without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
...and how’s that? Because I heard this album on Youtube, of course. Many people consider this album In Flames’ worst album. Well, I cannot claim so, since I have no intention of checking out Sounds of a Playground Fading and Siren Charms (I heard a few short sections of some of the songs, though), but I CAN say that Soundtrack to Your Escape is really awful.
The biggest problem for some people is the very fact that In Flames don’t play melodic death metal here (and anymore, for that matter). What do they play, then? Well, how do I say this? Music here has much more in common with nu metal and really shitty metalcore than with melodic death metal. And there are some sections inspired by really bad industrial metal. In short, bullshit.
Instrumentally, not much can be said. Guitars simply chug some regurgitated riffs and quasi-riffs most of the time, with a few worthless solos scattered across the album, bass cannot be heard, while the drums sound very artificial and unnatural. Sometimes you’ll be wondering if Daniel Svensson even played the drums or even bothered to sit behind the kit or if one of the band members bought a rhythm machine. When the drums don’t sound like something made on said rhythm machine, they can be compared to drums heard on St. Anger. And, just like on Reroute to Remain, there are many keyboard and electronic sections that serve no actual purpose aside from being annoying.
When we talk about the vocals... oh, man, is Anders even trying to sound anywhere close to normal? Many reviewers have compared his moaning, and yes, it’s more moaning and wailing than actual singing, to something Jonathan Davis from Korn would do. I understand why they think so, as their voices do sound similar, however, at least Jonathan has been doing that more or less since the start, while Anders adopted it after In Flames made a name for themselves. As for growling... what growling? I heard practically no growling and, no, I’m not deaf. As for screaming, the less I say about it, the better, it’s just that painful.
Lyrics are another problem. In Flames actually used to write lyrics based on actually interesting stuff like fantasy, science fiction and astronomy, but you will not get any of that here. Instead, you’ll get angst, angst and, guess what, more angst. I mean, seriously, take Like You Better Dead. It actually has a line “I can be as angry as I want to be.” If you were to hear that line in real life, what would you do? Slap the person who says it? Someone should’ve slapped the jerk whose idea it was to write it (most likely Anders). In fact, someone should’ve slapped everyone in the band.
Production drags this album even more down. The band may have paid a lot of money to get this album (or turd) produced, but you know what? Many home-produced albums and demos sound better and more pleasant than this. So... what the fuck?! Where did the money go?! Obviously not on good mixing.
But you know what the biggest problem here is? There are actually some sections that could’ve been used in a much, much better way. The opening riff to In Search of I (pretty dumb title, by the way), as well as the opening riff to Dial 595-Espace (huh?), show some resemblance to what In Flames used to play and someone else could’ve made decent, if unspectacular songs on the basis on those riffs. Also, the last fifty or so seconds in My Sweet Shadow, while objectively speaking crappy, are the best part of the songs, mostly because Anders doesn’t scream and wail over it, and could’ve been used more effectively nonetheless. Unfortunately, they're like some food you can eat, but not enjoy all that much... now imagine said food being dipped in dung.
Yeah, I know, there are albums that suck even more than this album, but that’s not much of a consolation, is it? It’s just sad that In Flames, one of pioneers of melodic death metal, ditched the very genre they helped create. Even worse is the fact that they’ll likely never return to playing what they used to. Avoiding this piece of shit is a good idea. If you want nu metal (I know I don’t want it), just get an actual nu metal album. If you want melodic death metal, stick to early material of In Flames or give Frozen Realm’s self-titled EP a few spins.
(Before I begin; a redaction must be made. I no longer consider Sounds of a Playground Fading to be the worst In Flames album, merely the second worst. For reasons I shall get into, that crowning title now belongs to this release).
What is the meaning of life? What is our purpose on Earth? This may sound utterly hyperbolic but I really, honestly pondered this for several days after listening to this, and have come to one conclusion: If people make livelihoods out of producing albums like this, out of spending months writing, recording and producing things like this, with all the touring and admin alongside it... then life is worthless.
This is In Flames' 7th album, their second 'new' album, and the 3rd, most egregious of my 'unholy trinity of 2004'. Forget The End of Heartache (the 1st of the trinity), that has more balls than this. Forget Age of Winters, for boring and banal is still better than this. And yes, even forget They're Only Chasing Safety (the 2nd of the trinity), for that fully embraced its true emo self. I have said this about 2 albums now (the latter 2 of the ones I just listed), but let me promise you that this isn't merely an initial knee-jerk reaction to hipsters misappropriating metal or generic emo garbage. No, I fucking mean it this time. What we have here is THE WORST ALBUM I HAVE EVER LISTENED TO, PERIOD. I will never, ever back down from this statement, my fellow metalheads. And that is a promise.
