I’m all for when bands decide to push their own musical boundaries…within a context. It keeps the music fresh and the band fresh. So even when IN FLAMES was changing their song writing (“Reroute To Remain” and “Soundtrack To Your Escape”) I enjoyed the albums because it felt as though the band had a vision of what they wanted.
“A Sense Of Purpose” has no focus or goal. Despite trying to bring back some of the elements that had brought the band so much popularity, the feeling on “A Sense Of Purpose” ends up confused and blundered instead of sharp and driven. It’s an odd mixture of some of the older IN FLAMES and newer IN FLAMES that (go figure) doesn’t blend so well.
Musically, this album is very mediocre with the band. In fact, the entire album’s writing feels half-assed most of the time. But with the talented musicians that make up IN FLAMES, I was more than shocked with this outcome. Using some “Colony”-esque melodies and leads overlapping the riffs from “Soundtrack To Your Escape”, the two guitarists feel as though they have just met each other and don’t know how to cope with the other’s style. It’s schizophrenic in a very mediocre way. Down tuned riffs with some classic overlays?
It does help that IN FLAMES has brought back some of the interesting backing keyboards that they used for a while and then dropped. Unfortunately, they pop up and disappear without much regard towards the feeling of the songs and thusly aren’t as effective as they could have been.
One positive aspect is, that for the first time a quite a while, Daniel Svensson is finally kicking his drum playing to the next level. Not that the drumming is all that complex but “A Sense Of Purpose” really shows that he still has it. Maybe its cause the rest of the album felt so drunk that his energy has really come forward.
Now comes for my biggest complaint of all. Anders Fridén. Normally I love his odd vocal styles, but “A Sense Of Purpose” has Anders just doing his job without too much feeling. It’s not really singing or the old roar that I miss so much but it’s a mediocre combination of the two. An odd harsh crooning is the best way to describe it. And for the most part (there are exceptions to this here and there) he never really deviates from it at all. And then for some reason they also decided to either a) distort his vocals slightly or b) layer the hell out of them. I can’t really pinpoint what was done and usually that is a bad sign.
Normally, I don’t do this with my reviews but listeners have to be warned. If you do decide to give this album a try (which I always recommend to anyone because this is my opinion and you may have a completely different one), skip “The Chosen Pessimist”. This 8 minute train wreck of a song features an overly long melodic intro, super whiny vocals, and an arc to the track that doesn’t seem to really go anywhere. Maybe I was the chosen pessimist when listening to it but I felt that song really ruined a lot of the feeling I had for this album.
Maybe I’m a little harsh on this album but I expect a lot from IN FLAMES. They have been a constant rotation in my listening for years now and I was so disappointed with this release. I like some of the solos and lyrics on the album but not much was there for me to really grasp onto no matter how hard I tried. Only for the die hard fans.
Songs to check out: “The Mirror’s Truth”, “I’m The Highway”, “Move Through Me"
(Online April 19, 2008)