In Flames - Sounds Of A Playground Fading
Century Media
Alternative Metal influenced by Melodeath
13 songs (53:58)
Release year: 2011
In Flames, Century Media
Reviewed by Khelek
Major event

In Flames have gone through a lot of changes since their inception in the early 1990s. The music itself has taken on a more modern tone in the latter half of their career, beginning on Colony, and for me personally, reaching its high point on 2000's Clayman. After this things really started to change in terms of the style of both the music and vocals. I think most fans have accepted that we will never hear another Jester Race or Clayman from these guys, but it doesn't stop me from hoping that they will continue making good music. Unlike many bands they have had the same line-up for almost 15 years. Last year's departure of Jesper Stromblad, one of the founders and key songwriters of the band as well as lead guitarist, worried me very much. Unfortunately it seems my fears were not unfounded. Sounds Of A Playground fading is a mixture of the band's modern and alternative elements thrown together with heavy riffs and some attempts to create catchy melodies, but lacking much of the same creativity that can be found throughout their discography. A few songs have the old sincerity and emotion of In Flames, but for the most part this album shows the band as a pale shadow of what they used to be.

The first thing that alarms me a bit is the length of the album, 13 tracks is a lot to take in, and I have always valued quality over quantity, but it also says that they have at least had some creativity going. The first song I heard from the album was Deliver Us, and I'm really not big on this single. It just sounds a bit too generic, too much of a throwback to their past few albums, especially Soundtrack To Your Escape. I like the way the title track starts the album off; minimalistic, stripped down guitars, which is what led to Clayman being such a great album in my opinion. Unfortunately the guitar riffs just have no real depth for me and it's STILL (after nearly 10 years!) difficult for me to accept that this is what vocalist Anders Friden sounds like now. His voice simply does not sound anything like it did in the first half of their discography. That's not to say that the title track is awful, it's not. But it definitely does not grab me as it should. All For Me isn't a bad track; it has a very heavy yet melancholy atmosphere that has always worked really well for this band. I really like the guitar work that begins Fear Is The Weakness and continues throughout it. It is a predictable melody, but it is good nonetheless. The music is also good in Where The Dead Ships Dwell as well, sounding like something Soilwork might do. I can't really say the same for Friden's vocals; his clean-ish singing just doesn't work for me. At this point in the album I have really wanted to hear some of Jesper's classic infectious guitar solos, but then I remember he is gone, and the band seems to have given up on impressing people with their technical ability.

To me this album soon seems to sound like the band is adrift, floating in a sea of mediocre guitar riffs and dull melodies. Where is the creativity? Where are the songs that really make me question what melodeath should sound like? Even Reroute To Remain or Come Clarity had more creativity going on than this. Darker Times does have some guitar soloing, but the overall melody is grating and difficult to follow, and the chorus isn't much better. It all feels rushed. Ropes opens with a catchy guitar lead and plenty of heaviness, though the clean vocals from Anders make me cringe a bit. And that's not to say I haven't heard Anders use his clean vocals in good ways, because he definitely has. It appears that the loss of Jesper, combined with simply the amount of time these guys have been at this, has contributed to this album being, for the most part, dull and uninspired. There are only a handful of songs I can stand listening to for very long, and of those only a few are truly enjoyable.

Ultimately what I felt after listening to this album a few times is disappointment. For me In Flames was, and continues to be, one of my favorite metal bands of all time, and one that shaped my ideas about extreme metal and music in general. I know they are capable of so much more than this. For me personally, Clayman is the epitome of what modern melodeath can be, and in my opinion there has not been a melodeath album made since then that has even come close to that standard. Regardless of your opinion of today’s melodeath scene, you have to admit that these guys set the bar very high, and now it can never be lowered. Unfortunately they fail so badly here to hit close to the mark that it baffles me how they could listen to this and even want to release it after an album like The Jester Race or Colony. But of course we all know that this story has been played out many, many times with other legendary acts in all the subgenres of metal. I doubt that even those who are die-hard fans like me will be able to stomach this album for more than a few spins.

Killing Songs :
All For Me, Fear Is The Weakness, Where The Dead Ships Dwell
Khelek quoted 55 / 100
Other albums by In Flames that we have reviewed:
In Flames - A Sense Of Purpose reviewed by Chris and quoted 86 / 100
In Flames - Colony reviewed by Dylan and quoted 95 / 100
In Flames - The Jester Race reviewed by Adam and quoted CLASSIC
In Flames - Come Clarity reviewed by Jason and quoted 95 / 100
In Flames - Used And Abused: In Live We Trust DVD reviewed by Ben and quoted no quote
To see all 13 reviews click here
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