Now, you may be saying to yourself 'Oh dear, here we go again. Napalm is going to tear some generic mainstream groove rock a new one' or 'Dude calm down. How could this possibly be that bad? It is just bad alt rock, that is all'. Understandable sentiments, but this album is everything, and I repeat, EVERYTHING I hate in my music. All the qualities I have complained about in the past, everything that drives me up the motherfucking wall, it is all here.
Firstly, there is the goddamn principle behind the style at work here. 'Selling out' doesn't irk me in the slightest, as long as the end product is good. I know why In Flames did it, and that is because Whoracle, Colony and Clayman are literally the same fucking album, stylistically. Reroute to Remain would have been a breath of fresh air, if not for the fact that it sucked major league balls by converting the heavy/power metal with harsh vocals of old into a really shit form of melodic groove metal with alt rock influences. Even then though, that album still contained sparks of the metal spirit, of conviction, of genuine inspiration. It may have sucked, but the fire was there. It was a clean evolution from the surprisingly electronically laced and commercially oriented Clayman.
Here though? They have completely whored themselves out artistically. They have taken the formula of Reroute to Remain and added the trends of the time to it. They took an admittedly original idea and bastardised it further, merging it with the 'industrial gothic nu 'metal'' of the day to form... this. This artless, gutless, soulless turd of an album. And then, because of course they did, they had the bare faced CHEEK to add in melodeath influences of old through a few more guitar lines and melodic riffing. The result is a sell-out of the worst variety. Taking an original idea, and trading in any and all inspiration, creativity and passion for radio time and selling out venues in record time, and then trying to do some sort of quarter-assed 'return to form' from a somewhat bold statement with an outer coating of 'classic influences', despite the fact that this is meant to be moving further away from their roots than the fragmented Reroute to Remain. They can't even stand by their decision to become mainstream staples, and insist on retaining those 'death metal influences'. FUCK this album, and FUCK THIS BAND.
And with that 600 word rant out of the way, let us actually talk about the music, huh?
So yeah, this is absolutely fucking terrible. Every last auditory facet of this sucks something unspeakably awful, so let us begin with addressing the most immediately offensive and concerning element of the lot. Anders. Dude. Do us all a favour will ya? Ready? Good.
STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM THIS BAND, ANY BAND, A STUDIO OR A MICROPHONE. JUST SHUT. THE FUCK. UP.
Seriously, Anders was never a good vocalist (in fact, he is legendary for sucking) but never have I heard such a pitiful performance from anyone with any relation to metal. He uses his now infamous 'fry screams', which for those that don't know, are like the whiniest, most high pitched of emo screams, only... the same. They are so utterly hideous and grating, and it is only exacerbated by another 'great' idea this band pioneered, which is sounding out harsh vocals as though they are cleans. Rather than turning them into indecipherable ranting, Anders holds the syllables of each word (perhaps so the kiddies can understand them and sing along at concerts) and further extends the auditory violation that listeners must suffer. In short, the vocals suck. Hard.
And that is before we even get to the instruments. As you may have guessed, they really are fucking shite. They are some of the most boring, emaciated and passionless instrumentals I have ever heard, and serve only to be noise, in order to sound 'extreme' and edgy. Either that, or they are a background drone for Anders to scream forth his declarations of teen angst (I will get back to those... ugh), or to prevent his voice from becoming to exposed and too grating for anyone to bare. The guitars merely shuffle and bumble along with repetitive 3 note grooves and one note nu 'metal' chugging, as well as occasionally throwing in a few melodic lines in an attempt to cling to the past (ugh... no. No more.), and little else. The drums and bass just follow the rhythm of the guitars - this just reeks of making noise for the sake of making noise. No inspiration, no atmosphere, no creativity, let’s just make some headbanging (or hardcore dancing, in the case of this) with zero conviction or intelligence.
And then we get to the songwriting. These songs go NOWHERE. They just enter and exit with zero justification or progression. Beginnings and endings are not pronounced in anyway. The 'riffs' are repeated over and over with no end in sight. Every song is structured the same, verse-chorus bullshit. Everyone just pounds away with little regard for the flow of the song or where they are going, and the end result is 12 pieced together identical eldritch abominations that go around in circles. This shit is so unfocused that any less focus would cause the album to play backwards. I know that makes no fucking sense, but neither does the existence of this turd.
