Overall Score: 8/10 Riffs: 8/10 Hooks: 7/10 Vocal Deliveries: 8/10 Pros: Some outstanding hooks | solid riffs | excellent production Cons: Filler tracks too apparent | Mundane moments too often
In Flames have been one of heavy metal’s most iconic bands for a long time now. The Swedish outfit, heavily involved with the development of the iconic Gothenburg sound, have over a 26 year risen to one of the leading bands in the metal world. Whilst recent records have moved away from the cutting edge melodic death metal sounds that built In Flames’ reputation, there is no denying that many still feel kinship to the Swedes. This year sees the arrival of album number number 12, ‘Battles’, but does this new offering keep people’s attention to a band that are exploring new pastures?
There are several moments sprinkled across ‘Battles’ that are truly gripping. ‘Drained’ kicks things into gear relatively quickly following an atmospheric introduction; riffs gallop ferociously and Anders Fridén’s signature vocal deliveries flow effortlessly from harsh lows to an emphatic chorus. This is where In Flames shine with ‘Battles’, the band have always had the ability to create infectious hooks through their melodies and ‘Battles’ is no different; from the slick riffing Björn Gelotte on ‘The End’ to the uplifting twin guitar licks featured on ‘In My Room’, In Flames know how to write a melody that will captivate you and exploit it to the full on ‘Battles’.
There are two moments in particular on this record that truly move you. ‘The Truth’, one of the lead singles prior to release, is one of the best songs on the record. Steady rhythm playing from Niclas Engelin keeps the beat steady before the track explodes into a chorus of hair-raising euphoria. Crowd vocals on show here only fatten the delivery of Fridén’s vocals whilst dazzling lead play from Björn Gelotte serenades in the background. The other, the epic Wallflower, clocking in at just over seven minutes is a wonderfully constructed track. The lengthy duration enables In Flames to shine in their style, from the solid but subtle bass tones from Peter Iwers to the slick dual riffing that is featured prominently, ‘Wallflower’ is arguably one of the more mature songs on show here. And the result is truly enjoyable to listen to.
Sadly, for all the good that is contained on ‘Battles’, there is a fair amount of mundane moments. There are moments throughout the record’s duration where the hooks just don’t sink in, where the melodies are flat and uninspired and the result is incredibly disappointing. ‘Like Sand’ is a painfully average track which offers a slow pace and uninspired guitar play throughout. Sandwiched between the excellent ‘The End’ and ‘The Truth’, it does nothing to maintain the quality. ‘Before I Fall’ shows glimpses of promise through a well constructed introduction but Anders Fridén’s vocals feel out of place here which results in the track feeling flat and largely forgettable.
So is ‘Battles’ a terrible album? The answer is a resounding no. Whilst there are moments that are dull and largely forgettable, there are moments where ‘Battles’ will truly grip you. These moments are the record’s saving grace, moments which capture your attention and leave you begging for more. It’s therefore frustrating that the entirety of the record doesn’t offer this euphoric experience, but then, the impact would be dampened. This record represents where In Flames are in the modern age, they have progressively moved towards a cleaner sound and whilst old-school fans may be alienated, ‘Battles’ is a fairly solid record that showcases the sound of In Flames 26 years after their explosive entry.