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Oh yeah, motherfuckers... Ten years have passed since In Flames released this album. Nevertheless, aside from very harsh criticism, this could've been a good album, if it wasn't for some things. You know, this is not your typical melodeath album, where some vocalist screams/growls over some Iron Maiden/Morbid Angel-influenced guitar riffs, while the bassist plays his part and the drummer keeps the rhythm while alternating between the savage death-metal drumming and the fine and expressive metal rhythms. This album screams from the fucking bottom of his lungs (if it really does have any?) :"Buy me stupid american consumer, who doesn't know shit about melodic death metal or metal in general!!!".
We all know that americans (like any other nation, where 70% of the population has a TV in the house) tend to embrace the sheep-like behavior. When everyone else buys some stupid and worthless product, that is very well promoted, they feel empty and buy the turd. This happened with the now "seminal" (in a bad way) "Reroute to Remain". There's just a little problem with this comparison... "Reroute to Remain" is not so stupid and worthless like some shitty over-promoted product. It actually became an epitome. An epitome of what a commercial album should sound like and how a metal band should approach the infamous goal of "gettin' rich". What is weird about this album is that the band didn't embrace some trend, like we see nowadays (ultra-good death metal bands turning deathcore... *cough* Cryptopsy *cough*), to do this thing...They actually created one! They are like the Metallica of melodic death metal. They helped create the genre with a ton of creativity and the guts to mix the sheer awesomness and melodic complexity of NWOBHM bands (mainly Iron Maiden) and folk tunes with the punishing brutality and slamming wildness of death metal. But some years after they said "Hey guys, I think we're pretty much tired of doing good melodic death albums and not being able to buy some fucking mansion on the West Coast with the money we get. I think we need to do something really awesome that the masses will buy". And that's how this LP was created.
Now let's go on with the music. Musically, every single song has a simple structure than goes like this: intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-some cheesy melodeath guitar lead-some fucking bridge-chorus-chorus-end. There are sometimes variations, but nevermind. They stopped playing with song structures, like they did before and this kind of building up a song resembles very much to rock-and-roll and pop song structures. This is not a bad thing, but it gets worn out quickly. The good thing is that they are not as fake as some bands, they can actually catch the pop-like atmosphere (I don't mean the pop that airs today on the radio, I mean real pop singers like Frank Sinatra, Whitney Houston or to some extend Tina Turner) they desire and make it pleasant and enjoyable throughout the album.
The guitars are pretty nice, but filled with musical flaws. They have the desired catchiness, but tend to be boring after some time. Some solos or more leads would've solved this problem, but...they were to lazy and wanted the americans who know nothing about metal to actually swallow up this album with ease. The guitars pretty much create this pop atmosphere along with the vocals, but better songwriting should've done the trick better. The atmosphere is pretty enjoyable, but it could've been more pop (of course, without sounding like some faggot Pierce The Veil or All Time Low pop-punk assholes). The guitar parts are muddy all the time, in terms of production. It's like the producer turned the gain-button very high. This creates some kind of wall of sound, that drowns the vocals and the bass sometimes. What I like about the production is that they didn't aim for a sterile, overproduced and robotic sound, but pretty much stuck to their old guitar tone and changed it to the place, where you can still recognize it as In Flames, but tell that there have been some modifications.
The drums are simplified. Blast beats are gone, fast doublebass is gone, death metal in general is gone in the drum department. The drummer employs sometimes a faster style of playing but these are short bursts that come and gone, so overall they stuck to the heavy metal/hard rock drumming. The bass...well is pretty OK, if you like your bassist to blindly follow what your rhythm guitarist plays. As I said, because of the muddy production it is most of the time drowned by the wall of highly-distorted guitars (Don't get me wrong, distorted guitars are the core of melodeath and of metal in general, but the production of this album makes them too loud and too distorted).
In the vocal department, there is a great change. Low, guttural growls are now history and their place was taken by high and raspy screams, which along with the decent clean vocals manage to be a mediocre addition to the band's sound and style. The cleans, not as high and gay as today's singers employ, are powerful and lyrical. The vocal melodies are catchy (of course...That's what they've been aiming for), but along with the lyrics get boring over time. The lyrics are pretty emotional and totally reflect the state of spirit of the one who wrote them, without ressembling to today's emo/-core lyrics, which are plagued with themes like this: "A 15-year-old angsty teenager is ditched by his girlfriend and whines the whole song, that the girl (or "stupid fucking whore" as he calls her) left him behind and fucked a real man." You got it!
Even though I wrote some pretty things and not so many bad things in this review, you might think why this opus doesn't have more than a 55% rating. I gave this mark, because I had to judge a melodeath band that put out a so-called melodeath album, which turned out to be more pop that metal. This shit is not melodic death metal anymore. It's somewhere between the pop, heavy, extreme metal border, thus shall not be called melodic death metal or death metal in general. If it was a metalcore band or a power metal band or even a black metal band putting out this album, then it would've been something else....but it isn't. If you like some softer kind of metal, this album is for you. If you are into death metal, melodeath or extreme metal in general, stay away from this.