In Flames
Sounds of a Playground Fading

Upon hearing In Flames’ Sounds of a Playground Fading, one of our other esteemed writers here at Teeth of the Divine dubbed it Sounds of a Career Failing. I’m sure many fans will feel the same, but being the contrarian that I am, I’ve got a slightly different take.

I’ll say off the top that I happen to be a big fan of Reroute to Remain, which, I realize, automatically invalidates my opinion among a segment of In Flames fans. So, hardcore In Flames fans look away while I don my flame retardant suit and wade in.

I like Sounds of a Playground Fading. And I like it for a lot of the same reasons that I liked Reroute to Remain. First off, it’s a very melodic record, and I tend to lean toward the more melodic end of the metal spectrum. There’s a certain, almost progressive element to the music here that I really like. Second track “Deliver Us,” for example, is certainly a more accessible song than anything from their early work. It’s not a bashing, in-your-face screamer, but there’s still a lot going on, and it’s a quite memorable piece.

There are also some great grooves on this record. The riff in “All For Me” right before the verse is absolutely undeniable. I don’t know how anyone could keep from bobbing their head to the opening of “Where Dead Ships Dwell.” The electronics get away from them in places in that one, and the chorus could use a little more beef, but it’s still entertaining. Yes, I realize that most In Flames fans are not looking for grooves, but they’re here, and they’re good.

The record is not a complete departure for the band. There’s plenty we’ve heard before on their last few records, and much of their body of work since Reroute to Remain has been leading up to this one. The hard rock and progressive influenced “Fear is the Weakness” could have appeared on any of those releases. While it sounds like a song you’ve heard from In Flames before, it’s also still catchy as hell.

To me, some of the least interesting pieces on the record are when the band tries to dig into its melodeath past. A song like “The Puzzle” is OK, and there is a nice little groove riff in there, but it tries too hard to walk in both worlds and doesn’t succeed in either. It’s not really delivered with enough conviction to act as a bone thrown to fans of the band’s heavier stuff, and seems kind of out of place on this record. Likewise, “Enter Tragedy,” opens with a pretty good grooving riff and has a decent melodic chorus, but it seems to kind of get lost in the verses a bit. It’s angry there, but not angry enough.

One of the more interesting pieces to me is the trippy and dark “The Attic.” There’s a strange Pink Floyd thing going on there, and while it’s not exactly catchy like some of the other songs, there’s something in it that keeps bringing me back.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s some utter crap here. “Jester’s Door,” a title which is obviously going to make fans think of the band’s earlier work, is a short, spoken vocal piece with a dance-like groove fading out at the end. It’s not the worst song here, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense. The worst would be album-closing ballad “Liberation,” which had even me asking what the hell they were thinking. It’s a full-on pop song with few metal elements. It’s not a very good song at all, and definitely not the last impression that I’d want to leave on an album that’s already going to alienate some fans. Though, I guess you could argue that their last few albums have already done that job.

Sounds of a Playground Fading faces a few challenges with fans of the band’s past work, not the least of which is the departure of founding member Jesper Stromblad. By now, though, I think most fans have come to grips with the fact that In Flames will continue to push forward with a more melodic and accessible style, and they’ve either accepted that and adapted with the band or moved on to something that’s more their taste. If you’re one of those who has adapted, you’ll likely enjoy this one quite a bit. It has more depth and heft than A Sense of Purpose, and I think it’s probably their strongest work since Reroute to Remain.

Yeah, I know for some that’s not high praise. And for those who have moved on, well, it’s probably  best that you keep moving.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
June 27th, 2011

Comments

  1. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    this band is over. this sounds awful.


  2. Commented by: Biff_Tannen

    Dear Laawwd , what a terrible album title!


  3. Commented by: Clauricaune

    I thought it was an OK album. It does have a couple seriously awful moments, but overall it stays decent and enjoyable. Don’t think I’ll be coming back to this, though.


  4. Commented by: KickMyJunk

    I’ve listened to this and I have two problems with it. 1. It’s almost completely unrecognizable as In Flames. I thought that perhaps “A Sense of Purpose” was this band’s nadir, but it appears I was dreadfully mistaken. I’m not opposed even to the commercial bent they’ve taken, I just personally feel they’ve failed to pull it off, and a big part of that is reason number 2. Anders absolutely cannot sing. His attempts at clean vocals are mediocre at their very best but more often than not are painful to listen to. He tries, I’ll give him that, but unlike say, Speed Strid, who is able to for the most part pull it off, Anders can’t and never will. Give it up, man.


  5. Commented by: gabaghoul

    I like “Deliver Me,” “Where Dead Ships Dwell” and a couple of other songs, but when I say liked, I mean that they were passable, certainly not up to the level of material from Whoracle, Colony or even the best tracks on Come Clarity.

    the rest I found to be just miserable. the aggressive stuff wasn’t melodic enough to be In Flames (The Puzzle, what a horrible track) and the rest was just forgettable.

    Both Reroute and Come Clarity, while also very unbalanced albums, have much better material than this.


  6. Commented by: gabaghoul

    also, Fred you say that In Flames has now adopted “a more melodic and accessible style” but if that were the case I’d still be on board.

    I have no problem with pop music, I love melody and hooks and catchy tracks. If In Flames had written an album full of bright, bouncy and mainstream-baiting hooks and choruses, I’d defend it. But this isn’t that.


  7. Commented by: mccumberv

    Anders is the problem with In Flames, like Junk said, the dude just cannot sing and refuses to growl, his vocal delivery now is just as bad as it gets. I used to be the biggest In Flames fan back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, have hung out with them numerous times, they are great down to earth dudes, but I think they have just played themselves out of what made them great to begin with, they heard Natural Born Chaos from Soilwork and decided they want to do that and they do it badly….Anyways, they will still sell alot of records and be just fine, I guess someone out there likes this stuff.


  8. Commented by: Cynicgods

    I don’t think Anders’ clean vocals are that bad. They work in the context of his band. What I dislike is the constant need for In Flames to commercialize their sound even further. $$$$ makes the world go round…

    Shall give this one a fair trial after work. We’ll see how it fares.


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