Released: 2011, Century Media
Musically speaking 2011 has been a good year for me. Several bands that I had generally written off (Children Of Bodom, Arch Enemy and Evergrey) have come back with very strong albums. I’d like to add In Flames to that list. I think of the four bands mentioned In Flames (or N’ Flaymz as they became to be known) had fallen the farthest from grace. The first four or five albums were great, I mean really great. Then, I don’t know what happened but they really, really changed bottoming out with that techno/dance remix EP thing they did back in 2003. The next several albums were so radically different from what attracted me to the band in the first place, I just lost interest in the band.
So the band has wandered in the wilderness and really lost direction after the past half-decade, now standing as one of those rare bands with no original members left. Think about it. Of course your band is going to sound different if it is different people are in it. It’s inevitable. The band has churned out an album every two years for almost 20 years on top of heavy global touring. SOUNDS OF A PLAYGROUND FADING is album #10, which is quite an accomplishment for any genre. Only a handful (about 250 bands out of 80, 000+ bands) have achieved that longevity and hit that respected benchmark. I think the three years between albums has really helped the band rest and recover. Personally even before hearing the album, I had already dubbed the new album SOUNDS OF A CAREER FADING, but I was wrong.
Ok, so what does it sound like? Well, better. Better than before. By better I mean this is closer to ‘Metal’ than they have been in a while. Tracks like ‘Enter Tragedy’ and ‘Darker Times’ are the heaviest things they have done in a while a while. I mean, it’s still got that sickly sweet Gothenburg melo-death sound but at least they have downplayed the techno/industrial stylings, a bit. There are some more traditional Metal solos, tempos are faster, riffs more classically written. I do admire the bands growth as musicians and I do admire their willingness to avoid some of the standard archetypes of Metal, but of you (as a band) stray too far from your roots, you risk alienating your fans. The band still has top-notch production, catchy tunes, and those lilting keyboards scattered among the songs and the clean/harsh vocal dichotomy. They still flirt with non-Metal themes and imagery, but that has become a hallmark of the band, odd art, weird song-titles and so on. The last cut may be the most conventional, commercial song they have written, but it is catchy as hell.
In Flames have pulled themselves out of the grave and have taken one lurching step back towards credibility and respectability. If you had given up on the band for the past decade or so, you might want to try revisiting In Flames one last time. I’m glad I did.