There is a reason why these Swedish pioneers of melodic death metal have continued to captivate, delight and infuriate for nearly two decades while entire battalions of copycat bands have come and gone with little impact: Their constantly evolving vision is one of progression. Therefore, it is no wonder that the metal world routinely awaits their impending new releases with a shivery mix of giddy anticipation and nervous apprehension.
Whether it was the grungy, melodic riffs of The Jester Race or the electronics-laden ear-candy of Your Escape, In Flames have always managed to deliver quality music and it is safe to say that nothing much has changed for album number ten for the Gothenburg quintet, Sounds of a Playground Fading.
The more hardcore amongst the metal-head population will be glad to hear that the band continue to maintain their thrash-metal-esque reputation but that’s not to say that you have to be a seasoned head-banger to enjoy this album. As they always have, the band experiment with electronic synth to deepen the texture of their pieces and the resultant melodic conglomerate gives the perfect combination of old and new. Classic tracks such as Ropes explore these traits to the fullest extent and the result left me wanting to keep listening, but feeling anxious about what’s to follow.
The opening track Sounds of a Playground Fading contains everything that a current fan would expect from the band. The unmatched combination of deep, powerful drum-lines with melodic yet somewhat crunchy guitar riffs ensures that the band has stayed true to its death-metal roots, whilst pioneering the genre further still. The mellow vocals of front-man, Anders Fridén, provide the perfect accompaniment to this epic Scandinavian ensemble.
As well as being one of the most critically acclaimed melodic death metal albums of the last decade, Sounds of a Playground Fading also boasts a vast range of styles amongst its tracks ranging from the fast-paced and thrashy Enter Tragedy to the melancholy power ballad Liberation. It’s clear that this compilation of Nordic musical mastery has something that appeals to all musical tastes, including those new to the band.
But that’s not to say that In Flames have forsaken their humble origins. Track number three All For Me instantly reminds you of the old In Flames days. This nostalgic melody ought to make the long-time fans of the group feel like their witnessing a return to the underground sound of the bands middle albums. From the first riff, all the way up to the first verse, you’d easily be fooled that the old In Flames were back.
Upon hearing the first verse the new, modern In Flames musical style hits you like a tonne of bricks and you are immediately immersed in the bands new style and image, which even the most hardened of metal-heads would approve of. It is clear that Sounds of a Playground Fading is a retrospective album that provides the ideal mixture of the “good old In Flames” whilst still demonstrating that the ambitious Swedes continue to lead their genre into the future.