After the misstep towards an Alternative Metal direction on “A Sense Of Purpose," IN FLAMES needed an album to re-establish themselves. They needed to release an album of darker tones and a slightly more aggressive attack on their recent Modern Metal style. That’s what we get on “Sounds Of A Playground Fading." Not quite to the tip top shape that the band was on the verge of with “Soundtrack” or “Clarity," but it’s moving back to where they need to be.
The band certainly has their sound down pat. With their use of stop and go riffing, synth work, and Anders Friden’s alternative style singing, they utilize the modern sound to full effect here. “Deliver Us” still packs in a heavy riff punch to its sing-a-long melodic vibes and the opening title track throws back to when this synthetic style worked at some of its best (see “Reroute To Remain”). Although many fans still disown the band for the change to this sound, it is catchy and punchy where it needs to be and many tracks on “Sounds Of A Playground Fading” capture the heart of what the band can do.
IN FLAMES does throw a few more aggressive tracks that hearken back to older days with screaming vocals and heavier riff/drum/lead packages. “Darker Times” and “The Puzzle” both remind the listener of why IN FLAMES became so popular even if they aren’t the catchiest songs on the album. It does vary against their more synthetic sounds of the other tracks nicely.
Then of course, we have the tracks that throw the listener off track. The ballad-like acoustics of “The Attic” come out of left field against some of the heavier material the rest of the album touches on, and the almost Progressive Rock like album closer “Liberation” ends the album with a whimper rather than a roar. Although both have their moments, neither fit the general vibe of the album and seemingly spring up to shock the listener.
“Sounds Of A Playground Fading” is a return towards the righteous Modern Metal path for IN FLAMES with its aggressive musical attacks and darker tonalities. It still isn’t quite up to par with some of their previous works as its inconsistencies (mostly in the form of their Alt style tracks and rather odd song structuring) hinder the overall experience.
As is, this reviewer is still waiting for IN FLAMES to release a defining album to match the initial turn towards the Modern pathways. “Sounds Of A Playground Fading” is good, but not quite the one.
Songs to check out: “Sounds Of A Playground Fading," “Deliver Us," “Darker Times."
(Online August 5, 2011)