This album is already getting thrown both ways. Some say it’s their most original and catchy album to date, others think it’s a failed experiment of Nu-Metal trend. It’s a shame that some people think IN FLAMES are sounding like Nu-Metal because they’re not, not even close.
Can’t you tell the difference between radio friendly Metal and real Metal music? I’ve said this so many times before, if the band were playing Nu-Metal you’d have to remove the harmonic melodies, fast drumming, extreme vocals, Thrash influences etc etc and get Fridén to do a much better imitation of Jonathon Davis.
Nu-Metal cannot be... what?... oh yes the album, pardon me. My views on “Soundtrack To Your Escape” lie somewhere between the like/don’t like border. The album has grown on me, so I’ve come to like it though I’ll admit there are some uninspiring songs. To all who aren’t following current affairs: IN FLAMES have changed, like it or not. The forefathers of Swedish Melodic Death Metal are obviously seeking inspiration to continue being together as a band. Jesper and Björn used to play some of the greatest melodies to be found in Death Metal, now they’re exploring the lower strings no their guitars while still putting out their melodic trademark. Mighty low tuned riffs are chugged out more than on “Reroute To Remain”; opening track “F(r)iend” is a Heavy Death/Thrash tornado completely done without keyboards and electronics and has some of the most aggressive riffs the guitar duo has written and my oh my, Fridén really goes for the throat with some insane screaming.
Ideas spawned from “R2R” are taken into another direction on ”STYE”. The band still experiments with new ideas like they did on “R2R” but this time they also want to prove all unbelievers that they’re one of the heaviest bands around. “The Quiet Place” continues where “Dawn Of A New Day” left. A good track with experimental arrangements, I like the catchiness it has but then Fridén comes with his unfocused delivery and drags it down. Ironic, on “Dawn Of A New Day” it was only Fridén’s who wasn’t responsible for the laziness, they’re still fine-tuning I guess. And yes, “Evil In A Closet” is a ballad and sort of a fan favourite already it seems. It’s not the best track from the album but it’s way better than the disastrous “Metaphor”.
There are songs that sound like rehashed old material. For example “Like You Better Dead” has this riff that’s been used a couple of hundred times (last time used by THE DUSKFALL I think) and “Superhero Of The Computer Rage” has an almost identical riff taken from “Drifter” played over the verses. The so-called bonus track “Discover Me Like Emptiness” is amazingly indifferent, not much of a bonus there.
On the positive side we have “Touch Of Red”, “Dial 595-Escape”, “F(r)iend” and “Dead Alone” (so what if there’s a U2 melody in the background in the intro), all great tracks. These songs prove that the band members are skilled and haven’t chosen an easy solution for this release (like playing Nu-Metal).
How’s Anders holding up and what’s up in the electronic department? Of all epic questions these two are the most important, they pretty much decide if you’ll like this record or not. Let’s do Anders first. “He sounds like a wasted Jonathan Davis on the verge to insanity!!!” Yes we’ve all heard the chant. His impressions of KORN’s frontman don’t always bring the best results, those vocals don’t go with this music in the first place, they just don’t, thank god he’s realised that and doesn’t use them too much. Clean singing is also used less, they do good work in the choruses and vocal harmonies is something he’s more than welcome to develop further, I like it when he does them. The brutal stuff he’s familiar with but he will never be able to regain his excellence from “The Jester Race” and “Whoracle”. I don’t mean to sound unsatisfied, he’s a good vocalist but needs more time to develop because he’s trying so much at once here.
Electronics are definitely a part of the sound now, they’ve been used since “Colony” so some of you have gotten used to them. Ever since the band began working with Daniel Bergstrand the flamers have opted for more use of electronics and keyboards backdrops. They add more depth to the songs and Bergstrand’s famous intricate noisy sound mixing makes the details deeper and interesting. The sound is much better than on “R2R”, the impact is so much bigger than I expected.
Even if it’s not a classic IN FLAMES album, it’s certainly a lot better than you know what album. If you liked “Clayman” and older albums you might have some problems at first with “STYE”, it takes time to fully appreciate this Swedish work of Modern Metal. (Online April 28, 2004)