For the first ten years of my life I was not just apathetic towards music, I actively disliked it. Then I heard Linkin Park’s “Numb” and “Faint”, and I had myself both an interest and a favourite band. For the next few years I would listen to a handful of Linkin Park songs on repeat, along with a few singles from other bands which were getting radio airplay at the time: Green Day, U2, The Killers etc. Fast forward to early high school and some friends of mine were really into extreme metal, so they showed me Come Clarity. I had heard some metal beforehand, and I had always detested the abhorrent, head-ache inducing screams, so I was full of apprehension as I dove in to see what all the fuss was about this In Flames.
It would be many years yet before I would listen to entire albums front to back. These were days where I would listen to the singles first, and skip a track after a few seconds if I didn’t like how it sounded – so the first song I actually heard from the record was the title track “Come Clarity”. I thought it was great, the clean vocals were pretty similar to the 70 or so songs I had on my iPod and I liked the acoustic guitar intro, something I had never heard before from a band supposed to be heavy. Really, I was into radio rock at the time and this song was more of the same. I skipped over a few other tracks which my friends had recommended because of the horrendous screaming, but when at home I tried to make more of an effort to like them.
In the end there were a few songs which I came away enjoying, such as “Take This Life”, “Dead End” and “Crawl Through Knives”, which was a real landmark in my musical tastes for they represented the first time that I enjoyed songs with harsh vocals from start to finish. The aggression was palpable, but also palatable, and the addition of female vocals on “Dead End” only helped the transition from whence I’d come. I may not have liked, or even heard, the entirety of the album, and I may have hated all of the old songs that my friends assured me were their best material, but I walked away considering myself a fan of the band’s work. Given the heaviest thing I had heard up until that point was “One Step Closer” by Linkin Park, Come Clarity was one of my gateway albums into the world of metal and, down the track, extreme metal too.
These days I can comfortably claim to have enjoyed this record in full, from start to finish. There are still a couple of weaker tracks, such as the album closer, but for the most part everything is at a minimum solid. Having gotten into In Flames through their post-2000 records first, and only afterwards discovered the back catalogue, I was free from any expectations bias and will proudly state that I enjoy both eras (though I can’t say the same for post-2010!). Whilst I like more songs on the album than I did when I was younger, these days I tend to get less enjoyment from the songs I had liked as a kid. The title track will always hold a nostalgic charm for me, but objectively speaking it’s not really anything special. Elements that I had believed to be unique, such as the acoustics and the female cleans, I now know to be tools employed by many bands across numerous sub-genres of metal.
Still, that’s not to say that this album doesn’t have some classic tracks, and there are two in particular that I probably love more today than even in my formative years. “Take This Life” still makes me want to get up and break things, and it’s one of the most fun tracks to mosh to when seeing the band live. Similarly, “Crawl Through Knives” is one of the best songs In Flames have ever written and I still consider it as one of my favourite melodeath tracks. It’s not their best album and there is some filler, and people will argue as to how much, but I still feel it holds up relatively well and I’ll still give it an occasional spin. Thank you In Flames and, perhaps more importantly, thanks to my high school mates for the recommendation!