In Flames – Battles


Artist

Album

Battles

Label

Nuclear Blast Records

Year

2016

Genre

For Fans Of

At The Gates, Trivium.

Summary

Make In Flames Melodic Death Metal Again.

Rating

50 / 100

In Flames have been a band for the better part of two whole decades now. In that time they’ve had various lineup changes, but most importantly, stylistic and sonic changes. After releasing four of melodic death metal’s most revered albums in the early part of their career, the band ramped up the chorus based song structures and synths on ‘Reroute To Remain’ in 2002 and seemingly haven’t looked back since. It’s a definitely a point of contention for many of their fans, and I’m definitely in the camp that prefers the older material (although ‘Sounds Of A Playground Fading’ and ‘A Sense Of Purpose’ are both winners in my book). So here we are at the tail end of 2016 and the Swedish veterans are just about to release album number twelve, ‘Battles’. And I’ll just say it now, do not go into this expecting ‘Colony’. An album like that is probably never going to happen again for In Flames.

The guitar riffs and melodies on the two opening tracks ‘Drained’ and ‘The End’ are very good, and they’re definitely what you’d expect from guitarist Bjorn Gelotte, and the chorus on the latter is so bloody catchy.  At this point in the record, it’s definitely what one would expect from a modern day In Flames album, that being a lot of clean singing and synth mixed in with the usual heavy riffs. ‘In My Room’ is definitely one of the most melodic tracks on the album and it really strips back the heaviness as a result. ‘Through My Eyes’ does showcase some of their older sounds and blends them with the new, incorporating fast drumming, screamed vocals and some other hallmarks of the melodic death metal sound that In Flames helped to pioneer.

Now, the title track isn’t bad, but it just feels eminently forgettable by this point because so many of the songs sound the same. The structure the band sticks with goes something like this:

1. Heavy riff
2. Clean verse
3. Big chorus
4. Another verse
5. Chorus
6. Guitar solo, probably with a harmony section after it
7. Final chorus

Now, it’s not bad by any means, and I actually quite enjoy a lot of this album. But I felt like I was waiting for a curveball track for a lot of the album’s running time, just to help break up that repetitive formula. A lighter song, an instrumental, anything really. I suppose that ‘Here Until Forever’ definitely fills that void as it’s arguably the softest song on the album. It still incorporates the harmony guitars (hey, I ain’t complaining), but it’s got the catchiest vocal sections on the whole album and one of the stronger overall melodies too. I don’t know why they chose to put this so far into the album (track 9 out of 12) because it has really strong single potential and shows the band in a different light. From there though, the last few songs fall right back into that monotonous song structure I mentioned earlier, with maybe the exception of ‘Wallflower’, which is reminiscent of something like ‘The Chosen Pessimist’ due to it’s extended length.

Conclusion

You know, part of me really wants In Flames to record just one more melodic death metal release, just one more to tide over the long term fans and to prove to all of their detractors that they can still do it. But the band definitely seems happy producing this lighter metal style and they have done for several years at this point, so I do give them credit for sticking to such a stark change in direction from their earlier output. However, I am just not simply won over by ‘Battles’ in the same way that ‘Sounds…’ and ‘A Sense Of Purpose’ won me over. And I know that I am not the only one.

Tracklisting

1. Drained
2. The End
3. Like Sand
4. The Truth
5. In My Room
6. Before I Fall
7. Through My Eyes
8. Battles
9. Here Until Forever
10. Underneath My Skin
11. Wallflower
12. Save Me

‘Battles’ is out now via Nuclear Blast Records. 

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