For Fans Of
First things first, Swedish melodic death masters In Flames have done so much for their genre and heavy music in general that they certainly have some credits stored in the bank. Every metal band, whether on a very literal level or rather a very loose matter, owes something to the sounds found on ‘Whoracle‘ and/or ‘The Jester Race‘. This is a band that arguably assumed ‘pioneer’ status before we were concerned with ridiculous sub-genres and excessive critiques. A grand claim not without deserved basis.
However, that does not mean one can always remain immune from criticism. Past glory and successful development can ensure we look the other way for a little while but after a period of time, if this inconsistency doesn’t improve then questions are going to be asked. Legitimate ones too.
As far as 2011 is concerned, tenth studio album ‘Sounds of a Playground Fading‘ is one album you just want to succeed. It’s a release you want to like, really much so. Both sincerely and in a hopeful context. However, even putting on your optimistic, ‘power of positive thinking’ cap, it becomes clear early on that this is not the album to restore In Flames to former heights. There are aspects and solid moments, but as a whole this album labours through thirteen tracks of muddled hard rock and melodic metal stylings. And that’s a shame really. This is a band, that in its prime had so much talent but delivered it in such a subtle, humble and considered way.
Anyone who saw In Flames on their last trip to Australia as part of Soundwave know the group can still produce one of the best live performances in metal today. Unfortunately, it’s just not translating into CD form anymore.
Single and main track ‘Deliver Us‘ aside, this full-length offering seems confused. The sound sways between melodic death metal and commercially sensitive hard-rock, finding a niche in neither one of the musical angles. From a musical stand point and level of proficiency, In Flames still put their younger aspirants to shame. The required artistic tools are still there. It’s just the album is not bold nor is it overly dynamic. It takes chances, but takes those opportunities on unnecessary filler stylings.
Tracks such as ‘The Puzzle‘ still show In Flames‘s capabilities, with a driving metal pulse while ‘Where the Dead Ships Dwell‘ has that ‘Trigger‘, melodic death-type riffs. As previously mentioned ‘Deliver Us‘ is a main point that is both catchy and heavy. It seems the second half of the album though diminishes the slightly promising moments found in the top half. Although penultimate track ‘A New Dawn‘ does give some interest.
Look you don’t want to lament In Flames for not releasing ‘Whoracle‘ part 2. That would be ill-informed, unfair and simplistic. We don’t want to hear the same album twice. Groups mature and progress. That is fine just as it is expected. However, ‘Sounds of a Playground Fading‘ is not the desired output either. Make up your own mind I guess.
In Flames will go down as one of the all-time contemporary greats. They have done a lot more than many other similar outfits can claim. It just looks like we may have to wait a little bit longer to see a more consistent and focused release (hopefully). ‘Sounds of a Playground Fading’ is polished and by no means lazy, it just feels a little lacklustre when fully pieced together.
1. Sounds of a Playground Fading
2. Deliver Us
3. All for Me
4. The Puzzle
5. Fear is the Weakness
6. Where the Dead Ships Dwell
7. The Attic
8. Darker Times
10. Enter Tragedy
11. Jester’s Door
12. A New Dawn