Review Summary: The McDonalds brand of alternative metal, In Flames continues their downward spiral into the mainstream world Linkin Park style.Battles
is somewhat of a honest title for In Flames’ latest record. For the last fifteen years they’ve been in a constant struggle to redefine themselves after they decided to make their way into the mainstream metal world. Sure they’ve had a few great records such as Reroute to Remain
and Come Clarity
, yet it seems that with each record they devolve more and more into the band that their fans hoped they never would become. However, their previous album, Siren Charms
pretty much set the lowest standard in their careers to date as it finally confirmed the fears of their audience, which is now only made worse considering that they’re now touring with second-wave nu-metal bands Hellyeah and From Ashes to New.
However, unlike most of their previous releases, Battles
focuses a lot more on catchy choruses rather than flowing melodies, which is a shame because admittedly enough, there are a few decent moments on the album. ‘Drained’ does open up the album on a rather strong note with a surprising amount of aggression towards the beginning riffs, almost harkening back to Sounds of a Playground Fading
. Unfortunately though, it’s the best song on the record and the rest of the album is completely unable to keep that amount of aggression in full view. Every other song on the record manages to borderline towards the mainstream alternative rock sound, which is further exploited by the auto-tuned Chester Bennington improvisation of Anders Friden’s vocal performance, especially on ‘Here Until Forever’ and ‘Underneath My Skin’. The attempts at the over-the-top choruses are nothing more than laughable attempts at bringing out some form of emotion, while Anders grating harsher vocals only cancels out those attempts. The only song that manages to somewhat get it right is ‘The End’, but even then with its admittedly catchy chorus, there little to no substance or inspiration to be found in it. Even the songs where they actually try to sound genuinely emotional or ambitious, a la ‘Wallflower’, are ultimately bogged down by Howard Benson’s (go figure) incredibly dull production.
Anders Friden isn’t the only member of the group that seems to have lost their edge though. Guitarists Bjorn Gelotte and Niclas Engelin constantly rely on some of the simplest and most basic riffs and tones that they have done throughout their careers. Even the guitar solos, especially on the title track and ‘Save Me’, feel incredibly half-assed as they more or less just follow the same melodies that were playing throughout the entire song. Meanwhile bassist Peter Iwers is completely left in on the sidelines with little to no standout moments as his almost inaudible performance is barely even worth mentioning. Mind you some of these members have performed on some of In Flames’ most notable work, arguably some of the best pieces of melodic death metal in the late nineties. However, its drummer Joe Rickard that is more or less the biggest casualty. An already odd choice as the main replacement (though considering this band’s history it shouldn’t be too odd at all), Rickard was supposed to be the one to help carry the energy throughout most of an already lifeless record. Yet his performance is nothing more than casual beating of the rhythm with an occasional moment that is drowned out to a static effect.
is by far the most frustrating release that In Flames has put out so far in their careers. With incredibly poor songwriting choices, awful vocals, and a complete lack of effort and passion, Battles
continues In Flame’ downward spiral into mainstream rock territory. Some are certainly going to argue that In Flames aren’t the same band that they were twenty years ago; and sure that is true. They’ve practically become a completely different band since the beginning of the century. That being said, even when compared to radio rock standards, this album is an incredibly poor excuse for a band to “evolve their sound”. (I take the term “evolve” with a grain of salt) There is just little to no value to be found on here that will warrant a decent first impression. Instead, what we manage to get is a dull, emotionless, and a complete waste of time of a record where even the most dedicated fans will eventually turn their backs to.