Anders Fridén – vocals
Björn Gelotte – guitars
Niklas Engelin – guitars
Peter Iwers – bass guitar
Daniel Svensson – drums, percussion
In Flames is often a band that gets tossed in with shit or gold nowadays, as their fans tend to borderline between "old" and "new" with few in between. Many crave for something like the Jester Race or Colony, while some fans may not even know more then three songs off of those albums. Regardless, its safe to say that after a few listens, Sounds of a Playground Fading offers something for every fan, and maybe newcomers.
The album opens with an acoustic intro, before blasting the traditional In Flames Harmony
, before breaking into modern, more recent In Flames riffing. One can notice after a few songs that Anders Friden has improved his vocals tremendously, more so on the clean side, but also on the growl side. Much less prominent is the "cat stuck in a blender" screeching, or the whiny tone encompassing some of his past works. The lyrics have also improved from A Sense of Purpose (there's no more "I feel like shit, but atleast I feel something), and seem more poetic.
Which brings us to the guitar in this album. As some of you may know, Jesper (basically the founder and previous guitarist) left recently, leaving skeptical fans to wonder if the incredible solos that inhabited their albums throughout the years were going to disappear. I'm glad to stay this is not the case, and Bjorn (the other guitarist) stepped the fuck up with flying colors. The Guitar solos here are probably the best since their Clayman album. They are npredictable, yet quite fitting. The newcomer, Niklas Engelin, does not disappoint. However, some of the riffs (more particularly in All For Me ) can become very predictable and similar to other songs.
Drum production seems much better here as well. They drive the songs along nicely. Bass also seems to be in a much better form, and a bit more active.
It's very important to listen to the album straight through. While not entirely a concept album like the Jester Race and Whoracle was, it is conceptual to a point. The album has a dark mood throughout the first 80%, and then starting with "A New Dawn" bursts into the happier sound from 1999-2002's In Flames. The album is also placed with two calmer songs, one being "The Attic" (think of a shorter Chosen Pessimist, with accordion), and the other "The Jester's Door". The later, while not the expected instrumental (like "The Jester's Dance" on The Jester Race), it is simply a spoken word song, with accordion, about their previous guitarist's departure. Songs can tend to sound extremely similar in tone and structure in the first half of the album, however.
Older fans might rejoice at some songs like "A New Dawn", which almost sounds like In Flames jumped back in a time machine set to 1999 or 2000. Anders is getting pretty old now, so expecting some demonic growl from the Whoracle album would be futile, but he pulls off one hell of a modern Colony-ish one on this track. Guitars are set up as if they were playing off of Colony or Clayman themselves. A cello even makes an entrance. Other songs like "Darker Times" or "Enter Tragedy" may impress them as well.
Newer fans also have songs they will probably admire. Songs like "Where Dead Ships Dwell", "Ropes", and "Fear is the Weakness" will attain the attention with their highly developed hooks and choruses, and are extremely catchy.
In Flames have also expanded their boundaries by experimenting with a "hard rock" track of sorts. "Liberation" ends the album sounding like it came from an A Perfect Circle record or some other alternative metal/rock band. Nonetheless, if you are a fan of the genre you will most likely admire this.
Despite the lost of their previous guitarist, In Flames have successfully created an album to cater to most of their fan base, while experimenting and growing. Bjorn and Anders really have stepped it up, increasing their capabilities greatly. This is In Flames following their own path, even though "It's not straight, but the road lies open."
Recommended for any fan of In Flames, unless you strictly like pre-Whoracle.
A New Dawn - http://www.youtube.com/embed/JkQ7SKyGdZA