Swedish heavy metal band In Flames release their twelfth studio album Battles on 11th November via Nuclear Blast.
The album was recorded in Los Angeles by Grammy-nominated producer Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance, Papa Roach, The Used) and the influence of modern American metal on the album is noteable; with uplifting chorus melodies, largely clean vocals, increased use of synthesizers and a lighter overall sound. That being said, Battles retains some of the classic In Flames style, with harmonised guitar melodies a-plenty.
In the “Battles Webisode” videos published on the Nuclear Blast YouTube channel, vocalist Anders Fridén said of the new album “I am super super happy and I think this is another great In Flames album”. Fans of the band’s older, more celebrated melodic death metal albums may not be so keen on the new direction that In Flames have taken for the past few releases, but the band certainly seem to be happy with the road they’re travelling down – “we just try to create good melodies” says Fridén. “We’ve done the best album we could twelve times now […] I wouldn’t be able to do the same thing [as ten years ago] today because I am in a different place”. Whilst melodically the album is a little more upbeat than some of their more recent releases, the lyrical theme of the album is one of inner personal struggle.
I have been listening to the album on my commute to and from work for a week, and below is a brief track-by track summary:
Opening track “Drained” begins with an atmospheric, building intro with breathy vocals then chuggy guitars and drums kick in and lead into the first verse. This is a highly emotional song about the breakdown of a relationship, with a largely clean-vocal, sing-along chorus. This is actually one of my favourite tracks on the album and, although it might not be to everyone’s taste, it definitely displays unmistakable new In Flames sound.
“The End” was chosen as the first track to be released from Battles, and we reviewed it recently.
“Like Sand” has a relatively delicate intro, but quickly turns into a chuggy and riffy track, with a very big, thumping chorus.
Opening with child-like chanted vocals, clapping, and smattering of synth before the classic harmonized guitars kick in, “The Truth” was the second track to be released from the album. In the “Battles Webisodes! the band explained that these two tracks had been chosen as singles because they “show the variety of the album”.
Although “In My Room” is one of the simpler song melodically, it of course still features the classic In Flames harmonised guitar solo. This song, to me, sounds as if it could be featured on the soundtrack to a movie or computer game.
“Before I Fall” sounds like it could easily fit into the tracklist of Sounds Of The Playground Fading It features chuggy guitars and clean-sung chorus and follows on well from In My Room as the song follows a similar pattern.
“Through My Eyes” is much more thrashy and features scream-vocals for the verses and distorted clean-vocals for the pre-chorus and chorus.
Title-track “Battles” opens with a relatively heavy riff which leads into the clean vocals of the first verse, then onto a relatively up-beat chorus.
“Here Until Forever” is another of my guilty favourites from the album. It it is full of emotion and features a soaring sing-along-chorus…I would go so far as to say that it is almost a power-ballard! There is also a relatively high note that Anders hits towards the end of the track which took my by surprise the first time I heard it, and is a million miles away from their earlier melodic death metal albums. I feel as if the influence of recording the album in LA is most evident on this track.
“Is this the life I want to live?” asks Anders in “Underneath My Skin”. To me the rhythm of the verses of this track feel a little different to the rest of the album, but the rest of the track falls back into the general pattern…and of course there is a guitar solo!
“Wallflower” begins with a 2:23 minute intro, and at 7:02 minutes long it is by far the longest track on the album. It is also arguably one of the heaviest tracks on the album. The lyrics talk speak of inner turmoil, which is the general theme throughout the record; “I wanna be heard but leave not trace; I wanna be seen, but take no space” sings Anders in the chorus.
Closing track “Save Me” feels almost like a cry for help, lyrically. However musically is a triumphant end to the album; with a soaring chorus and energetic guitar riffs.
Battles is out on Friday 11 November through Nuclear Blast. Some fancy bundles are available to pre-order through the band’s online store, or you can pick it up via Amazon and help support this website: download / CD / vinyl