true selves, despite his insistence he wasn’t swayed by external influences, Fridén was in fact in observing the world around him when he penned his lyrics. “Instead of going to a therapist, this is my therapy session,” he says candidly. “I write these words down and get it out of my system, and of course I deal with identity.
I don’t let outside fear lean me in certain directions, tell me what to do.
[ Anders Fridén ]
“But it’s not just [identity] today–I’ve had a long life. I’ve grown up in this business, I found my way. I’ve got kids so I tend to see the world through their eyes as well.
“When I create this musical art, it’s mine and mine only. I can’t think in a way of whether it will fit someone else, I have to do it for me.”
Calling the music his therapy Fridén realises is something many people can relate to, but for him each of the songs on I, The Mask are self-referencing. It was at the suggestion of In Flame’s producer for I, The Mask and 2016’s Battles, Howard Benson, that Fridén saw a vocal coach in a bid to be able to execute best he could the outlooks he was regarding. “I was sceptical,” admits Fridén. “I’m very comfortable in my home-school technique. I had to let go a little bit of that controlling side. I went, it was a lot of fun. So much more than I expected!
“We talked a lot about how I feel during my day, he was like my guru. I dropped a lot of shit on him. Talked about shit that I just needed to get out of my system … and we talked about breathing techniques, how I should approach a certain bridge or chorus. It gave me a lot of confidence, it gave me strength to reach higher in my register–I think the screaming side of my vocals have become more pronounced.
“And it’s not me trying to become the best singer. For me it’s just a nerdy interest to understand my instrument, like a guitarist wants to understand his pedals.”
There are some very personal lyrics laced within I, The Mask–Call My Name springs to mind, In This Life as well–but to put to Fridén any kind of suggestion of what this album might mean is to miss his intention entirely. “I don’t like to answer that,” begins Fridén, “it’s just been explained in such a perfect way. This is what I want …
Nothing is secret today, there’s no mystery around anything. We all peek into each other’s lives and when it comes to music, everybody wants to know everything all the time–look into the studio, how you tour, they want everything explained–why can’t we just let it go be as is?
[ Anders Fridén ]
“I write this and I let it go. You can write a letter, you go out to the forest and burn it up [the letter] and it’s gone from your system, more therapy in a way, a ritual.
“I write this and the way you describe it to me, if I tell you yes or no, I would destroy that for you. If it’s personal to you, this whole experience is greater. That’s my approach.”
“I really hate when you have to do a track by track [analysis],” Fridén continues. “Nothing is secret today, there’s no mystery around anything. We all peek into each other’s lives and when it comes to music, everybody wants to know everything all the time–look into the studio, how you tour, they want everything explained–why can’t we just let it go be as is?”
“I want to sit with someone unique, you know, face to face, and then we talk about the lyrics back and forth about what it means to each other. They are extremely personal, of course.”
Because of the music, however, Fridén says he feels there are a lot of people that probably know him better than he will ever know them. “But it’s awesome we can meet in the music and resonate to the same thing without having known each other at all. I think that’s extremely cool.
“That’s what drew me to metal music in the beginning, you could do whatever you want–then I found out later when you gather fans and your music is reviewed in magazines that ‘oh, there are rules’–you can’t do this, you can’t do that–but I just wanna be free and do whatever the fuck I want.
“I struggle with this, and I want people to understand my intentions are not to go against what you feel, it’s just these are my words, this is our music.”