In Flames
Sounds of a Playground Fading


4.0
excellent

Review

by Magnus Altkula STAFF
June 25th, 2011 | 54 replies | 8,345 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Playing the maximum out of their current sound, In Flames have created yet another excellent record

When Jesper Strömblad revealed his plans to go into rehab and quit In Flames, a lot of old school fans of In Flames thought that it was the final nail in the band’s coffin. But what many failed to see is that Jesper had been a major contributor in the songwriting department from the band’s get-go as well, meaning he was also, at least partly, behind the band’s shift in sound after Clayman – a shift the fans of old disapproved of. While it is indeed sad that the last founding member of In Flames has left for good, a change like this may have been for the band’s benefit. I will make no secret that I enjoy every release In Flames have put out, but it was evident that on A Sense Of Purpose something was missing, and I'm not talking about the dual guitar harmonies of The Jester Race and Whoracle, forget about them, they're not coming back. What was wrong was that the album sounded kind of dishonest. Not throughout, but at various points it did seem to lack passion or a certain persuasive element to it, something that was never missing from an In Flames album before. A Sense Of Purpose was then current Jesper Strömblad in musical form – still fighting, but at the same time, weary and uncertain. So in hindsight, Jesper’s departure after that album was good for both parties: he himself is now focusing on getting his life back on track, and In Flames once again sounds assertive and, well, back on track.

From a musical standpoint, Sounds Of A Playground Fading features both expected and unexpected elements. The music has the same effervescent undercurrent that A Sense Of Purpose had and the added synths mellow out the sound of the band even more, meaning that In Flames continues the trend of becoming less heavy with each release, but the good thing is that by this time, everyone (should have) expected it anyway. Another upside is that on Sounds Of A Playground Fading, the band plays this lighter sound much more convincingly than they did on A Sense Of Purpose. Straight from the start, the title track sets the whole album’s mood perfectly with its lovely acoustic beginning which is followed by melodic riffs and an infectious chorus that is greatly supported by atmospheric keys. This proves to be a theme for the whole album, with strong choruses, catchy guitarwork and well-used synths being the keywords. The acoustics, which pop up in a few songs, are also a nice touch (as always with In Flames) and to have more of them the next time around would very much be appreciated.

What has changed though is that the verse riffs are much more groove-orientated on Sounds Of A Playground Fading than they have ever been before. Strömblad and Gelotte have always been known as masterful melody crafters, relying heavily on melodic riffs and leads, but now that Gelotte had the chance to write the whole album all by himself he has added a notable groove aspect to the album that is missing from previous In Flames albums, the sole exception being Soundtrack To Your Escape, which had some of those thick, American metal-styled riffs. This brings some extra variety to the guitar department, as Gelotte grooves through the verses but adds some crafty leads on top and finally reverts back to his profoundly melodic ways in the choruses. Don’t be mistaken though, as the whole album is filled to the brim with melody incessantly. If it isn't Gelotte producing the melodies then the synths carry their load and Anders Friden also steps in to add some much needed crooning. Speaking of which, Friden has improved a lot from A Sense Of Purpose. He has never screamed as little as he does on Sounds Of A Playground Fading but the truth is his singing is currently in better shape than his screaming, although, to Friden’s credit, he has learned to use his high-pitched scream more effectively. He has restrained it and toned it down, and while one may think why that should be a positive, seeing as In Flames is a metal band after all, then gone are the ear-grating shrieks that have found their way into In Flames' newer material. Like a smart general knows how to use his troops to full effect, a smart vocalist knows how and when to employ different vocal stylings and Friden has definitely taken a step further in that aspect.

Where Sounds Of A Playground Fading really shines is in consistency. Actually, this is where In Flames as a band always tends to succeed. Many of today’s modern metal bands incline to release highly successful singles and pre-release songs, only to quietly and safely plod their way through the rest of their corresponding albums, but not In Flames. Of course, the band has had exceptional singles in "Artifacts Of The Black Rain", "Trigger", "Ordinary Story" et al., but In Flames has always followed up on them with great albums filled with single-worthy material. While I think that Sounds Of A Playground Fading’s single, "Deliver Us", is one of the weaker tracks on show, this only adds to the album’s charm, seeing as both sides, those who liked the single and those who didn't, can (still) enjoy the full record.

Like every album though, Sounds Of A Playground Fading does have its own highlights. The title track packs everything good about the band in this era into a 4.43 long song and "A New Dawn" is the best blend of old and new In Flames yet, boasting driving, perfectly harmonized melodies, a great clean guitar break and an excellent, emotional chorus. Also worth mentioning is "The Jester’s Door", which proves to be a great atmospheric break before "A New Dawn" with its rather mysterious but calm melody/message. And then there’s "Ropes", a track that sounds rather distant from classic In Flames (be it old or new), but its ascending chorus, light feel, shimmering synths and catchy guitarwork are impossible to resist. It’s simple, but boy is it tasty.