The production is beyond abysmal. In fact, this is the worst production I have ever heard on a major (by metal standards) label, barring bullshit like Death Magnetic of course. Everything is electronically filtered and layered about 500,000 times in an attempt to inject some life into them through loudness. This can work, but it doesn't here. It sounds so fake, and the album itself sounds so unbelievably hollow and empty that you realise how little is actually going on here. The drums become obnoxiously loud and clamorous, the guitars sound about as processed, synthetic and powerless as is imaginable (and it doesn't help that they never break out of the formulaic tendency of chugging), and the bass sounds fucking ugly and overly loud, elbowing its way into the spotlight and drowning out everything else at times. When it doesn't do that though, the vocals take the spotlight, either in their unaltered form or (wait for it) in an ELECTRONICALLY LAYERED form! Isn't that just FUCKING wonderful? Make Anders' crappy screams sound artificial as well as shite, just like the rest of this album!
All of the musical traits of this album highlight several other issues I have here. For one, this is so unbelievably... empty. Not just sonically, but in how the album was constructed overall. No thought has gone into this at all. No time was spent copying and pasting everything and layering it. No time was spent constructing songs properly, or writing proper riffs, or doing anything RIGHT. It makes zero sense as to how fucking lazy this album is in its execution, honestly. It even sounds like they just don't give a shit - the example that stands out to me the most is at the beginning. The opening song 'F(r)iend' (blech), about 2 minutes in, goes into a change-up of sorts, where it speeds up. The problem is, the sped up part is barely any faster than the otherwise mid-tempo song. It just sounds like they can't even muster up the strength or conviction to pick up the pace. The creators of this had no sparks of creativity or passion for the material; this is now a 9 to 5 job for them, not a job and a hobby.
The issues of the production and the completely monotonous and one dimensional songs bring forth another overarching sentiment to the album - limpness. The album sounds 'ball-less' so to speak, where it can't put forth its messages of teen angst with any sort of conviction at all. I have nothing against sad / mopey music. I may not like it or listen to it, but if the band sound genuinely sad, enough to sincerely kill themselves, then THAT is balls. THAT is conviction. I get none of that from this album, the waves this thing gives off feel utterly manufactured in a grunge or emo sort of way. Whimpering and weak, and yet not really doing anything to declare the angst or sadness. No deep feelings to it, nothing strong, it is all inoffensive and bland. Take one look at song titles like 'The Quiet Place' or one sampling of the bullshit 'waaa I'm a sad suburban middle class kid, life is so tough' lyrics. Depressive rock/metal, this is not.
Then there is the overall toxicity of this album, musically speaking. This is responsible for legions of sappy modern metalcore bands, who all took the shitty harmonies of this and applied it to their retarded moshcore. Acts like Killswitch Engage and Shadows Fall worship at the altar of this, and those two bands in particular spawned about... ooh I don't know... 1436873896450702 clones? This album was responsible for that, the massive popularisation of the aforementioned 'gothic/industral nu 'metal'', observable in acts like Evanescence and their explosion in popularity, and that trend's clones. Obviously, this takes its influences from elsewhere, but there is a difference between laying down a few key concepts to an insidious trend (Black Sabbath used low tunings, so do nu 'metal' artists, ergo Sabbath influenced nu 'metal'... doesn't sound right does it?) and actually being that trend incarnated (Korn made the first nu 'metal' album, hence they influenced the genre as a whole... makes more sense doesn't it?). That is what makes this thing so bad. It may have not been the first, but this was the one that all future Korn worshipers turned to.
Finally, and perhaps worst of all, is just how conventional and uninventive this album is. It is slab after slab of uninventive mediocrity. It never aspires to be anything else. It isn't catchy, aggressive, atmospheric in any way; progressive, beautiful... it is nothing. This is manufactured music at its purest definition. This is LITERALLY music made as a product to be sold. There is no artistic vision, no message of any sort, no defying of conventions. It is safe and boring, and THAT is how integrity of an art form is weakened. Soulless, mediocre husks come in, through mass cloning and strong sales comes the label of 'the standard' and suddenly an entire sub section of a musical movement aspires to something with no aspirations, a dead end.
Now, I won't go the full Ultraboris and say that this killed heavy metal (because it didn't, that is giving it too much credit and metal never dies), but I will be DAMNED if this isn't a festering wound on our glorious genre. It is healing for sure, as few albums can possibly directly influence a genre for over a decade, especially when this hollow and non-profound. Even then, the disease remains. The viral corruption, the core of the core... is this.
Stay the fuck away.
I'm aware a lot of people don't like post 2000 In Flames. They sold out. They stopped using guitar harmonies. Too much keyboards usage. Anders' voice. Production criticism, metalcore/groove influence. It sounds like Korn....i've heard it all, i've seen the score here on Metal Archives and i'm still going to have to disagree with some of the grievances people have with this band and this album in particular.
This album was the first In Flames album i bought. I'd heard some earlier stuff and liked it so i bought the first new album i could, this one. I wasn't amazed by it, never have been, but there's a certain charm to this especially when you're unfamiliar with most of the band's previous output.
