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Album Reviews : In Flames – Battles

By on December 21, 2016

in-flames-battles-01-500x500In Flames are not only a source of ingenious music but also of constant debate. With arguably one of the most diverse collection of albums to their credit, the Swedish outfit continue to shock, surprise and delight their fans, releasing music that stands poles apart from each other in more ways than one. A case in point would be the brand new album, Battles, their twelfth studio album, a release that has tongues clicking and heads shaking but also gained the band a ton of admiration. Known to be one of the pioneers of the melodeath sound, In Flames are moving away from that label so to speak and into more open ground. Maybe it’s to cater to more ear drums and allow there to be something for everyone or they just feel like making different kinds of music. Whatever the case may be,  this new release surely represents their dedication to experimenting and creating tunes that certainly cannot be labeled.

The album begins with ‘Drained’, a dynamic intro to Battles with extremely catchy riffs and distant melodies to boot followed by the equally catchy ‘The End’. This song ironically just gets you started and makes you brace yourself for what’s to come. With a couple of quick solos making their presence, quite strongly might I add, you already get a pretty good idea of what this record is all about. Vocalist Anders Fridén’s powerful growled vocals surface amidst some tight guitarwork. This is an interesting song, one that you’d definitely start singing along to if you listen to it a fair few times but the choral aspect in this track along with ‘Like Sand’ and ‘The Truth’ became slightly repetitive for me.

Following this comes ‘In My Room’ scoring the weirdest track of the album award. I don’t know, perhaps it’s just that I can’t listen to too many cleans when the music already seems to fit perfectly with harsh vocals.  But a change of pace ensures the listener’s interest is somehow maintained with ‘Before I Fall’ which is probably one of the more driving tracks on the album. It does somehow consolidate the fact that In Flames have undoubtedly moved to another realm of music but also make this sound completely their own. While the first few tracks on this release will definitely get your blood pumping and your neck in motion, things start to get a little dry towards the middle. It feels like the band are attempting a sort of My Dying Bride meets Anathema meets Insomnium vibe here, combining metal with all the feels but it comes across way more different than just described (throw in a dash of metalcore for good measure)

The title track itself doesn’t do much for me but it’s the song after that is a winner. ‘Through My Eyes’ maintains a headbangable quality without a doubt, the drums on this track being my favourite part as well as a massively cool solo. It’s got a really fast-paced rhythm throughout and probably makes it one of the best tracks on this album. It’s also a track I’d probably use to refer to when talking about how well Anders combines clean and harsh vocals on a song. It is this particular feature; using more clean vocals than growls, especially this time around, that makes their music much more accessible and considerably different. This is not to say that the old In Flames style is completely dead as the album drowns in melody at certain points. ‘Here Until Forever’ is an enjoyable track and compliments ‘Underneath My Skin’ quite well given the heavier vibe of the latter.

I’ve heard some very different songs from In Flames over the years but honestly, nothing as different as the album closer, ‘Save Me’. From a synth-induced ambient tone to a heavily electro-pop vibe, but also strewn with funky guitar parts, it somehow seemed like another oddball track, but Anders vocals on this one put me off – sounding very much like a just-starting-out hardcore band that pours out their feelings in their lyrics. He also does this weird breathing thing with his voice – kind of like a gasp (?) – a couple of times which is significantly weird, but also different.

In Flames aren’t mucking around, that’s for sure. They know what they want out of their music, and in a few ways, Battles exhibits some of their best work yet. But the evolution of their style and direction in which their sound has moved in has changed. For better or for worse, is the decision of the listener.

About

Prarthana is a vegan, Indo-Aussie, heavy music addict, fluent in sarcasm and metal. Traveling is an obsession as she enjoys taking in the history of various countries and following her favorite bands. She's either eating, teaching grammar or learning an instrument, when not occupied with windmilling in the faces of other humans.