Review Summary: Accessible, catchy, melodic, and somewhat loyal to their roots.
We all know the story, in the early ‘90s, in Gothenburg, Sweden, a group of friends branched out into three separate bands: At the Gates, In Flames, and Dark Tranquility. They all had one thing in common, they wanted to create a more melodic form of death metal. You could always argue that bands like Carcass and Sentenced also had a large influence on the melodeath scene, but those three bands were the primary bands in the Gothenburg scene. Eventually, as they gained fame, the three bands went their separate ways. At the Gates disbanded, but In Flames and Dark Tranquility went on. In Flames eventually decided that they wanted to make their music more accessible, and so eventually they made Reroute to Remain, to a great deal of criticism from many old fans. A Sense of Purpose is essentially a continuation of their ever-increasing accessibility in music. It’s one of the catchiest albums that In Flames has ever made, but also one of the most annoying.
In my opinion, this is the closest thing that In Flames has ever done to plain old metalcore. You could say that they were metalcore starting with Reroute to Remain, but I think that it’s this album which truly showed them progressing away from melodeath, and unto metalcore (on an unrelated note, if you were one of the idiots like me who decided to buy the limited edition including a DVD on the “making” of this album, you’d see that the band members pretty much only wear metalcore band shirts now, like Hatebreed and Chimaira. Coincidence?). However, not all of it is bad. Fortunately, they still have guitar harmonies here, which is certainly a step up from Reroute and Soundtrack. It’s essentially a slower, but improved version of Reroute to Remain. They still have catchy, melodic, and technical guitar riffs and solos, and heck, the vocal choruses are certainly better than lots of older clean vocal choruses (like on Reroute to Remain, again). Anders even does some death growls here and there, which is something that he hasn’t done for a while, now has he? Oddly enough, this album is probably In Flames’ most accessible album, but at the same time, probably the most loyal to their roots album out of all the new albums they’ve made.
The album starts out with “The Mirror’s Truth”, the lead single, which frankly, isn’t that bad a song. The opening riffs are fairly catchy, and the entrance is somewhat dramatic. If only Anders’ voice wouldn’t just randomly rise in pitch so often, it would have been a rather memorable song. The solo is done just right, so that there’s just enough time afterwards to let the final chorus melt right in. There’s some pretty solid drumming going on, with some pretty nice double-kicks throughout this song. “Disconnected” is next, which is easily among the worst tracks on this album, vocal wise. The chorus has a nice redeeming guitar harmony, which is the only thing which makes this song somewhat listenable. The song right after is “Sleepless Again”, which is one of the better songs in the album, featuring a great melodic solo, and a fairly good vocal passage, which, unfortunately, sounds somewhat like something taken from a post-hardcore song. “Alias” is next, which is more synth-based than any of the other songs. It’s a decent song, and it fits in with the rest quite well, with a overall, fairly catchy song structure, with catchy vocals and a somewhat catchy synth-based guitar riff. Right after that comes “I’m the Highway”, which is one of my least favorite songs on the album. Sure, there’s a really nice guitar solo, but pretty much all of the guitar solos on this album are nice. The opening riffs are nicely done, but those are the only good traits of this song. Right after is “Delight and Angers”. Apply what I said about “Sleepless Again” to this song. “Move Through Me” is next, which is one of the best songs on this album. The solo is a fusion of their old and modern sound, with the melody being brought out through the guitar harmony, but with just enough of a synth effect to give it a modern sound. Right after is the longest song on this album, “The Chosen Pessimist”. It’s essentially an overly long alt-metal ballad with a depressed/emo-ish ting. Afterwards, “Sober and Irrelevant”. I think the title is self-explanatory. Now, moving on is “Condemned”, possibly the greatest track on this entire album. “Condemned features some nice melodic harmonies during the pre-chorus, reminiscent of their old Gothenburg past. Then the real chorus comes, ever so catchy. The vocals are actually not too overbearingly, and done in just the right amount to make this song stand out. This song even has a nice breakdown afterwards, as well as excellent technical and melodic guitar solos, and solid drumming throughout the song. “Drenched in Fear” comes, with melodic crunchy dual-guitar riffs and a somewhat sing-along chorus. And finally, the grand(not) finale, “March to the Shore”, a rather weak attempt to finish off an otherwise great album.
Lyrically wise, this is one of In Flames’ worst albums yet. You can imagine that this album is probably going to be somewhat dark. Let’s look at “Disconnected”. Part of the lines from the chorus could have come from a Linkin Park album (“I feel like ***, but at least I feel something.”) Sad. The lyrics tend to revolve around personal despair, personal sorrow, personal grief, personal anguish, and well, you see the pattern here. For example, “Sober and Irrelevant” (God, like the title doesn’t explain anything.) The lyrics are pretty much reflecting upon desperation (“I'm not asking for much, just a moment, a chance to pick up the pieces”) or just simply remorse (“I’ve become the distant, I am the sober and irrelevant, I don’t feel but in this, what is there to believe?”) Other times, the lyrics are simply Anders pleading to an “unknown” person, like in “Delights and Angers” (“Please heal me, I can’t sleep, thought I was unbreakable but this is killing me, call me, everything, make me feel unbreakable, lie and set me free”). The rest of the songs pretty much just revolve around the same topics over and over again, and as a result, bye bye somewhat sophisticated lyricism, bye bye, and good riddance.
As you can imagine, this is still nothing compared any of their older releases. Nothing they’ve released this millennium (other than Clayman) is anything compared to their old material. However, it’s still an improvement from their previous releases, still hopefully, there’s still some hope for In Flames. Their melodic accessibility, especially vocal wise will definitely shine for fans who embraced their new sound, but it continue to garner raised eyebrows from fans of their earlier work. However, it’s their everlasting sense of purposeful evolution which truly helps shape and define their influential and authoritative presence on the metal scene.
The Mirror's Truth
Move Through Me