In Flames, ‘Battles’ – Album Review
When a band changes their style and sound, it can be polarizing. Melodic death metal pioneers In Flames have experienced this with their fans, as their sound has grown more accessible over the years with fewer growling vocals.
Their countrymen and contemporaries Opeth have drawn similar criticism, but their switch from death metal to prog seems to have been more easily accepted than In Flames’ evolution toward the mainstream. In Flames’ latest effort, Battles, has plenty of melody, but there are numerous intense moments, as well.
Battles is the first In Flames album recorded without drummer Daniel Svensson since 1997‘s Whoracle. The band traveled to Los Angeles to record with producer Howard Benson (Halestorm, Skillet, Papa Roach). Benson recommended using drummer Joe Rickard (Red) for the album, and he ended up joining the group permanently.
It was a fruitful collaboration, resulting in one of In Flames’ strongest albums in years. “When people hear this album I think they’re going to instantly know that it’s the new In Flames without us repeating the same song over and over, and that’s something I’m incredibly proud of,” vocalist Anders Fridén says. “There’s something in the fingers of the guys and my voice that’s undeniable, but I really hope that our songwriting is something that can continue to evolve the way it did here in the future.”
From the opening track “Drained,” it’s evident that this is an album packed with both sing-along choruses and harsher vocals from Friden. The songs were written by Friden and guitarist Bjorn Gelotte, who along with Niclas Engelin, provides a plethora of memorable riffs. That’s exemplified on songs like the anthemic “The Truth.” They also deliver first class riffage and a tasty solo on “Before I Fall.”
Friden also gives an excellent performance. His harsh vocals are spot on, and his melodic singing is solid. He still has a bit of a singsong delivery in places, but also sings in a straightforward style, and when he does shows surprising power, like on the album closer “Save Me.”
Some of the heavier songs are on the album’s back half, including the title track and “Under My Skin.” Those are nicely contrasted by the disc’s longest song, the seven-minute “Wallflower.” It’s dynamic and diverse with an industrial vibe in spots.
Their “Gothenburg sound” is long gone, but those who appreciate In Flames’ recent output should enjoy Battles. It’s heavier than 2014‘s Siren Charms, but even more melodic with better songwriting.
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