The problem with music fans is they don't like change. It's ok to like different styles but if a band moves from one to another then it's blasphemy. I'm not totally defending IF here, they undoubtedly changed to a more Americanised, accessible sound. Did they make more money from it? Yes. Do they sell more albums and tickets and live a more comfortable life now? Yes. Do they care if the comparably small melodic death fans hate them? Probably not.
i will agree there is too much keyboard use on here, i'd much rather have the famed guitar harmonies of old. This still has tasteful melodic soloing, but very little harmony use. As for influences of other genres, there's definitely other forces at play here yet this still sounds somewhat unique, not like the band blatantly ripping off someone else. Bass is thick sounding but uninteresting, drums are decent enough for this midpaced style. Anders sounds better on here than on Reroute to Remain, but he sounds like shit on that album. Not a great performance here but i can just about accept it. But no, he doesn't sound like bloody Korn!
As for the songs themselves, it's pretty hit and miss. 'F(r)iend' is ok. I hated 'The Quiet Place' on first listen but i suppose it's alright as far as commercial metal songs go. Second single 'Touch of Red' is pure rubbish though. 'My Sweet Shadow' is pretty good but i can see why people would hate it. Same goes for the token ballad 'Evil in a Closet' which has a nice melodic solo but will agitate fans of the old, harsher style. After that it's a straightforward pattern of bad song, decent song.
This album's major drawbacks are the songs all sounding very similar, awkward vocals, excessive keyboards, poor lyrics and stupid song titles. This makes it sound like a terrible album that deserves all the scorn it has received. Truth be told, i still enjoy an occasional listen to this. It isn't great, but it has just enough good songs to keep me listening, as well as reminding me of my younger days and my first forays into melodic death metal (i didn't know this wasn't melodeath at the time!) Fans of the old style should probably avoid this unless they happen to like modern American metal too.
In Flames is a phenomenon that I don't really understand. They are very popular and really get many reviews but most metal fans seem to profoundly dislike them since the late nineties or so. I really ask myself why frustrated and closed minded fans of the band's early days that don't stop bashing the so-called modern (a word that doesn't even mean a thing) approaches of the band, criticize the band got overall too commercial (what's the problem with being commercial) and flame the band's singer Anders Friden (if you don't like him you should simply try out one of many other melodic death metal bands). I have always wondered why people still spend time on this band and give so many wrong and negative impressions. If you like modern In Flames, you can't dislike this record. Anybody else shouldn't even try and look for something else. It's because of many negative opinions that I discovered the band only a few years back but I got positively surprised and discovered a very unique, diversified and experimental band that hasn't released any boring or closed minded material. "Soundtrack To Your Escape" is no exception to this and has many strong points. It's far from being among the band's best records but it's also far from being the worst effort as many would suggest. The record is a pretty good average album in a strong discography and it has a really addicting flow. You won't have any negative surprises on here as this album is one hundred percent in Flames and nothing else. I would understand if a fan would flame the somewhat transitional and sometimes pointless "Come Clarity", an early record like "Lunar Strain" that had a different singer or the last and more catchy and commercial "Sounds Of A Playground Fading" but there is really no reason to flame this album here. I really don't get the point and suggest the open minded metal fan to not believe the hype and try this album out if he or she wants to discover a solid In Flames record.
This record contains many energizing and catchy tracks that are potential hit singles. That doesn't mean that they are boring, they have in fact many subtle changes in style but the band has the talent to write really gripping choruses and catchy melodies and mix that with past and present influences. A good example is the single "The Quiet Place" that has some electronic and industrial influences but still the typically emotional and catchy vocals that made this band famous. The band made a good choice to put this out as a single. Another great song of this kind is the addicting "My Sweet Shadows". The catchy and harmonious "Superhero Of The Computer Age" that is a great song with a stupid title or the comparable "Bottled" which include some additional vocals and has an interesting melancholic gothic feeling could have also been some underground successes as singles and may have attracted a younger public which I don't mean negative at all. Those two songs contain everything In Flames stand for and add a unique contemporary gothic or industrial note to the sound. Purist fans could have found the choice of the faster and harder but still very emotional "Dead Alone" appealing or the typical melodic death killer "Dial 595-Escape" with energizing vocals, a fast rhythm and a melodic Iron Maiden worship guitar solo.
As you can read, there is a lot of diversity in the album and normally, there should at least be a few songs that might please to any fan of any age, background and attitude. The only negative aspect is maybe the fact that this record tries to be too wide spread and please to everyone. On the other side, a strange fact is that a few guitar riffs still seem to be used several times in the weaker middle part of the record and sound somewhat worn-out after a while.
