COLUMN: Talent matters over taste


Dan Hahn

Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

Dan Hahn, Columnist

Taylor Swift dominates conversations about the music industry thanks to the recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing over Ticketmaster’s mishandling of the artist’s much anticipated tour.

Indeed, Swift is a phenomenal talent of marketing and songwriting that has captured the adoration of millions of fans.

Swift’s music does not appeal to me even though some of her songs get stuck in my head from time to time. It is undeniable that she is an important figure for American music lovers despite what genre you prefer, or even whether or not you listen to the radio.

I am one of those individuals that seldom listens to music on the radio, but I respect her talent whether it is to my taste or not.

And, by the way, I do listen to Taylor Swift when it comes on the radio, mostly because I am curious to hear what all the rage is about, but also because my wife will not let me change it to something else.

Which is fine, I am fundamentally a metal head, and the music I am enthusiastic about does not play on broadcast radio stations. In fact, the real topic of my column today is about two Swedish melodic death metal bands: In Flames and The Halo Effect.

Newcomers to the discussion of In Flames’ place in the Swedish melodic death metal genre will be disoriented without some background, but all you need to know for now is that In Flames is a Swedish band formed by guitarist Jesper Strömblad in 1990.

Björn Gelotte is now the main guitarist and songwriter for the now Swedish/American melodic death metal band (they’ve recruited Americans to fill the vacancies of Swedish members who have left).  

In Flames has a new album coming out this year and Ola Englund, in a recent podcast interview with Björn Gelotte mentioned that fans are responding positively to the forthcoming album “Foregone,” saying that the band is “back to form.” Björn replied that comments like these are simply a declaration of personal taste. 

Björn goes on to comment that In Flames is not a cover band and they are not a radio band. Their efforts in the studio are to craft a finished product that they are proud of and that fans enjoy.

They know that they have to put in the work, make it their best, and be happy with the songs they will be playing live.

They’ve definitely had many lineup changes over the years and their signature sound has transformed to be more progressive and appeal to broader audiences.

For example, melodic death metal in recent decades incorporates more “clean” vocals, otherwise known as “singing,” over traditional death metal growls.

Because this genre is so hard to pull off well, and since the founding member of In Flames is no longer a member of the band, the new In Flames album can never truly be called a return to form.

I am not trying to say bands should not evolve and change, nor am I a diluted fan of the traditional style that believes that the old days of Swedish style death metal were better than today.

That is where Jesper Strömblad comes in. After a long hiatus, the founder of In Flames has started a new band called The Halo Effect with all former In Flames band members, and recently released an album “Days of the Lost” which to me sounds way more like In Flames than the current incarnation.

When it comes to the enjoyment of music, it is a matter of taste, and I mean no disrespect to the current In Flames lineup, which is as impressive as ever.

However, when it comes to a question of talent, The Halo Effect produces a more signature and unique melodic death metal sound than In Flames is capable of.

This is where talent trumps personal taste, and Jesper Strömblad has a singularly unique talent for weaving melodies into heavy metal. You can hear this signature sound on full display by viewing The Halo Effect’s music videos on Youtube.

Guitar melodies found in songs like “Shadowminds,” “Days of the Lost” and “Feel What I Believe” are wonderfully straightforward yet complex in their delivery of a melodic heavy metal sound that cannot be found in any other genre.

You can compare these tracks to In Flames’s new songs like “Meet Your Maker” or “Foregone Pt. 2” and make a determination on which band is more to your taste. However, The Halo Effect is a true demonstration of adhering to the tenets of a genre and letting the talent do the talking.

Dan Hahn is an English composition/rhetoric graduate student. He can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.