At the end of the day, Sounds Of A Playground Fading is another excellent album from In Flames and a good bounce back from A Sense Of Purpose, but it’s not an opinion changer. Those who crave for the old golden days of The Jester Race/Whoracle/Colony/Clayman are still going to after this album, and those who have accepted In Flames’ new direction and acknowledge that the group is never going back to its old melodic death metal ways will most likely enjoy this album a lot. While, as far as ferocity goes, In Flames has cooled off a lot, the band is still producing quality music and is unquestionably one of the flag carriers of modern metal. The loss of the last remaining founding member Jesper Strömblad hasn't affected the band’s quality one bit, and if Anders Friden’s vocals don’t bow out, the guys in In Flames have still got a few good records left in them.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
June 25th 2011



8329 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I couldn't resist writing this and showing my love for In Flames once more haha. Besides, I'm certain Jared's writing a negative piece somewhere so all those who hate this, stay tuned.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
June 25th 2011



7177 Comments


Long time no read, Magnus. This was a great review - at the very least it reminded me that I'm yet to check this out.

Cheers!

Digging: Ty Segall - Manipulator

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
June 25th 2011



16317 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Wow a 4, not entirely surprised with that rating from you. I thought this had some good tracks and "A New Dawn" was easily their best song in many years, although there were simply way, way too many lackluster tracks. Reading the review now but I'm sure it's excellent.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
June 25th 2011



7365 Comments


I'm not very much into this kind of music. So I won't check it out. Great write-up though.

Digging: 68 - In Humor and Sadness

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
June 25th 2011



8329 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Long time no read, Magnus
That is indeed true. I haven't had much inspiration to write recently until this came along. Gotta share my love for In Flames haha.
Wow a 4, not entirely surprised with that rating from you.
haha, I almost gave it a 4.5 because in my eyes, In Flames can do no wrong.

Thanks guys, I appreciate the positive comments.

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
June 25th 2011



8329 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

theres a couple things you could do to make the review seem a little more professional
Probably, but it's 4 am, I'm tired, and I'm soon gonna retire for the night. I'll look it over in the morning with a fresh mind, though.

sifFlammable
June 25th 2011



2741 Comments


"it was evident that on A Sense Of Purpose something was missing"

nice sentence man

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
June 25th 2011



28466 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

yea i bet jared's gonna rip this :C

nice review

Digging: Kimbra - The Golden Echo

Irving
Staff Reviewer
June 25th 2011



7177 Comments


Magnus, out of curiosity, where are you from?



Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
June 25th 2011



8329 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks acad, loving that 5 up there ;)

Irving - Estonia

Irving
Staff Reviewer
June 25th 2011



7177 Comments


Irving - Estonia

That is so cool. I've been trying to place your name for ages but wasn't entirely sure. I'm guessing you're the only one (Estonian) on Sputnik?

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
June 25th 2011



31097 Comments



theres a couple things you could do to make the review seem a little more professional, but excellent overall.


I love it when people say stuff like this, but don't actually offer any ideas

Digging: Banks - Goddess

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
June 25th 2011



31097 Comments


There's only one person in Estonia Irving ;)

Irving
Staff Reviewer
June 25th 2011



7177 Comments


There's only one person in Estonia Irving ;)

Yeah I'm sure you can relate to that feeling, being down in NZ and all, Dev ;)

And before anyone starts saying anything about Malaysia remember I've got Kiran! (sort of)

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
June 25th 2011



31097 Comments


There's at least 4 people out in my little slice of the world

pizzamachine
June 25th 2011



12571 Comments


I still can't believe he lives in Estonia. Nice review Metalstyles!

Irving
Staff Reviewer
June 25th 2011



7177 Comments


There's at least 4 people out in my little slice of the world

And lots of sheep! And hobbits too I believe. There's all my knowledge about NZ right there.

(haha kidding I actually have lots of friends down in NZ - you guys are cool =))

Irving
Staff Reviewer
June 25th 2011



7177 Comments


FUCK YEAH ED HARDY BIKINI.

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
June 25th 2011



8329 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Irving, you're from Malaysia? Huh, I never would have figured (thought you're from some place like The Netherlands or Great Britain or Switzerland or some other highly developed European country haha).

Also, damn, Dev has caught on to my secret.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
June 25th 2011



31097 Comments


I haven't worked out why there are mushroom clouds behind those houses but whatever....



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