Sounds of a Playground Fading
It’s been 9 years since In Flames put the metal world on its head with the controversial and groundbreaking “Reroute to Remain”. The fan base split, with some calling it sell out garbage, and others (Joined by a legion of new fans) embracing the chance. Nine years later, the “New In Flames” might still be garbage, but calling them sell outs would hardly be fair at this point, the electronic infused melodic death metal style is clearly what the band wants to play. Lazy critics for years have trashed on In Flames to cater to that rabid section of the fan base, but risking bringing up the age old shit storm, In Flames has every right to play this genre of music, and so let’s see how good of a job they do with it.
What makes Sounds of a Playground Fading so fascinating is that it is the first album without founder Jesper Stromblad. A lot has been made of this, with the reactionary segment of the fan base saying that the band has no right to exist anymore. Those fans would be good to be reminded that Anders Friden and Bjorn Gelotte have both been with the band for 15 years, appearing on every album except “Lunar Strain”. Really though, there is no dropoff in the quality of songs on Sounds of a Playground Fading than on anything in the new era.
So, history aside, the important question has to be “Is Sounds of a Playground Fading actually any good?” and the answer is yes. The melodic content on the album is at an all time high for the band and Anders Friden’s vocals are really quite impressive. He still retains all the edge and quite a bit of the harshness from his early days, but those are accents to the fact that he’s also a really good singer. Perhaps moreso than in any of their previous works, In Flames has incorporated quite a bit of progressive influence. “Jester’s Door” is a song unlike anything we’ve ever heard from In Flames, they didn’t redefine music by any means, but the track provides a distinct and chilling atmosphere. It also really expresses just how important electronic elements can be to metal, making use of a sound pallet far beyond cheesy synth tones.
A New Dawn is a very energetic, fast paced and heavy song. I won’t be naïve enough to think it’ll “Please longtime fans” (Because nothing will), but for the rest of the metalhead community, this is an excellent song, similar in a lot of ways to the better songs on Reroute to Remain. Where the Dead Ships Dwell and The Attic both resemble songs that might have been written for Soundtrack to Your Escape, and the intro to “All For Me” does have the effect of reminding me of material from Colony or Clayman.
If the album lacks anything, it is a centerpiece. While each of the 13 songs has its own flavor and quality, the album still comes off more as a “Collection of songs”, than a single listening experience. Some of the tracks are rather forgettable, and the biggest standout is “Jester’s Door”. A song like “The Chosen Pessimist” did A Sense of Purpose wonders, and I can’t help but wonder what it could have done for Sounds of a Playground fading
Give this album a chance, it is by no means the album to bring the grumpy old fans back, but nonetheless, it's very solid.
Dagg’s rating: 3.75/5