Review Summary: Mistaken for being a sellout, Soundtrack To Your Escape may appear low-quality upon first listen, but look deeper, and you will discover it is so much more than just another In Flames album.
Ah yes, the In Flames album that fans love to bash. It’s understandable, as there are many reasons to want to do so, such as the album’s success with the mainstream crowd, its venture into nu-metal territory, its near-exclusion of melodic death metal, and especially how six songs were released as singles, as well as some awful music videos. The combination makes Soundtrack to Your Escape appear a lot like a sellout and it is the perfect justification for haters to use. But despite the sellout factors and the significant change in sound, what we really have underneath all that is a very creative, experimental album that you have to look deeper into in order to understand and appreciate. But when you do, you will soon find yourself going into a whole different world, and once you enter it, boy does it feel good.
There are many experimental elements to Soundtrack to Your Escape, as In Flames establish a very dark, haunting tone and atmosphere, giving off the impression that you are in the middle of a long, epic night time journey, escaping from those who abused you and following a new path, hoping for a brighter future and finding out who you are as a person. Listening to this album also made me feel like I was in a videogame or a movie, being on a very important mission and encountering various people and obstacles along the way.
This interesting concept proves that In Flames weren’t being sellouts, because they still wanted to create something new and different that other bands haven’t created before. And while the musical formula itself isn’t much different from the disappointing Reroute to Remain or the mind-numbing A Sense of Purpose, it is still perfect for what the band tried to create, which was something much more than just music.
The unique tone and dreamy atmosphere of Soundtrack to your Escape is created mainly by the guitar, the synthesizers, Anders’ vocals, and some other various sound effects. Sometimes you will hear echoes, as well as talking in the background, and some mechanical and robotic noises, which make the album very mysterious. The synthesizers which dominate the album are used to great effect, and although the solos and twin guitar harmonies only appear occasionally, Soundtrack to Your Escape still provides an emotional experience. It conveys mainly a sense of fear, darkness, despair, and longing, but other times it can be really hopeful and optimistic.
While there isn’t as much melody on this album as there was on The Jester Race and Whoracle, you’ll still find some really nice melodies coming from both the synthesizer and the guitar, especially in songs like “Dead Alone” and “Touch or Red”, and the way the guitar melodies are very occasional, random and unpredictable makes them really add to the album’s mystery. The dark, apocalyptic tone of the guitar bass lines is interesting as it sounds similar to the bass guitar of Meshuggah, suiting the music very well, especially in the heavy opener, “F(r)iend”. The bass riffs are simple and are mostly down-tuned chugging rhythms, but they are still very heavy and catchy, and at times they can be pretty headbang-able. On top of that, there are some really nice acoustics going on, like at the end of “Touch of Red” and in the verses to “My Sweet Shadow” and especially the lush ballad, “Evil in a Closet”.
Another aspect of Soundtrack to Your Escape that I really liked is its personality. Even though Anders does sound like Jonathan Davis of Korn, his nu-metal style vocal parts are very enjoyable on their own merits, especially in “The Quiet Place”, while his evil, creepy death vocals are his strongest since The Jester Race, and the singing parts do have some effects, but are still very interesting. Sure, this album does have its nu-metal moments, but because of its concept, its epic structure and In Flames’ trademark melodicism, it is actually better than most nu-metal albums, especially quality-wise. And after all, who said nu-metal couldn’t be done “right”?
The structure of Soundtrack to Your Escape is very epic and cohesive, and is made all the more epic with the inclusion of songs like "My Sweet Shadow", the excellent ballad “Evil in a Closet”, and the climax, “Superhero of the Computer Rage”. While almost all the songs are in the same key, they still have a lot of diversity to them, and they fit together like puzzle pieces. Each song represents a main event that occurs in the album’s story, and causes the listener to picture what the different places he goes to on his journey will look like- a common tactic used by Metallica, especially in their prime. Some tracks are better than others, but overall there is something to like about each one.
Although it is miles away from the Jester Race, there are still many things to like about Soundtrack to Your Escape, and as a whole, it is the strongest of the post-Clayman albums. If you’re looking for classic melodic death metal, then you’re much better off avoiding this and getting The Jester Race and Whoracle, or checking out bands like Dark Tranquility or Kalmah. However, if you are interested in checking out something new and different that is experimantal and will take you somewhere you haven't been before, then I highly recommend giving this a try.