Sounds Like My Idols Fading
Thursday, July 7, 2011 1 Comment
So here we are in yet another familiar situation: In Flames has put out a new studio album, and the metal community faces yet another controversial release from the (now) infamous Swedes. In case you aren’t up to speed with In Flames’ discography, every release they’ve put out since 2002’s Reroute to Remain has been met with mixed reactions – that was until 2008’s A Sense of Purpose, which was met with just about universal disappointment. In my opinion (and in many others’), A Sense of Purpose was undoubtedly the group’s weakest offering, and in turn made a whole lot of us dread the release of its follow up.
That brings us to Sounds of a Playground Fading, In Flames’ tenth full-length album, and despite having what’s probably the worst album title in all of meta everl, it’s actually not completely terrible.
Sounds of a Playground Fading isn’t, however, the return to form many were hoping for when 2006’s Come Clarity saw a return of the high-tempo, aggressive, and virtuosic style of yesteryear, nor is it as boring and uninspired as Purpose. This being the first album since the departure of founding guitarist Jesper Strombland, don’t expect to hear any of those awesome melodies and death metal vibes you got from the glory days of In Flames. Hey, it’s hard to argue when the chorus to A Sense of Purpose‘s opening track begins with the phrase, “Are we even trying?” Ok, ok, the lyrics are actually “Without even trying,” but that’s neither here nor there. A Sense of Purpose fucking sucked, but Playground is a little better, and is overall a much more cohesive package than its predecessor. The choruses aren’t nearly as poppy and whiny either, which helps a lot.
In Flames’ new awkwardly-themed video for “Deliver Us”
The album as a whole feels a bit closer to 2004’s Soundtrack to Your Escape, the songs are generally much more triumphant in tone, though you will find some truly oddball tracks on Playground. The oddly-interesting “Jester’s Door” is one, vocalist Anders Friden speaks what can only be conceived as a middle finger to the band’s many critics over the years. The album’s closing track, “Liberation,” is a bit weird too, but kind of enjoyable at the same time. My biggest beef with the album is the song, “Ropes,” which has easily the best guitar hook in an In Flames song since “My Sweet Shadow.” My problem with it is the lackluster everything-else. The vocals sound like a reject melody from the sub-par vocals of the Reroute days, and the songwriting seems to go absolutely nowhere. The best part of the song ends 39 seconds in, before your interest is spoiled by the aforementioned “every-thing else.” There is literally no other part worth mentioning besides that intro, save for when they repeat that awesome hook, albeit briefly.
The record’s not all bad, though, tracks like the album’s title track and “A New Dawn” give you some powerful choruses you would’ve found on Soundtrack. This album feels so much like a watered-down version of that album that In Flames somehow managed to rip off one of their own songs. Listen to the verse riff of “Touch of Red,” from Soundtrack, and then listen to the new song “Where the Dead Ships Dwell.” Not completely identical, but it’s similar enough to give you a major case of deja-vu. Wait, didn’t I hear this song seven years ago, but better?
With everything said and done, Sounds of a Playground Fading isn’t good enough to write home about, and a lot of its tracks are downright forgettable, but it’s a bit better than A Sense of Purpose, and for that, we can be thankful. It’s got its moments, but this still isn’t anything that will make you forget about the travesty that was A Sense of Purpose. Like many of you all, I’m sure, I still find myself wondering where the band would have ended up had they continued with efforts more in line of those in Come Clarity. Wondering what could have been won’t do any of us any good though, so we’ll just have to take In Flames for what they are today, sadly: mediocre.
(Who’s loved every album In Flames had put out up until 2008. Yes, even Reroute to Remain)
“A New Dawn,” “Sounds of a Playground Fading,” “Deliver Us,” and “Fear is the Weakness”