In Flames
A Sense of Purpose

I was one of those people that thought Clayman, Reroute to Remain and Come Clarity were all pretty good records. (I am, however, in agreement with the majority on Soundtrack to Your Escape), but it still took me a while to connect with In Flames’ latest A Sense of Purpose. My initial reaction to opener and lead single “The Mirror’s Truth” was really negative. I hated it. My first response is still there for the world to see on the forums. But, I can also admit when I’ve been a little too quick to judge and I’m wrong … sort of. After a few listens, the song began to grow on me, and the same can be said of much of the rest of the record. It’s definitely not among the band’s best work and it definitely won’t end up on my year-end top 10 list, but I can easily see it becoming a guilty pleasure kind of record.

A Sense of Purpose is certainly the band’s least “heavy” release to date. That will immediately alienate the legions of fans that are looking for them to return to the sound of The Jester Race or Whoracle. This record makes it clear that it’s time to give up on that hope. The sharp-edged, in your face guitar sound that I still love from Whoracle is again missing, even on the heaviest tracks, and the guitars seem to be pushed back a little more into the mix. The songs structures are simplistic for the most part. There are only a handful of songs on the record that could be remotely called melodic death, and most of them sound like tunes that you’ve heard before.

Still, fans longing for the old days might get some satisfaction from a few tracks on the record. “Disconnected” opens with the familiar mechanical riff and smacking snare, but also has some interesting melodic elements on the chorus. “March to the Shore” probably comes the closest to matching their older efforts, and is one of my favorite tracks on the record. “Condemned” and “Drenched in Fear” both open with a nice, heavy riff, with the latter being another favorite. It strikes a nice balance between the heavier sound of their past and the more current sound.

As surprised as I am to be typing these words, one of the most interesting parts of A Sense of Purpose is in the songs that are perhaps a little more mainstream. There’s an originality in a few of them that’s often been sorely lacking in In Flames’ work. “Sleepless Again” has a little more groove on the opening than the usual In Flames fare, and I particularly like the wailing guitars on the chorus section. Perhaps the most accessible moment on the record for mainstreamers will be “Alias,” but to be honest, I really like this song. That bouncing riff backed by the synth that opens the song is catchy as hell, as is the chorus. It’s not as catchy as the riff from “Cloud Connected,” but it’s perhaps the most unique and memorable song here. Another nice groove comes in on the beginning of “Delight and Angers,” and I like the little exotic sounding guitar bits before the chorus.

The lighter approach isn’t always a positive thing, though. The opening of “I Am the Highway” reminds me of one of those “hip” commercial rock bands that think they’re doing something cool and unique, but all really sound the same, and there’s just no power in the song at all. Likewise, the ballad “The Chosen Pessimist” is absolutely awful. It’s supposed to sound tortured and gloomy, but really just comes off sounding whiny.

Anders Friden’s has taken a more melodic direction with his vocals here. On Reroute to Remain and Come Clarity, he often tried to force more aggressive, screamy vocals over songs where they just didn’t fit. He doesn’t do that here. Instead, he takes a cue from Soilwork’s “Speed” Strid and allows his vocals to flow more naturally with the melody. Don’t get me wrong, Friden’s not even close to mastering it the way that Strid has and probably never will. He just doesn’t have the chops that Speed does, but if they intend to continue to follow this musical path, it’s a step in the right direction.

No, it’s not a great record. There are quite a few forgettable songs that suffer from the sameness that’s plagued the band for a while now. That said, I’ll admit that, yeah, I kind of like A Sense of Purpose. Let the laughing and finger-pointing begin.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
April 28th, 2008

Comments

  1. Commented by: swampthang

    ugh eh blah meh


  2. Commented by: jon

    if anders were even 1/3 as good as strid, in flames would be better. i remember when people slagged anders for his work on clayman for the higher-pitched screaming, but at least it had force…now it is a throaty yelp devoid of much force. a shame.


  3. Commented by: Staylow

    I like Clayman, and I love Come Clarity. Reroute and Soundtrack have a few good songs between them, but for the most part, are very disappointing albums. However, neither of them are even close to the atrociousness that this one reaches. I barely made it through on solid listen. If they continue this path, I’ll be done with them. But if they continue their checkerboard pattern of good/bad albums, I expect the next one to at least be decent. Until then, I want absolutely nothing to do with this one.


  4. Commented by: Fred Phillips

    I don’t know. I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as Soundtrack. I hated it initially, and I still think its their weakest record with the exception of Soundtrack, but there are a few songs that grew on me after a few listens.


  5. Commented by: Chris Dick

    It grew on me. Weird as that sounds. I hated it as first. Thought it was re-re-retread. Then it started to grow on me. I think it deserves time and more than a cursory listen.


  6. Commented by: Fred Phillips

    I think Chris is right on here. I rarely like anything on first listen, so I tend to give even things I hate the first time around a couple of listens. It took six or seven times through for me to develop a taste for it. I liked it a little better each time.


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