Damn it. Still not the In Flames I wanted to hear. I used to love these guys, back around the Whoracle days, then they went and “evolved” into whiny emo not-metal bullshit. I have to admit, with the tile of this album I was prepared for another step in the wrong direction, and for the most part that is exactly what I found. There are moments where you might be able to guess that this In Flames was somehow related to the In Flames that put out The Jester Race, but they are very few and far between. Lars and Kirk would be proud of this transformation. I’m not saying this is St. Anger, this is listenable in terms of production, it’s just not really all that good. On the other hand if you are one of the douchebags who told them the new direction was great around Reroute to Remain you’ll probably love this… you bastard.
Vocals. This is one of my biggest problems. I feel like Obi-Wan-Kenobi here, “Anders!! You were the chosen one!!!” What the hell happened to turn you from a bad ass melodic death metal singer into a whiny Fred Durst-like whiner? When does the rapping start? Next album? Beyond disappointing. I keep thinking he must have been in some type of industrial accident that left him physically and mentally weakened. With the departure of Jesper Stromblad In Flames lost even more of what once made them great. There is a darkness missing, that heavy aggressive quality that has been fading (like a… playground sound?) for a long time is now gone. Bjorn Gelotte is a competent guitar player, but the noodle factor is high compared to the carefully crafted melody aspect that they used to be so good at, and this sticks out like a huge wart on the nose of Sounds of a Playground Fading. At times it’s hard to see the solos as actually part of the songs, they are somewhat reminiscent of 80’s guitar wankery, though a lot higher quality. Niclas Englin is back after playing with the band sporadically to take Jespers spot. Peter Iwers is still on bass, and he has some fairly creative moments during pre-chorus parts such as the one in Ropes, but generally he sticks to the roots. Daniel Svensson handles drums, at time he sounds like a metal drummer and at times like a percussionist trying to fit in around friggin Anders grunting, almost singing chants and the electronic beeps and other random nonsense. The last track, Liberation, is the killing blow to what was In Flames, however oddly enough it’s probably Anders best vocal performance. It’s really cheesy radio rock. Unforgivable.
Overall Sounds of a Playground Fading continues the downward spiral of In Flames from once great melodic death metal pioneers to emo sort of boring rock band with bizarre vocals. If you are a fan of the old In Flames, pass this one by. If you are a fan of Reroute and on, you may go for this album for some reason I’ll never understand.