It’s no secret that In Flames aren’t what they used to be. Unsurprisingly for a band who were once among the most prominent faces in Gothenburg metal, their shift over the years to a far more melodic, borderline emo guise has not sat well with a lot of the fanbase. Factored alongside increasingly diminished returns as far as albums go, In Flames look to be in some testy waters as far as widespread favor goes.
So do they really think that this is going to win fans back? An EP of half-hearted covers that range from predictable at best to dull, sluggish masses at worst, without much in between? To be as nice as possible, ‘Down, Wicked & No Good’ at least gives the impression of being well put together. Other than the baffling inclusion of a live rendition of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Hurt’ that sees the band trying to emulate the gravitas of Johnny Cash’s spellbinding cover and ultimately failing that is.But there is at least some care put into this EP that can be appreciated. Hell, with their version of Depeche Mode’s ‘It’s No Good’ burying a sleazy, electronic pulse within itself, there’s something of a drive that makes that track especially compelling.
It’s a shame it’s not reciprocated elsewhere. As mentioned earlier, ‘Hurt’ feels like a disappointingly slapdash inclusion, but an abundance of crystalline strings and clattering percussion doesn’t benefit Alice In Chains’ ‘Down In A Hole’ whatsoever, and Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ is such a played-out choice now given how Stone Sour, HIM and Theory Of A Deadman have all given takes on it with virtually no difference to this one, with the latter of those three being released not even a month ago. This especially represents a laziness on In Flames’ part, sticking to the bare minimum of what they can get away with rather than leaving their comfort zone for something that could be potentially interesting.
Because, let’s be blunt – ‘Down, Wicked & No Good’ is a prime example of a band resting on their laurels to shovel out whatever they can for a stopgap release. Granted, it’s not as technically low-quality as a stopgap can be, but there’s really no reason for this EP to exist. It feels like a waste of energy and resources overall, and given how it sees In Flames sink further into their tepid, languid sludge, it’s not exactly going to convince former fans to come back. The most emphatic praise that can be given is that it’s inoffensive enough, but that’s not exactly a high benchmark to hit.
‘Down, Wicked & No Good’ EP by In Flames is out now on Nuclear Blast Records .
Words by Luke Nuttall (@nuttall_luke)