However, samey isn’t always a bad thing.
It can suggest a consistent level of quality, like Katatonia’s Night is the New Day, and that is exactly the case with this new In Flames album.
I’ve never been a huge fan of In Flames. I acknowledge what they’ve done and the influence they’ve had, but they’ve never quite done it for me. Sounds Of A Playground Fading, the first album without founding guitarist and songwriter Jesper Strömblad, is not going to reverse that trend but it ticks all the boxes you’d want an In Flames album to and sounds like a band entirely comfortable with their place in the metal pantheon.
Guitarist Björn Gelotte has written all the music this time and seems to have done a good job of keeping In Flames on the path they’ve been following for the last ten years or so.
Opening up with the title track we get a low key introduction before the guitars and drum kick in. Its incredibly similar to Metallica’s classic “Battery” but then heads off in a different direction.
Second track “Deliver Us” storms in with guitars and keyboards and delivers (see what I did there?) everything you love, or hate, about In Flames.
The band has always come up with good choruses the album is littered with them. Part of me thinks that good choruses are not necessarily a prerequisite in metal but let’s not quibble.
Track six “Where The Dead Ships Dwell” is a mid-temp stormer and is hugely enjoyable. Should be great live later in the year, assuming its on the set list.
“Enter Tragedy”, though lively and up tempo, is purely functional. It does what it does but you’ve forgotten it the moment it finishes.
“The Attic” is the quiet track. Not being overly familiar with In Flames’ back catalogue I can’t tell you how it compares to other slow tracks from years gone by but I guess its okay.
One of the issues I have with melodic death metal is that generally you can hear and understand the lyrics…and man, that is just not a plus in metal. Obviously, there are exceptions but mostly the words are the least important weapon in a metal band’s armoury, and quite right too.
Not that In Flames write terrible lyrics. Its just that I don’t want to pay much attention to them. If you are attempting to relate emotionally to the lyrics of a metal song then you are kind of missing the point.
The album closes with “A New Dawn” and “Liberation”, two five-minute tracks that both sound a little too earnest for me, but they are both solid In Flames tracks with all the bits in the right place although I’d have preferred to finish with a barnstormer…but that’s just me.
Okay, so not earth-shattering, but solid and pretty strong. One of those albums that is unlikely to win many new fans but should prove satisfactory and enjoyable to existing ones.