Some may call this record a superficial commercial attempt but I it an interesting work of diversity where old and new In Flames collide and turn out to stick well together and be much more similar as one might think.
I would like to point out that there are also two very experimental tracks which I really adore on the album. The first one is "Evil In A Closet" which is a very atmospheric and relaxing half ballad. The second one is the underrated bonus track "Discover Me Like Emptiness" that you should check out. This track has an eerie atmosphere in the beginning and leads to many variations by showing all the different styles and inspirations one could discover in the entire record and that made In Flames what they are today. This song is a good choice to present this band to a friend who doesn't know much about the Swedish legends. If you can get your hands on the special edition you should really get it and spend some money for this great bonus track that should have made it on the album and could have even been a very good single choice.
In the end you should check this album out and don't trust all the negative rumours about it. There are many catchy tracks but also quite diversified and almost progressive ones. There are some calmer and atmospheric songs but also a few fast paced melodic death metal killers. There are some modern vibes but some traditional In Flames sounds around, too. I think that "Soundtrack To Your Escape" is nothing you must escape from and is a courageous and colourful potpourri of ideas. The only thing you need to appreciate this record is to have an open mind and some time to let the whole thing grow. In Flames have always developed and experimented while they were nevertheless faithful to their roots and trademarks since the earliest years. This album is no exception but a very good example for this. I like this addicting grower and I am sure there is much more potential in this as many want to see at first sight.
Rant I: Vent
This is the embodiment of fucking shit. I hate this album. At one point, it was a wet teenage dream of mine cause of the In Flames brand. Reroute To Remain introduced me to In Flames, but this was one of the albums that somehow quenched my metal thirst. Back in 2004, I didn’t know any better, and seven years later I don’t think I’ve improved as much as I should. Although I’ve changed, this album hasn’t, and it never will, because it loves being what it is. It loves feasting on the misplaced, misguided hatred of damaged youth. This album exists to convince kiddies that they don’t belong, but that it (meaning Soundtrack To Your Escape) understands. It did that to me, and now that I’ve long grown out of it, it looks for new life to latch onto, as it always will now that its existence cannot be completely erased.
Rant II: Chug
Soundtrack To Your Escape is stacked with a dozen tracks at the very least, and even when I liked this album it wasn’t something that was loved. It was something I didn’t come back to a lot because nothing stood out. Everything is loud, modern, polished, and insensibly executed, with a good mix between the instruments as to not bury anything like Reroute To Remain did. From one perspective, this album meets the standard by having all of the above traits, but from another viewpoint it’s a complete fuck up. It’s a complete fuck up to make an album have all the aforementioned and turn whatever songs here sound sterile, emotionless, boring, and stripped of any fervor.
Soundtrack To Your Escape wants to be aggressive – it is supposed to understand the angst of the kiddies with angst of its own, after all. Reality check – sounding loud doesn’t equal sounding aggressive. Take away that polished, modern production and you get some limp, ineffective chugging with ass-kissing bass support. Aside from the slight booms heard under the riffs and above the drumming, I don’t think the bass has any point being played. Not to rag on any other band that does the same to their bass lines (which is a lot of bands), but for an album with absolutely nothing to offer, it’s pathetic to see the band trying to shine poo with more poo. Aside from the chugfest and puerile melodic death riffs, the callous echoes of the drum snare sound like robotic bonks. Svensson, a man that should be known for his blistering drumming, ferocious vocals, and compelling songwriting, instead does lackluster fills and has his seat raised higher and higher after the money raked in from every album this band puts out. He has no motivation to try any harder than the music and band he’s playing for.
There are a few melodic death sections that fans of such would enjoy, but that’s a huge suspension of disbelief. It’d be pointless listing them, really, as the execution butchers any hint of gripping composition. The mechanized drum kit, the overweight blasting of the guitars, the glint of an industrial sound, and comatose atmosphere to top it off. Many of the riffs sound the same, even though they’re from different songs. Then again, if chugging goes on in every song, then of course the riffs will sound the same. There is no indication that Jesper Strömblad, the man that churned out power metal-inspired melodic death leads ten years before is the dude playing these static, toughguy riffs. The other credible member, Daniel Svensson, has been whittled down to a machine pumping out the exact same drum bass filler song after song.
Rant III: Anders
These vocals, for the level that In Flames were at the time and for the level that they’re at now, are horrifyingly bad. No, these vocals are so appallingly pathetic that it makes me feel uneasy that someone somewhere gets enjoyment out of them, as I had at one point. You got two general styles this dreadlock fuck uses: screaming and clean vocals. The screams drip with juvenile anxiety, even when layered or electronically altered; when electronically altered they’re irritating screeches. It’s a high scream that registers lower than most emo/post-hardcore screamo vocalists, as of course Anders’ voice isn’t meant for such singing. These screams are supposed to be the aggressive side of the band, but with each ghastly scream comes the whiny “eueueueueuegh” that gets hawked out Anders’ throat.
