“Battles” – In Flames
CD Review and Applause to In Flames
Released on November 11, 2016 in the United States via Eleven Seven Music.
You cannot simply listen to In Flames; In Flames is an experience…a lesson. No longer can you “hear” the music, or simply pay attention to the lyrics; you have to do both. In Flames is a truthful, spiritual band, often providing the soundtrack to your life, or a glimpse into a higher idea. It has been said, that In Flames can make you see things you didn’t know existed. They can put words to what you are feeling, or be your friend by simply letting you know you are not alone in your experience. Through the marriage of Anders Frieden’s genuine outpouring of sound and the culmination of heartfelt, and sometimes painful lyrics, merged with Bjorn Gelotte’s unity of his soul and instrument, In Flames’ “Battles” is a significant and exquisite release.
With the exception of AC/DC and Slayer, bands should make music that does not sound like their past releases. We expect it and accept it from AC/DC and Slayer; We do! If they didn’t, we’d think it was weird. Every AC/DC song sounds the same, and almost every Slayer song sounds the same. You are lying to yourself if you think otherwise. Fans of bands are too quick to be critical upon a first listen if a band’s new release sounds like their last. Fans also heavily criticize if bands veer too much from their past release. So, it is a delicate dance that musicians must endure to please themselves as artists, and to also please their finicky fans. Through life experience, increase in skill and craft, technology, and the need for human beings to move forward, In Flames have done just that with “Battles; they have moved forward. “Battles,” the newest release from Melodic Gothenburg pioneers, In Flames, is a forward moving appropriate release for the end of 2016. With “Sounds of A Playground Fading” as the turning point for change, “Battles” is the perfect crescendo.
Using the talents of grammy nominated producer Howard Benson this Spring, In Flames recorded “Battles.” Through this choice of producer, their new drummer Joe Rickard (Red) was recommended as the session drummer in Daniel Svenssen’s absence. Ultimately, this recording session secured the position for Rickard as the newest permanent member of In Flames. While Rickard’s drumming is not as technical or unique as Svensson’s, it is solid; The drumming transition is seamless and Daniel’s departure is barely noticeable.
Peter Iwers (bass), Niclas Englund (guitar), and Joe Rickard (drums), provide the solid backbone and seem to effortlessly, graciously, and un-apologetically take a step back to allow Anders Frieden and Bjorn Gelotte to really shine.
Bjorn just needs to plays one note and you know it is him. His catchy rhythms, cries, bellows, twists and turns, soulful accompaniment, and solos (that sound more like advice than simply notes), are outstanding. Since Stromblad’s departure in 2010, beginning with “Sounds of a Playground Fading,” Gelotte has excelled as one of the best soloists in melodic metal today. His interpretation of emotion juxtaposed with Frieden’s lyrical walkthrough, makes “Battles” true and impactful. Bjorn has risen to the challenge of lead and sometimes only composer; He has not only risen, but he has mastered and excelled.
Whether he’s using his clean, dirty, whiney, creepy, guttural, screaming, singing, talking, or whispering vocals, Anders’ distinct voices make you feel as if you are right there along side of him, understanding in clear detail whatever he has gone through, or adversely, that he’s speaking directly to you and has put your thoughts, emotions, and experiences into something you can physically hold in your hands.
While In Flames has publicly claimed that they do not care about the criticism from fans regarding the past two releases, I do believe they took note. “Battles” is heavier than “Siren Charms,” but lighter than “Sounds of a Playground Fading”; its somewhere deliciously in the middle.
I’m not going to compare “Battles” to releases prior to 2010, because In Flames ARE a different band, and that is OK. They are entitled to be a different band through growth and the departure of Stromblad and Svennson, both long term and heavily contributing members. I imagine you are a different person as well.
To the fans and reviewers that have hopped on the “In Flames suck since Jesper Stromblad left,” bandwagon, or “They used to be a good band, but now they are too commercial, mainstream, or light.” I say to you — You are missing out on a great band who has grown with the times, stuck with it amongst internal turmoil, honed their skill, risen to the challenge, and continue to consistently pour the essence of their soul out in every release. The depth and breadth of “Battles,” is remarkable. It will take you places you have been and allow you to be awestruck with the beauty of music.
I love this album and give it very high marks. My only criticism is the overuse of the choir in the background. One song is OK, but more than one is too much. The use of fans on “Siren Charms” was innovative and forward thinking. Here, it is a bit overdone and unnecessary, and comes across to me as too easy.
The other criticism I have is I personally have a dislike for the common “Woah A Woah…” It seems as if In Flames are a mature enough band now to always write and handle tangible lyrics. It is slight and only present for a moment, but to me it was a lost moment of potential brilliance, and a bit uninspiring.
If the masterpiece on “Sounds of a Playground Fading” is the song, “Sounds of a Playground Fading,” and “Monsters in the Ballroom” is the gem on “Siren Charms,” on “Battles” it is all songs. There is not a bad track on this release. Like with any masterpiece – to be fully understood and appreciated you must enjoy it in its entirety.
2. “The End”
3. “Like Sand”
4. “The Truth”
5. “In My Room”
6. “Before I Fall”
7. “Through My Eyes”
9. “Here Until Forever”
10. “Underneath My Skin”
12. “Save Me”
13. “Greatest Greed (Bonus track)”
14. ”Us Against the World (Bonus track)”
In Flames is: