Not Fading Away
No one can accuse In Flames of resting on their laurels. Even after 18 years, 10 albums, and a legacy as the co-founders of melodic death metal, the band is not content to pump out the same music again and again. Sounds Of A Playground Fading may not be the same old song, but it’s unmistakably heavy, and purely In Flames.
With the departure of founding guitarist Jesper Stromblad, writing duties fall squarely on remaining guitarist Bjorn Gelotte. The opening title track delivers a slice of the band’s classic sound, mixing the epic melodies of Iron Maiden with the grinding intensity of death metal, anchored by Anders Friden’s distinct throaty shouts. “Deliver Us,” however, incorporates a catchy dance beat, setting the stage for the rest of the album. For every song like “The Puzzle,” a pummeling thrasher showcasing Daniel Svensson’s dazzling drum work, there’s a song like “The Attic,” a trip-hop creepy-crawler that never grows above a moan. “Where The Dead Ships Dwell” recalls the cold, industrial In Flames of years past, while “Liberation” is a bleak and heavy pop song, and could easily be on Top 40 Radio. “Darker Times” is the song to hear, as it’s a perfect blend of the disparate styles collected on this record, yet “Ropes” is the standout track, with its indisputably memorable guitar hook.
Despite the broad variance in material, however, Sounds is an In Flames album to the core. Bjorn Gelotte brings a fresh perspective with his songwriting, while remaining true to the extreme ideals that have kept the band in the public eye for so long. This is a great starting point for those new to In Flames, but longtime fans should proceed with caution, as this is not the same band you remember. Keep watching In Flames, though: there’s definitely something cooking.