Review Summary: Battles is the sound of a band trying too hard and failing.
The 90’s are by far considered In Flames’ best period, with albums like The Jester Race
revered by many as melodic death classics. It’s when the band hit 2002’s Reroute To Remain
that opinions were first obviously divided: some adored the shift in style, some never forgave them for it. For others, the real decline in quality started with Soundtrack To Your Escape
, or maybe A Sense Of Purpose
, or maybe even as late as Siren Charms
…I digress. Everyone has a different taste in music, so the exact album that one squawks about as being the start to In Flames’ tragic musical devolution will always differ from person to person. Something most people would agree on, however, is that the longer In Flames’ career has extended, the less potent their music has become.
, In Flames’ twelfth studio album, and another weak release into the discography of a band unsuccessfully resisting decay.
Battles starts out with “Drained,” which immediately displays one of the biggest issues with the album: the choruses. The chorus of “Drained” is easily the weakest segment of the song. This is a theme that, unfortunately, persists through almost the entire record. Third and fourth singles “Through My Eyes” and “Save Me” are perfect examples of this, the latter with cringe-inducing results due to Fridén’s unpleasant vocal work.
Many other tracks also struggle to stand on their own two feet--second single “The Truth” has a simplistic children’s choir singalong chorus that’ll get lodged in your head and become grating very quickly, akin to a sliver. Ballad “Here Until Forever” is, frankly, a chore to listen to all the way through in one sitting.
Furthermore: the production is bland, the instrumentation is lackluster compared to what we all know the band to be capable of, and Fridén’s lyrics have been far better…
…So, is there anything positive about this record? Yes.
“Drained” is a good song and a good opener; perhaps not when you compare it to, say, “Embody The Invisible,” but it’s enjoyable for what it is. Tracks like “The End” and closer “Us Against The World” manage to get right what the rest of the album got wrong--they’re both high-energy tracks with a successfully catchy reprise. They’re not shimmering pillars of brilliance within In Flames’ library, but they’re fun songs.
On the whole, however, Battles
is not an especially compelling album. It’s the product of an uninspired In Flames, who seem to be trying very hard to create a pop-metal radio hit. The end result of this desire is the processed album that is Battles
In My Room
Us Against The World