Review Summary: Meaningful line that sums this album up perfectly: "You receive what you give, and this is nothing."
No, I didn't expect "melodic death metal" from this album. In fact, they pretty much stopped playing such music a long time ago. And really, when you're a band that can near-flawlessly blend death metal's brutality with the classiness of bands like Iron Maiden, why would you need to stick around in such a ghetto for your whole career? Opeth are an example of a band who have transitioned into something so beautifully far from what they started off from. But the thing about In Flames is that they always had a sense of humour and an ability to make their music catchy and memorable, especially when they started to drift into just more straightforward metal.
And then this album happened.
This is the perfect example of a band straying too far from what made them who they are, getting too cute with the "experimentation", and it's sadly detectable right off the bat with "The Mirror's Truth". It's very short, runs only 3 minutes long and as soon as we get to the pre-chorus, we're greeted with one hell of a radio-friendly guitar riff followed by an equally vomit-worthy chorus. Whereas most bands make songs that use the 5 minute mark with this stuff, In Flames managed to cram it all into two minutes and fifty-six seconds, and strangely, I'm impressed. It sadly also sets the tone for the rest of this album, which is 48 minutes of pure, commercialized crap.
The biggest problem with this album is the lyrics. Look, I know death metal lyrics are mostly incomprehensible, but it doesn't mean they have to be terrible. Granted, In Flames' songwriting was never one of their strongest points and has always been hit or miss, but it's taken way up to 11 here. They're some of the whiniest, angstiest lyrics in death metal history (and could possibly have been the inspiration for the dialogue in David Tennant's final Doctor Who
episode). Want a sample? Here's from the second song alone: "You receive what you give, and this is nothing/I feel like ***, but at least I feel something.
" Not whiny enough? The opening lyrics to "I'm the Highway" are worse: "I am my deepest shadow/Something I can't ever neglect/Rise above these ashes/On fall and fade away
". Or, how about the aptly named "Sober and Irrelevant": "Used to be original,
but now I tremble in fear /I am like everyone else, an embarrassment
Enough of the lyrics. The music itself is pretty awful. They've gone downright radio-rock with this album, and GS painful to listen to. I guess Soundtrack to Your Escape
can be forgiven if you look at it as an "experiment"; sadly there isn't such redemption here. Ironically enough, for radio-rock, there's virtually NO HOOKS here. Or maybe there is, but whatever ones there were float in through one end of your head and immediately out the other. The chorus for "Disconnected" is en example; the chorus takes a dangerously safe and radio-friendly route, but weirdly has no catchy melodies. "I'm the Highway" is another example. It can't decide if it's an Iron Maiden ripoff or an Iced Earth ripoff. So it tries to be both at once, and the result is a mess. Sadly, not much else on this album can be noted because every song on it sounds exactly the same. And quite frankly, with a band as talented as In Flames, you'd expect so much better.
What is especially shocking with this album is that before it came Come Clarity
. That album is particularly impressive, because it blends both their old style of brutal melodeath with a newer, more straightforward metal style. It was a winning formula because it sounded both fresh and nostalgic at the same time, and it was catchy, full of hooks, full of energy and even better, full of life. I wish I was able to say the same thing about this album, but instead, it sounds like they believed their own hype and decided to go farther than the limit let them.
If you're new to this band. Don't start here. Start with Come Clarity
or Reroute to Remain
, and thank me later.