Swedish melodic death metal pioneers In Flames are back with the twelfth studio album of their 26 year career. While there’s a lot of the melodic on display, and even plenty of metal, if it’s death and destruction you’re after you may be disappointed. As ‘Battles’ is essentially very heavy pop.
When you’re this far into your career, there’s very little left to prove. However, although from a musical point of view it rocks pretty hard, it is all very contrived lyrically. For a middle aged band to still be singing about finding their way and begging to be saved before they slowly drift away; I mean, please.
Musically though, this slickly produced record ticks a lot of boxes. Opening track ‘Drained’ is good measure of what’s to come; from the atmospheric opening and flashes of thrashy riffing, through the semi-clean vocals to the big chorus, it’s the sound of a band that know their shit.
There are loads more big riffs and big choruses to come, with a kind of pulsating poppiness beneath the layers of metal, whether with a touch of electronica, as on The Truth, or a hard rock groove like ‘In My Room’. ‘Through My Eyes’ is a track blending their styles particularly well, starting out thrashier with a guttural vocal yet still delivering another killer chorus.
‘Here Until Forever’ and ‘Wallflower’ slow things down, but with differing outcomes. The former has some interesting rhythms, but the predictable chorus, power ballad riffing and super cliché lyrics are all too familiar. ‘Wallflower’ though, is pure drama. Its heavy rocking intro turning into an atmospheric brooder before a soaring chorus, orchestrated midsection and well worked finale – making it the best track by far.
If you can get past the “me, myself and I”ness of the personal lyrics and have no problem with the not very credible “us against the world” posture, then there is plenty to like about this musically tight and hard rocking record.
‘Battles’ by In Flames is out on now on Nuclear Blast.
Words by Edward Layland (@EdwardLayland)