Gushing with that “eueueueeugh” on different levels of shittiness are the clean vocals. Layered, buried under the other instruments, or plainly sung on their own, the douche-chills I get when Anders’ sings with his whiny cleans are unmatched. It’s such an awkward feeling because you know something’s wrong with them. Off-key more than once, childish, faux-passionate, and mopey compared to the loud ruckus the instruments make. A lot of it is ball-less crooning / whining (ala Korn) like with “Discover Me Like Emptiness” and “My Sweet Shadow” (though the Korn comparison hits home harder on tracks like “Borders And Shadings”).
Rant IV: Dismissed
I can’t in good conscience give this album any respect. “My Sweet Shadow” may have a hint of poise, if only barely. However, knowing the objective and deception of this album, I may as well be Soundtrack To Your Escape’s prophet of falsehood if I give this album any mention of praise and a score to reflect such. Association with this piece of shit is a stain on anyone’s tastes, for such an album is devoid of worth and musical sophistication. Just looking at the artwork… the bland band logo and title, the four primary Listerine colors, and that useless… what is that, a subwoofer? Let such a tasteless cover indicate the emptiness of this album. You go in, you hear it, and you get nothing out of it. Soundtrack To Your Escape is fuck all except flaccid riffs and retarded singing backed by inconsequential dick-posturing for the teens and the bros.
I cannot honestly fathom how anyone can truly enjoy this from start to finish, I just can't. You can argue all day about Dark Tranquillity's overuse of electronics or At The Gates' and even Carcass' forays into a more Rock n'Roll-oriented territory, but you just know none of them sank this low. Man, what a grueling experiment in mediocrity this is. The first time I actually took time to listen to this in its whole run (45 minutes that I wholeheartedly wish I could get back) was in 2006 - just after the release of "Come Clarity" - and naturally, the thought of being trolled hard was the only thing that went through my mind as there was just NO WAY this was the same band that wrote “Colony” just five years before.
Was it really In Flames? Did I misread the name on the cover? Taking time to carefully read every information on my friend's CD and booklet (Yes, the only luck I had was that it wasn't mine, meaning no money from my pocket was spent on this embodiment of murder of credibility), I slowly but surely saw in horror that this WAS the same band that put out that cool album back in '99. What... The hell... Happened?
For starters, the production is the perfect antithesis of "Clear and powerful", being the worst these Swedes ever had. Dan Svensson's kit sounds like it was made from cheap plastic and a hollow, rotten kind of wood, being worse than Lars' tin cans on St.Anger. Also, there is a terribly irritating cymbal that pops out sometimes and sounds like a cowbell with loads of reverb. Bass drums sound like sand-filled cushions being punched and the snare is just this boxy thud that shows up after every cushion-punishing session. To distract you from the sonic madness, I recommend remembering Rocky Balboa’s punching routines (only really faster) every time Dan tries some double bass runs, as the sound produced from it is pretty much the same. Unfortunately, these moments are very few in numbers, so it is up to you to imagine something other than this in order to obtain any form of enjoyment from “Soundtrack to Your Escape”.
The guitar sound is, simply put, atrocious. It's a fuzzy, trebly ZZZZRRRZZZ that is highly annoying to anyone trying to pay attention to the (sparse) riff work, and is yet another sign of this band's identity crisis. Damn it, you're In Flames, you're usually known for your warm, thick guitar tone and now you're pulling this crap? Stop trying to terribly emulate Dismember and do your own thing for a change! This stuff is degrading. And please forget about the bass, as it is an over distorted (a problem which would surface yet again on their next release), barely inaudible noise that is more akin to studio feedback than an actual bass guitar. Embarrassing.
Awful vocal effects are used, such as this imbecile “voice coming out from a broken radio” modern stuff that screams “ALTERNATIVE” every time and gives me nausea.
And please don't get me started on the vocals themselves, I beg you. This is Friden's WORST PERFORMANCE EVER, bar none. Yes, it is worse than his metalcore-influenced barks and whiny singing on “Come Clarity”, and worse than the college rock Jonas-Brothers-gone-heavy bullshit he pulled on “A Sense of Purpose”. His screams are inhumanly hoarse, as if his throat was drier than the Sahara and still he insisted to put immense strain levels on his upper palate, coming out with these raw, gut-wrenching screams that seem to precede the complete splitting of the vocal chords. The ONLY part of the album on which he returns to his old hoarse midrange rasps lasts for about four seconds and is featured on "The Quiet Place", from 02:56 to 03:00, but sounds more like a discrete fade-out effect than an actual effort to emulate the times of old.
