Swedish melodic death metal pioneers In Flames will always hold a special place in my heart. They were my introduction to extreme metal, and though their music has become poppier over the years, I still love what they do. I’ve been lucky enough to see them play in the Northwest on three occasions and to meet the guys in person on one of those tours (and they’re about as nice and unpretentious a group of dudes as you could hope to meet).
Guitarist Jesper Strömblad is one of the founders and the only remaining original member of the band. So it was with some trepidation that I read in February of this year that he’d checked himself into a rehab clinic to get treatment for alcohol abuse and would therefore miss the band’s Australia/SouthAmerica/Japan tour. A significant and positive step for Jesper, but one that raised some questions about how it would affect the future of In Flames. In March, drummer Björn Gelotte gave an interview in which he had this to say about the situation:
“Well, as with every problem of this kind, it’s not something that you want to tell everybody. It is something that you are sort of embarrassed about, but we’ve been living around this problem now for many many years. The thing is that with something like this you can’t really force anybody to go to the doctor or to feel better. You have to wait until this person realizes that himself. And what happened is that it got to be too much and he had a breakdown and he realized when his body said, “This is it.” He had to go and get medication, get some treatment and lock himself in for a couple of weeks and take it easy and take care of himself. And this is the only way of waking up, I think. I don’t know how it is with other abuses, but with this one — it’s kind of embarrassing. It’s tough for him to realize it, but when he finally did it, now he’s doing something about it. But it takes time to get back.”
I hadn’t heard much more about this situation until today, when I saw a story that really brightened up my Sunday morning. Blabbermouth reports that Jesper rejoined In Flames on stage Friday night (December 11) at Hovet in Stockholm, Sweden for the last two songs of the group’s set, “Take This Life” and “My Sweet Shadow”. The band performed the tracks as a six-piece, with Jesper’s temporary replacement, Niclas Engelin from the Swedish band ENGEL, playing alongside him. More than 8,000 people attended that show, which according to Blabbermouth was In Flames‘ biggest headlining show ever.
Our heart-felt wishes go out to Jesper. He’s in a fight that unfortunately will never end, and his chosen career is one that undoubtedly will present constant hurdles to continuing recovery.
Here’s a fan video of “My Sweet Shadow” at the Hovet concert. The audio is crap and the video isn’t much better, but it’s worth it to see Jesper riffing away on stage, wearing a t-shirt that says “Rehab Is For Quitters.”
Horns up for Jesper!