In Flames – A Sense of Purpose

Its been nine years since I first heard In Flames. The first track I heard was Man Made God, the epic instrumental off their 1998 release, Colony. Immediate curiosity, a fascination for their jester concept, and their obviously melodic approach to music turned me into a fan instantly. A 14 year old back then, with no clue about the histories and geographies of the now-divided sub-genres of music, In Flames was one of the first bands that influenced me & my taste in music…and continues to this day.

Purists have, more often than not, sidelined In Flames AND their contribution to the so-called ‘Scandinavian’ metal. Initially, it used to be about how In Flames started after the then-already established bands like Dark Tranquility, At the Gates etc., and later on (and as it continues to this day), it is about how In Flames have ‘sold out‘.

Being in the business for the last fifteen years, In Flames have covered the last ten with the same line-up, having released seven out of their ten albums in this period. Diversification in music is but inevitable under these stakes, and that, clubbed with Darwin’s theory, is the reason why In Flames is still among the top acts in the world today.

Going through the last four albums (the latest included), I fail to see how the talent shown by this band can be dismissed so easily. Agreed, Reroute to Remain & Soundtrack to Your Escape were a bit ‘experimental’, so to say, but again, I don’t see why the band should be sidelined. Being a part of the ‘tr00‘ community, a band doesn’t really have those many options. It could either make a 5th record that sounds like the first 4, and gain more ‘respect’…OR…take things a little out of the so-called box and diversify. And for the life of me, I’m glad that In Flames is one of those bands that took the latter path.

The complaints that have come against the band’s directions are many. Let’s try to quantize them & see what it’s all about. The most apparent one is the ‘fact’ that In Flames have become ‘lighter’. HOW? The melodies that one hears on Come Clarity, for example, are no different in essence than those on Whoracle or The Jester Race. As for the overall sound, In Flames have added a lot of groove to their music, and even the production sounds heavier now than before. Isn’t that what evolution is all about?

Another complaint is the core approach. If that’s the case, then why aren’t bands like Dying Fetus bashed? If I know my music correctly, I think Dying Fetus was ‘bashed’ for their latest old-sk00l album War of Attrition, and albums like Killing on Adrenaline were hailed as one of the best in the genre. But then, that’s a whole different grind/death game and cross-breeding is not quite allowed in purism…or is it?

Anders going clean with vocals…another one. Well, this was one thing that seemed out of place when Reroute to Remain was released…and Anders has always maintained a dirty line with his clean vocals. But is that really a parameter to judge a band’s quality? Again, if I know my music right, Tom Araya is not the cleanest vocalist around, even by the remotest chance. Cross-pollination? My bad 🙂

We could go on and on trying to analyze these things to death, without actually getting anywhere. The bottom line is, it’s been a good dozen years since The Jester Race was released, and expecting another one of ‘those’ is just fallacy! And instead of the fans realising that first, In Flames have, and taken all steps to ‘progress’.

So…coming to A Sense of Purpose. Barely a few moments into the opener A Mirror’s Truth, one can feel all that’s inherently In Flames. Disconnected features a fast-paced thrashy line with an insane melodic key-change towards the end. In Flames? Totally! Sleepless Again & Alias are the standout tracks for me, with the acoustic interlude on Alias reminiscent of parts off Lunar Strain. The bonus track Abnegation is representative of the new In Flames in all aspects, yet harnessing their ‘core’ points from the past. Anders’ cleaner vocals are a brilliant addition to In Flames’ ranks, and can be justified on The Chosen Pessimist. Clocking 8 minutes and 15 seconds, it’s In Flames’ longest song ever. The song goes through clean vocal lines & melodies that are often dark & haunting, as with Sleepless Again & Alias.

Spanning 59 minutes and 28 seconds (including the bonus tracks), A Sense of Purpose is also In Flames’ lengthiest album. Jesper & Bjorn are the genius they’ve always been. The riffs are beautifully crafted, and the choruses are so typically In Flames. The song structures, however, get a bit predictable. All songs have fairly the same structure and there’s nothing new in that regard, even if compared to the songs on Come Clarity.

The album art is done by Alex Pardee, and is dark & humorous…and colourful! (How could I miss this point in the complaints section???) Innuendos aside, Alex’s art for the album showcases a perfect mix of dark humour & In Flames’ jester concept. In Anders’ words, it’s “somewhat a concept album“, and in Bjron’s words, “the artwork will let us design interesting fliers & posters for gigs“.

The first time I heard Come Clarity, I found it ‘back-to-basics’. A Sense of Purpose is an evolved step in that direction. However, it’s not back-to-basics. A Sense of Purpose is retro-futuristic. And if this direction is to evolve further, I can already see a number of newer bands getting influenced by this sound.

Track Listing

  1. The Mirror’s Truth
  2. Disconnected
  3. Sleepless Again
  4. Alias
  5. I’m the Highway
  6. Delight and Anger
  7. Move Through Me
  8. The Chosen Pessimist
  9. Sober and Irrelevant
  10. Condemned
  11. Drenched in Fear
  12. March to the Shores
  13. Eraser (bonus)
  14. Tilt (bonus)
  15. Abnegation (bonus)
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Comments
5 Responses to “In Flames – A Sense of Purpose”
  1. Kartik says:

    dude..good one.. probably wud’ve related to it better had i know what u were talkin abt.. 😉

    but one thing’s for sure.. blogging does bring out the passionate side :).. of anyone for that matter..

  2. rinku says:

    In flames is good.. Every album offers something to learn.

    i dint like the art work for the sense of purpose.. looks like a gaping vagina with killer fangs.. !!

    haha

  3. AlexM says:

    Your blog is interesting!

    Keep up the good work!

  4. arogow says:

    That’s a really fantastic review of the album.

  5. Beefcake says:

    I don’t know how many 5-string bass guitars you have jammed up your ass, but the later In Flames lacks the brutality and epicness that defined In Flames in the first place. They sold out, it’s typical of hella popular bands, but don’t sympathize with that shit.
    Oh wait, I guess it’s typical of common American metalheads to agree with everything that is Americanized. Scandanavian metal defines bands that have come from the northern most part of Europe. It does not embody any specific style, and In Flames is one of those bands that was really really cool ten years ago, but the “clean” lyrics are defined in the genre of “emo” and not metal.

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