Oh, and there is actual growling too. Yep, the low grunting stuff is actually present on "F(r)iend" and on a couple of other tracks, by the use of the vocal layering technique. Yes, my friends, that came out as a complete surprise to yours truly, but it served to further cement my theory that Anders ACTUALLY CAN come up with powerful vocals, but just chooses not to! We've heard it on the chorus of "Resin" and on the live rendition of "F(r)iend" on their Used and Abused DVD. He probably just likes that whole "scream like a dying infant" stuff despite of it sounding like shit. But hey, can't blame the man for doing what he likes or whatever. Mystery solved.
I should probably mention the clean singing, but instead I invite you to read the other reviews on this page for further information, for I am sincerely tired of describing this badly done Jon Davis impersonation. It's not introspective, reflective or deep. It’s just crap. Lyrically, it is all that same “oh I’m so troubled and it hurts my heart” ennui, being just a tad less emo than the stuff featured on their next album. Anders was never an excellent lyricist, but he could show at least a modicum of good taste on his previous works, but here, the sheer pedestrianism is evident and impossible to hide. You just can’t save bullshit such as “I wish that I could say... I wish I could be your evil in a closet”, or “I like you better dead, I’m better off alone” or everyone’s favorite “I can be as angry as I want to be!” no matter how many silly metaphors and third-grade aphorisms you can stick into a song.
Also, notice how pretty much all songs have that “You and I” lyrical dead end that traps the listener into a boring mindset and allows few other interpretation options different from “Hey, here’s the lyricist fighting someone and getting all scared and pissed off again”. If this wasn’t made on purpose to target a specific (pre-pubescent, I’ll wager) audience, then I’m out of my freaking mind and this album has officially rendered me insane.
But the songwriting, my friends, is where STYE fails so bloody hard it becomes catastrophic. Riffs are mindless nu metal chuggers that go on and on and on with little to no progression, leads are reduced to dumb, effect-drenched noises that flow around like flies hovering rapidly around one’s ears, because shrill keyboards have stolen most of their space. Remember when this band used to know where to place keyboard lines? Forget about it. Oh, and by “keyboard lines”, I don’t mean “quiet, discrete arrangements”, but distracting techno stuff that shows the band trying so damn hard to be all modern and hip that is nauseating.
As for the songs themselves, “The Quiet Place” is really a techno song in a mallcore disguise, the first 30 seconds of “Dead Alone” sound like some heavily downtuned Blink 182 song and “Evil in a Closet” takes Metaphor’s prize for being the most asinine and idiotic ballad In Flames ever wrote. The rest of the tracks are pretty much interchangeable and go absolutely nowhere. It’s funny to see the band trying to fool us by putting a hard hitting but boring song like “F(r)iend” at the start of the album just to follow it with “The Quiet Place”, completely cocking the flow and momentum the first track tried so hard to build. Amateurish mistakes like that are abound here, unfortunately.
“In Search for I” goes all speedy and aggressive again only to cut the song’s momentum short once again when the chorus pops up. The band seems to be at a loss about what to do here, cranking everything they’ve ever done (except the acoustic stuff) into a song that is barely three minutes long and is a serious lesson in crazy, meandering songwriting. It goes quite fast, than it stops and crams stop-start riffing, layered screams, keyboards, a standard drumming pattern and a bastardized Iron Maiden lead into a convoluted mess of a chorus. Than this really simple solo that sounds more like a guitar warm-up appears out of nowhere… Anders whines some more… Another limp-wristed solo… Anders… Techno break… Final chorus AND the song is finally over, just in time to wake me up. Seriously, if you’re allergic to making sense, please don’t try to write music.
“Bottled” features abysmally shitty, whiny vocals and what is probably the most misplaced hook in history. Picture Pantera’s “Walk” being played, and instead of its usual chorus you’re greeted with the hook of Stratovarius’ “Eagleheart” and you’ll get an idea of how this is.
“My Sheet Shadow” has the only enjoyable part of the album, that being the last 56 seconds where you can hear only the catchy keyboard melody without being distracted by the robotic drumming, Friden’s horrid puking and the insipidly loud wall of sound created by the guitars. That’s a pretty good melody, actually. If Jesper had thought of it a couple of years before, it could have turned into a great song, maybe being featured on “Colony” or, pushing back even further, on “The Jester Race”. That would’ve been really neat, but no, we waste it here in this cesspool of musical vapidity. Thank you, In Flames. Again, notice how the band does its best to try to fool you by putting something similar to a non-boring riffset at the start of the song, but then, all of a sudden, you get keyboards, electronic beats and Friden’s cleans. Jesus Christ.
