Review Summary: A brash outing and a step in the right direction for In Flames
Common opinion would have you think that the glory days of In Flames are nothing more than smouldering ashes. Over the years the band has taken new direction time after time never crafting the same album twice. Fans embraced this ideal for their willingness to innovate put them at the forefront of the metal scene as a result. This experimentation however gradually grew to a point for many where ambition turned out to be nothing more than an unyielding search to stick to a consistent pattern of lowering quality.
New In Flames may not live up to the glory days of classic In Flames such as Clayman but that is not to say that they have abandoned their roots nor have they given up on releasing fine albums. With that being said, A Sense Of Purpose is an excellent outing. Unlike Soundtrack To Your Escape and Reroute To Remain, their last 3 albums have been hard hitting and melodic, which just so happens to be a core value of the In Flames formula. This album contains many notable In Flames riffs all extremely catchy with great melodies that drive the songs forward. Also to be found unsurprisingly is that the band experiments in some ways that In Flames have never before as well. Solos make a comeback on this album executing technically tight playing by the behalf of Jesper Strombland. Unlike most metal bands who get carried away with showing off their skill on extended solos, In Flames takes a more modest approach. Solos are delivering that match the flow of the songs and never compromise the emotion, and themes put forth. Rather than venturing into technical outings: solos are used as segues into other melodic sections such as found on the track ‘Drenched In Fear’.
The presence of synth has never been more welcome on an In Flames album. On earlier ‘New’ In Flames albums synth proved to be cheesy and often very repetitive throughout the course of songs. However on this album they are fresh, they are diverse and always add great melody underneath the tone of the guitar. They rarely take over the guitar and remain behind the scenes making sure everything goes just right for the Swedish based band. On songs where synth is prominent however it succeeds greatly such as on ‘Alias’ where the synth creates a very eerie atmosphere. Never cheesy and always melodic, now that is the spirit of In Flames.
Many of their old fans claim that the band has sold out on their latest efforts by going softer as a result of their commercial success with Come Clarity. Yes, it is true that their audience base has been increasing in size, largely in part of the band receiving the radio play treatment. In Flames may have changed direction but have maintained consistently to their core values all while experimenting. However one of the largest disappointments this albums contains are the lyrics. They are quite poor offering us lines such as ‘chasing leftovers under a fading sun/searching for shelter/I fear my time has come’ from Delight and Angers or the notorious line from Disconnected: ‘I feel like *** but at least I feel something’. The lyrics often come across in nearly incomplete thoughts or sentence fragments speaking in very general terms rather than getting specific or metaphorical as on their early work. The only ambiguity to be found on their lyrics is where they are going.
The theme contained throughout this album seems to be of desperation and anger all stemming from the supposed character’s lack of social solidarity. Anders’ voice sounds great on this: his naturally raspy voice comes off just harsh enough to never sound anything less than metal. The rasp is quite harsh and offends some fans but it is honestly all up to preference. On this record his shouts and growls borderline on metalcore. This record is better off utilizing the raspy snarls of Anders due to their lack of constraint as would be found had Anders used false chord screams. The vocal style used here has the ability to convey a larger array of emotions than straight up screams. Sounding tired and strained the delivery equally matches the context of the album’s story driven character. Choruses on this album often come across as nearly anthemic suiting splendidly for sing-alongs and live shows. Anders voice soars on the choruses of most songs and they never fail to impress such as to be found on ‘Abnegation’. Most notably the anthem quality is to be found on ‘Condemned’ being potentially the band’s catchiest song to date heavily reliant on cymbals to do the dirty work for them as a down side. Regardless the vocals on the chorus soar gracefully high and the down tuned furious riff on the rhythm section turn the song into a headbanging delight.
Overall this album is excellently driven by melodic leads, contains more catchy hooks than a pop punk record, soaring choruses and interesting synth ideas. The fire of In Flames’ career is still burning bright.