Tuesday, June 21, 2011

In Flames: Proving Themselves Still Vital After 20 Yeas

Hunger breeds creativity. Young bands who are struggling to get signed are often a great example of this. What happens to a lot of these bands a few years into their careers is that they tend to get comfortable and they lose that hunger. Their sound ceases to progress and every release sounds the same. To be in the business for twenty years and to constantly push the envelope and sound fresh, that is a rarity.

In Flames, one of the founding bands in the melodic death metal genre, has constantly been on the cutting edge in their field. Never one to rest on their laurels, the band always has critics and fans anxiously awaiting each new release on the horizon. Their latest album, Sounds of a Playground Fading, follows in that path.

The band was thrown a major curve ball prior to beginning the writing for the new album. Founding member and songwriter Jesper Stromblad announced unexpectedly that he was leaving the band. This left guitarist Bjorn Gelotte to start the new chapter in the legacy of In Flames and he definitely hit the ground running.

The album opens somewhat somberly with the title track, but a minute into the song the listener is greeted with the dueling guitars of Gelotte and former stand-in, now band mate Niclas Engelin and you know it’s about to get interesting. Up next is the leadoff single and video “Deliver Us”, which is a solid track that gives us a glance of how Anders has really been crafting his voice. He executes a great vocal delivery by him on this track. I also love the solo on this one. If you haven’t seen it yet, please check out the bands’ very cool video for this song. Metal, fireworks and a ferris wheel; what’s not to love?

This album is quite a mix of styles as it seems there is something for all fans of every era of this bands’ career. For those wanting something a little harder and faster in the vein of their early work, then there are tracks such as “The Puzzle” and “Enter Tragedy”. Their venture into an industrial groove sound, as in 2002’s Reroute to Remain, is sampled again in tracks such as “Darker Times” and “Where the Dead Ships Dwell”.

“Liberation” is one of the more melodic and solid tracks on the album. It really showcases so many of the elements that make In Flames a great band. It combines great vocals, a great solo, a catchy hook and solid song writing all into one. “A New Dawn” is yet another stand out track that combines all of these elements, but features Anders’ less clean vocal approach. This track is so epic that it even includes a string section in it that really takes it to another level.

Overall, In Flames has delivered another great album. It does encompass several of the sounds that they have delved into throughout their long career, but at the same time it shows growth in the band. The songwriting has gotten more solid and Anders’ has really crafted his voice. It seems as if he has really learned how to mix it up between clean vocals and his intense growls to a point that it actually helps to bring more emotion to his delivery.

Will it please every faction of the bands’ 20 plus year run? Probably not, there will always be those who are opposed to change and want them to deliver a Clayman with each and every release. In Flames has spawned so many copycat bands over their career, but they have always proven that the music industry is a marathon and not a sprint.

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