Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Review: In Flames - Sounds of a Playground Fading

Band: In Flames
Album: Sounds of a Playground Fading
Year: 2011
Country: Sweden
Genre: Modern/Alternative Metal

I personally think SoaPF is an improvement over A Sense of Purpose. While I did enjoy ASoP it was still a rather weak release. On Sounds In Flames seem to go for a little heavier approach and while its nothing like their old school melodic death metal albums its better than the last album.

First, either I'm getting used to Anders' vocals or he is actually getting better at his singing and growling. Where as post Colony his screams seemed almost too forced and like he was trying to copy Jonathan Davis from Korn. Here I don't even cringe while listening. This is a big deal since in the past Anders Friden was probably the weak link of the band. I'm interested to see how those who disliked his style in the past feel about what they might hear here. I have to admit though on Ropes his singing voice kinda falls flat and sounds a bit weak, probably because his accent is so obvious.

The lyrics are still a mess. Its not even necessarily the subject matter (personal struggles which has been done to death), but the lyrical make up itself. Old In Flames always had interesting lyrics about science fiction and future issues. But on the last 3 or 4 albums they switched to inner turmoil. But Anders must still not have a good grasp on english or something because the lyrics just don't flow properly in a number of places.

One of the big things about this record is how guitarist (and the last founding member) Jesper Stromblad left before the recording began. But as soon as you go through the album once you can tell that with the last few releases Jesper played a smaller and smaller part in the writing process. This sounds like a proper progression of A Sense of Purpose and what you would expect the band to sound like even if Jesper had stayed. So Bjorn and Niclas Engelin pull off the same sound you know and love (or don't) from the past few albums.

In Flames continue adding a little more of a progressive/experimental edge to their sound. The Jester's door is a mix of electronic and instrumental music but is very quiet and soft. The title track is soft guitars for about the first minute before shooting off into something resembling what you might hear from Come Clarity. There are really no bad tracks on this album save for maybe Jester's Door which is basically a throw away/filler track. The band really hits the melody strong here though with tracks like Deliver Us, All For Me, The Puzzle, ect ect. As always there is a big emphasis on the guitar harmonies, one of my favorite things about IF.

There album hits on a darker tone though as well. Along with Jester's Door there is The Attic which is like this albums shorter version of The Chosen Pessimist. The last minute or two of Liberation isn't quite as dark but the clean guitars going on with the drumming sticking to the background as the song finishes give it that sort of feel.

Sounds of A Playground Fading is an excellent album if you take it for what it is, a modern metal album. It's a sort of mix between A Sense of Purpose and Come Clarity with a little more progressive/experimental frame of mind to it. As always Daniel Svensson's drumming is a joy to listen to and the melody makes this an easy, fun album to get into. The riffs stand out as being easy on the ear without crossing into alternative/rock territory. And with Anders vocal improvements I think In Flames fans who enjoy their discography as a whole are in for a treat.

Score: 8/10
Standout Tracks: Deliver Us, Fear Is The Weakness, The Puzzle, All For Me

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