Opinions vary, but the new In Flames album, Sounds of a Playground Fading, is a near-perfect example of what a/hard album should be. Of course there are elements that need to be criticized, and I’ll get to those, but this album is structurally the way a well-produced and well-conceived album should sound like.
As In Flames’ 10th studio album, Sounds of a Playground Fading should be celebrated, but it’s a bitter-sweet milestone since founding guitarist Jesper Strömblad does not appear on this one. Nonetheless, don’t overlook Björn Gelotte’s agility on the fretboard, especially on the numerous tracks with acoustic intros; they’re sweet and serve as pillars of solid song-writing skills. Of course Björn shines in more areas than just in the acoustic work; there are plenty of quality guitar solos throughout and there’s enough crunch on Sounds of a Playground Fading to make it bounce, but it seems that “melodic death metal” is a distant memory for In Flames. However, some tracks, such as “Darker Times,” “Enter Tragedy,” and “A New Dawn,” will translate on stage with much greater death metal intensity.
As per In Flames fashion, there are a lot of great vocal melodies, guitar melodies, and percussion grooves to make for some truly catchy tunes on Sounds of a Playground Fading. There’s a perfect balance of heavy riffage, aggressiveness, slower and more pensive tracks, and evolution as a band on Sounds to make it a necessary purchase.
But what’s wrong with the album?
It lacks intensity. I’m positive that this album is better served on stage during live performances. The recording, however, has failed to deliver a sonic energy that should be there for a band that’s been around for nearly 20 years. There’s also a bit too much emo influence on Sounds, and the best example of this can be heard on “Fear is the Weakness” – even the song title sounds pussy. And, nothing against the “beautiful” Marylin Manson, but Anders Fridén’s vocals on “All For Me” tread a bit too close to the prosthetic goth lord. Since we’re on the topic of sounding like other vocalists, Fridén also manages to sound like Maynard James Keenan on “Ropes.”
The diversity on Sounds of a Playground Fading is something to be applauded. To see a band evolve and strive for new ground is amazing; it proves that they aren’t finished. Exemplifying this sentiment on Sounds are the synth/techno influences on “Deliver Us” and “Where the Dead Ships Dwell.” There’s also a great symphonic interlude on “A New Dawn.”
Sure, these elements aren’t for everyone, but I’m digging them.
Less a song than a spoken-word piece, “Jester’s Door” is pretty kick ass. It has a rave vibe about it, but could also serve as a great workout song (if it were a bit longer) – or just something to get lost in. In Flames could have closed the album better; “Liberation,” while kind of cool, comes off as a lame Motley Crue track, like “Brandon” or “Glitter.”
Definitely worth adding to your collection. If you’d like to hear Sounds of a Playground Fading before spending your coin, you can check it out here.
- Yell! Rating (x/5 Skulls):
- In Flames
- Sounds of a Playground Fading
- Year Released:
- 15 June 2011
- Century Media
- Melodic Death Metal
- Official URL:
- In Flames