In Flames’ Friden Opens Up About Jesper Stromblad’s Departure
In Flames‘ new album, ‘Sounds of a Playground Fading,’ is the first in the Swedish metal band’s 21-year career without founding guitarist Jesper Stromblad. After In Flames’ last record, the guitarist left the multimillion-selling act because of a serious problem with alcohol abuse. The band’s current lineup includes lead singer Anders Friden, guitarist Bjorn Gelotte, bassist Peter Iwers, and drummer Daniel Svensson, with Niclas Engelin now replacing Stromblad. Noisecreep recently spoke with Friden about the effect of Stromblad’s departure on the band.
Noisecreep: How Difficult was recording this album, given that Jesper was not in the band?
Anders Friden: We’ve been without him for almost two years prior to the actual album recording. It wasn’t so much on the musical side; it was more on the friendship side. We’ve known each other for so long and we’ve seen him struggle with his addiction, and whatever problems come along with the addiction, for quite some time. But the recording was pretty much as always, or even better. Like, the whole vibe was very good within the band.
Can you hear the impact of losing one member and adding a new one?
It’s just me and Bjorn who have been writing this album, and before it was me, Bjorn, and Jesper writing the album. It hasn’t affected us on the musical side. It’s more affected us as friends because we never parted ways because we don’t like each other, we never parted ways because of musical differences; we parted ways because we couldn’t work as a unit. I think this album, yeah, it might [have] turn[ed] out different if Jesper was involved, but I don’t know how because we approached the album in the same way that we’ve always done [it]. Me and Bjorn have done nine of 10 In Flames albums; we were just not part of the first one. To us, it wasn’t that much different.
In the studio, did recording go smoother since you didn’t have to worry about an alcoholic friend?
Yeah, in a way. I mean, we all miss him as the person, Jesper. It looks more different and looks like a struggle from the outside, when people look into the band, but we’ve been living with this for such a long time and we’ve been struggling with this issue for more years than you can imagine, and we just tried to keep it hidden from the public. I don’t want to take away anything from Jesper because it’s been really significant for our sound, but he has not been the one holding everyone together. And the band is way bigger than us — me, Bjorn, Peter, or Daniel. I think In Flames is way bigger than the individual and if we can’t trust each other that we will appear on up-coming tours and so on, then that makes it harder for everyone else.
Many of the songs, especially the first few, seem to be about struggling with identity, legacy, and mortality. Is that right?
Overall, the concept of the album — I mean, it’s not a story like Queensryche‘s ‘Operation Mindcrime’ type of thing — it’s more I was thinking about the world where we are today. There’s only a few places in the world that are untouched by man, or people do live there but they live with the earth together with nature and they probably think that’s how it’s going to be forever, like you always do. But you and me — I’m not saying you — we more take, take, take until there’s nothing more to take and then we move on to the next people.
And what would happen if someone would give us a sign and say, ‘You only have five years to live [or] you only have 10 years to live,’ and then that’s going to be the final thing, would that change the way we think? Would that change the way we treat each other? Would that change our plans or our regrets? So all of the songs are almost pretty much questions.
I ask myself, ‘What I would do in these situations?’ I start thinking about my life, my situations, where I am, where I’ve been, where I’m going. Is that a good place or a bad place, and all the songs are from that topic, so I raise more questions. That’s my way to communicate with you or whoever is reading the lyrics, and maybe one day we can meet and talk about them. And then I haven’t preached ‘this is the way it is and this is the way it should be.’ Who am I to tell you?
Would you change if you had five or 10 years to live?
I would say so. I’m far from perfect. There’s maybe people I’d like to say some things to, but overall, I have achieved a lot of things. I’m very humble being able to do what I do. I’m very fortunate. I’m gone far beyond where I thought I would be. I met a lot of people which has been awesome. It think I’ve learned a lot along the way.
Is the song ‘Fear Is The Weakness’ about Jesper? The song includes lines like “At least you could have tried/It’s way past time” and “It’s sad to see you go/It’s not meant to be easy/But you drag us down.“
It could very much could be so. It doesn’t have to be, but obviously being [his] friend has affected me a lot.
How is he? Is he sober?
Er, I don’t think so, no, unfortunately. It’s up and down. I think he can medicate himself, but that’s not really how it works. I met him a few weeks ago and we talked a little bit.
Is the door open if he wants to come back?
Never say never, but we are very happy with the situation we are in. Now we can work as a band. But who knows? Obviously a lot of changes need to come from him. As I said, we’re good friends. We’re not enemies or anything. It’s just a long relationship that’s been burning out.
Watch the video for ‘Deliver Us’ by In Flames