Review Summary: An improvement from their last album, but is In Flames's new release good on its own terms?
The answer to this question is a definite yes; In Flames
have stepped up the pace from A Sense Of Purpose
considerably and produced and album that is diverse, catchy and most definitely entertaining. However, they have done so without deviating from their trademark sound, and the lack of Jesper Strömblad is hardly noticeable, due mainly to the input of Bjorn Gelotte, who pulled out all the stops for this album, writing excellent guitar parts, which include more numerous solos of higher quality than A Sense Of Purpose. Also notable are Anders Friden's vocals which are now tolerable on the whole, and the contribution of Roberto Laghi, who produced the album flawlessly. Anyway, enough of my waffling and onto the track by track review:
Sounds Of A Playground Fading
: A great opener and one of the better songs of the album. All we hear at first is a clean guitar part reminiscent of Metallica's One
, which gradually builds up to a triumphant crescendo, after which heavier riffs come in and the song kicks off. Anders' vocals are fairly solid, we have a memorable chorus and one of the best solos on the album; what's not to like? Right from the start, the message of this song is that In Flames
are back, and still intent to play their music as they want to, not as old school fans would prefer.
: The first single from the album, for which reception has been mixed. Personally, I think that it is a good song; the opening synth is a great hook, and is repeated throughout the verses. Anders' vocals are effective here, creating an atmosphere of desperation, and the riffs are solid throughout. However, my main complaint is that the solo seems out of place when it comes in, and doesn’t get much better.
All For Me
: Another clean opening paves the way for an early breakdown that is used again in the verses, and then one of the albums strongest riffs. The chorus is very good, but the song is sadly let down by one of Anders' worst vocal performances in the album, but it's otherwise sound (anyone get the pun?)
: Heavy and slightly chaotic, but effectively so. The drums are thrashy and this is perhaps Daniel Svensson's finest moment in the whole album. However, the chorus is very forgettable, although Anders does a good job here. Other highlights include the chunky bass fills and one of the album's fastest solos.
Fear Is The Weakness
: Yet another clean intro, but the band only uses them continually because they work. The riffs here are more melodic than in the other songs, and Anders vocals work very well. The chorus is another strong one, mainly because of the keyboard part in it, and the whole song seems slightly dark. Overall, a solid song, which is grows on you more than anything else on the album.
Where The Dead Ships Dwell
: Great song, a quick drum fill and riff to kick things off, and then we get presented with one of Anders' better vocal performances in the verse with great guitar fills. However, the best thing about this song is the chorus, which is the best in the whole album; the melody in it is extremely catchy and Anders still is still at the top of his game. We get a solo after the second chorus, which is quite long compared to the others but still sounds great. Awesome stuff here.
: Remember how I mentioned how this album is diverse? Well this song is a prime example of that; it is soft, slow and quite moody, in fact it's halfway to being a blues song. The guitars are barely distorted and Anders' vocals are softly sung, almost spoken. Both bass and drums are kept in the background, so it's just Anders and Bjorn in the spotlight. In Flames' musical evolution is showcased well here.
: Back to the heavy stuff, and this is heaviness executed very well. The chorus is dramatic and is backed by a strong drum part. Anders' vocals are on form throughout the song, although he could scream a little more and the guitar solos (yes, there are two of them) are both great. However, the major problem with this song is the main riff, which I think is not melodic enough, although it works quite well in the verse.
: The main riff of this song is quite reminiscent of the Swim
, from their album Clayman
, and the two songs share the same positive vibe. However, in Ropes
, this vibe is let down a bit by the riffs, which are perhaps a little too heavy for their own good. Overall, despite Anders' strong vocal performance and a decent solo, this song is fairly forgettable.
: More heavy material; this song boasts some ferocious riffs, which are matched only by the frantic drumming. However, whilst he does have some good moments, Anders sounds quite weak in most of the song, and it would sound so much better if he just screamed or growled for the whole thing. The breakdown is worth hearing though, as is the solo that comes after it.
: The most experimental and different song on the whole album; it starts off with a few sound effects and then we hear Anders speaking over a slow, haunting keyboard melody. What he's saying seems to be some kind of tribute to Jesper, and after he speaks a drum beat takes over for the rest of the song. Weird but effective, kinda industrial sounding.
A New Dawn
: This song is the closest thing on the album to a return to their early work; the blazing guitar melodies are all here and Anders is screaming a bit more. However, it retains the distinctive sound of their contemporise work in the powerful chorus, and then adds something totally new: a small string orchestra in the second half, which accompanies the bridge and last chorus, and makes the song unique. The solo is brilliant, if a little too short, and the only real complaint that I have for this song is that the bridge seems a little too long when I'm not in the right for it; otherwise flawless. I would have been a great way to end the album, but In Flames weren't quite done with us...
: This is one of the last things that you would expect to hear from In Flames; a mellow rock song that could fit into a Lostprophets album with relative ease. Anders is at ease here and steals the show with one of the album's best choruses. Old school fans will hate this, but my tastes are eclectic enough to love it for what it is. The solo is great, and it is a really strong, positive note to end the album on.
Top 5 songs
1. Where the Dead Ships Dwell
2. A New Dawn
3. Fear Is The Weakness
4. Sounds Of A Playground Fading
Great solos and catchy melodies
Diverse, yet still interesting throughout
Anders' strong moments
Some of the choruses sound very similar
Anders' weak points
Some of the riffs are a little too heavy for the song that they are in (i.e. Ropes)
So, In Flames have proved to us that they are still as strong a band as ever with this. Although there are some ongoing flaws with the album, the pros outweigh the cons decisively. This was my first In Flames album, so it's only fitting that this is my first review.