Release date: June 21, 2011
Forever ends and begins again today. According to my dictionary, forever is a word almost singularly ascribed to Swedish melodic death metallers, In Flames:
for·ev·er [fawr-ev-er, fer-] – adverb
So with the release of Sounds Of A Playground Fading, the pioneers of the Swedish melodic death metal genre have ended our long suffering wait. Okay, it’s only been three years, but it seems interminable. Now we can revel in their 10th album, and the first without founding member, guitarist Jesper Strömblad, who finally left the band in 2010 to slay his alcohol infused demons.
Sounds Of A Playground Fading see the band continuing to grow and expand sonically, while also dipping back into their earlier sounds, those that we fell in love with on early albums like The Jester Race and Whoracle.
That has always been the beauty of In Flames, their ability to spread beyond the confines of expectation. They can do this successfully because the do it so well. While In Flames purists always complain about change, as do early fans of most bands, the Gothenburg boys have remained consistent in their quality regardless of how they expand their sound. Sounds Of A Playground Fading is no exception to that rule.
When grunge came in in the early 90’s in its attempt to foul all that is holy about metal and rock and roll in general, In Flames were one of the few bands that emerged in metal to keep me from completely burying my head and hiding in my auditory cave.
What has always impressed me about In Flames shows up from the very first song, the title track. The band finds their groove and settles. Lots of sonic variations early and often. Vocalist Anders Friden continues to use every aspect of his voice to create vast aural canvasses.
“Deliver Us” is a reminder to all metal guitarists that intense riffage need not be without melody and substance. Guitarist Björn Gelotte fills the track with hooky and harmonious licks without sacrificing a thing. Not surprisingly the band chose this as the album’s first single.
Where “All For Me” slows down and gets into mood and atmosphere, “The Puzzle” turns the tempo up a notch, and touches veins of soaring epicness.
“The Attic” and “Jester’s Door” both offer up intriguing mood setting creepiness.
For a nod back to the old school In Flames sound, crank up “New Dawn”, one of the album’s most potent tracks.
For stark aggression turn to the rolling guitars and gut punch impact of the aptly titled, “Darker Times”.
Arguably the weakest track on the album, in the sense that it is farthest from the In Flames we know and love is the Smashing Pumpkins-esque album closer, “Liberation”. Still even this track is saved from disaster by excellent guitar work and strong harmonies and melodies.
One of the most notable elements of Sounds Of A Playground Fading is the immense span of auditory variety. There’s simply no way to get bored listening to this record. The tempo and flavor changes in almost every track, and from song to song.
In Flames are not breaking any significant new ground here, moreso they are solidifying their hold on the foundation they’ve built and cultivated for themselves and the numerous band’s their sound has spawned.
While Sounds Of A Playground Fading is not their most epic work it is perhaps the one that most captures all the elements of who In Flames were and have evolved into. For those who were disappointed with 2008’s A Sense Of Purpose, I think you will find more depth and more to your liking on Sounds Of A Playground Fading. If you were a fan of the previous album, I think you’ll find this to be a more evolved record and a level above.
With Sounds Of A Playground Fading they continue to prove their standing and place in the birth of melodic death metal, while tapping roots in new directions as well. And as our elation with these new Sounds from In Flames begins to fade we find Forever begins all over again…