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In Flames - October 1, 2009 - Mr. Smalls Theatre, Pittsburgh, PA

By: David E. Gehlke

With a certain degree of fondness, this scribe can remember when In Flames were his band and not everyone else’s. Of course, that was almost 10 years ago and the notion of the Swedes (or any of their counterparts for that matter) making the rounds in the States was pretty far-fetched. We all know how the story has gone, as In Flames are the unrivaled kings of Swedish metal, death or not. On this early October night in Pittsburgh, it was proof positive of this.

A surprisingly robust crowd packed Mr. Smalls (some said it was a sell out), causing yours truly to retreat to back area to catch the show and to escape would-be crowd-surfing and sweaty bodies. Yuck. Anyway, the Faceless kicked things off and managed to pull off their entirely too technical brand of death metal fairly well. Relying largely on their latest Planetary Duality album, the California-based sextet remained stoic, but who could blame them? Talk about dizzying…

On the flip-side, 3 Inches of Blood parlayed their un-technical, loose brand of throwback metal into a rapturous response. “Battles and Brotherhood,” “Rock In Hell” and “Call of the Hammer” got the nod from their newest, Here Waits Thy Doom, while “The Goatriders Horde” and “Trial of Champions” rounded out a rather inspired set. Hats off to singer Cam Pipes, who in spite of his one-dimensional range, managed to hit the rafters on more than one occasion.

Between the Buried And Me could very well have stolen the show, as the throng went bananas for each prog noodle, throttling breakdown, and elongated musical section. Vocalist Tommy Rodgers was energetic, volleying between his keyboard stand and the front of the stage as “Selkies” and “The Decade of Statues” kept things ‘a movin’. The band is stunningly precise in the live arena, but have this sort of exacting presence to them that shouldn’t be allowed for a so-called “metalcore” band. They’re much more than that. Can’t wait to see what they do on The Great Misdirect.

With a catalog literally loaded with musical gems, In Flames did a mostly good job of condensing nine studio albums into 90 minutes of music. “Cloud Connected” got things off on the right foot, as did “Embody the Invisible,” with the band now totally mobile, a change from previous shows where they were mostly pedestrian. One does remember shows during the Clayman tour when the band were all over the stage, smiling, having a good time. Heck, vocalist Anders Friden even playfully shouted in this scribe’s ear during the end of “Embody the Invisible” during a May 2000 show at old Club Laga. Ah, nostalgia.

Fill-in lead guitarist Niklas Engelin (of the much-missed Gardenian and not-so relevant Engel) did an admirable job in place of Jesper Stromblad, wisely sticking to rhythm guitar duties as Bjorn Gellote tackled all leads. Kudos for airing of “The Hive,” which might be one of the five best songs in the band’s pantheon. Additional set gems included “Pinball Map,” “Clayman,” the rarely-aired “Square Nothing,” “Leeches” and “Take This Life.”

No sign of any Jester Race-era tunes, but that’s not a big deal. The main takeaway was that In Flames looked vibrant and in the moment, absorbing their much-deserved adulation in preparation for yet another studio album. Not sure how that one will pan out, but on nights like this, In Flames co

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