So that’s it, folks. In Flames’ worst moment is here. “Soundtrack to Your Escape” is an album devoid of any interesting riffs, guitar leads that were one of this band’s main selling points are pretty much nowhere to be found, Anders Friden has never sounded this bad and even Daniel Svensson – For many, the only good element in the band – seems to be going through the motions. Boasting an incredibly bad production job, a lack of thought-provoking lyrics, an overuse of misplaced electronics and the some of worst ideas being passed as songwriting, I believe this belongs in your trash bin, far away from “The Jester Race”, “Colony” of even “Clayman”. Stay the hell away from this and you’ll be fine. Thank you for your time.
Highlights: The last 56 seconds of “My Sweet Shadow” and the chorus of “F(r)iend”.
There was a sickness that rapidly began permeating the airwaves in the mid 2000s, flying under the banner of gothic/industrial metal, yet having a bit more in common with the bumbling nu-metal/mallcore tendencies of Korn and Deftones. Actually, both of said bands have been helping to propagate this odd notion of synthesizer driven industrial music with groovy, hypnotic chug riffs that are about as somniferous as a gallon of warm milk. There is no quicker way to get noticed by the snot nosed legions of the music video hipster crowd than a few good over-processed guitar groove riffs and a whinny vocal display with occasional hints at pseudo-tough guy shouting. And in much the same fashion as Machine Head did earlier in the decade, In Flames seems to have elected to jump on the bandwagon and beat the trend leaders at their own game.
“Soundtrack To Your Escape” is a really bad exercise in stylistic fence straddling that makes “Reroute To Remain” look good by comparison. While the same annoying combination of poorly realized pseudo-death screams and pretty boy emo clean singing is revolting the ears, the band has really decided to put the keyboards up in the mix and have come out with something that borderlines on rave music at times. Further compounding the issue is the band’s desire to give off some semblance of still being metal influenced, particularly in the vain of a somewhat diligent metalcore outfit, and have come up with something that is still somewhat complex and guitar happy, though not quite so much in the traditional melodic form of before. What really separates this from the usual drudgery heard out of today’s mainstream acts is that there are about 3 times as many groove riffs, but sadly quantity does not necessarily lead to quality, nor does complexity for that matter.
Ultimately, there are a couple of songs on here that seem to desire a more metallic audience, but otherwise the dimensions of this are a singular one where mid-tempo land and flat rhythmic chugging are the rule of the day. “In Search For I” remembers the speed that was there in the days of “Colony” and makes the most regular use of guitar harmony amidst the percussive tendencies of the song. There’s a few electronic sections where one almost feels like an Evanescence song sneaked into the play list with Friden’s bratty bellowing still blaring through the vocal tracks. “Superhero Of The Computer Rage” is also somewhat good in a semi-thrashing way, and keeps cooking fairly consistently. But apart from this an a few token fast sections littered in a few other songs, there is little reason to even fake at raising the horns, and probably a lot of reason to put black nail polish and eyeliner on while cursing the day you got your Y chromosome.
If nothing else, this is an album that ensures everyone that, contrary to the ponderings of a few wacky avant-garde philosophers, that contradictions can not exist in reality. A duck doesn’t become a guinea pig if you put a little fur coat on it, a cadaver doesn’t spring up to life from snake oil, and mallcore doesn’t sound good if it’s packed to the brim with more active guitar lines. No changing of the vocal guard would have saved this confused pile of commercial pandering, nor would increasing the number of guitar solos cure the inherent vapidity of the music supporting Anders’ depressed teeny bopper soliloquies. People like to joke about this being an album to escape from, but in reality it’s a failed attempt at escaping responsibility in putting out something worth listening to. My condolences to any and all die-hard fans of Gothenburg’s original sound who suffered through this.
Someone obliterated my last review of this album, and I can't say I'm self sacrificial enough to scrape my mind for aforestated details, so here's a brand spankin' new testament.
In Flames were among the fistful of acts introduced to me back when I was first breaking myself into the more extreme branches of the genre. Revisiting The Jester Race and Lunar Strain honestly don't hit strum the same chords they did back when I thought White Zombie was knee-bucklingly crushing (it's true, and I'm sorry), but overall, they were solid swedish melo-death albums with raspy, tense vocals and aggressive, almost Iron Maiden-esque melodies. A purty package.
Whoracle didn't really impress me however, and realizing how little I actually cared for the style, I jumped ship and lived a basically In Flames-free existence, pillaging lubeless booty in the name of all that is Porngrind and punching wankers in the throat for lumping Decapitated in with progedies of death metal
Plow forward about 4 years after my original review, and while my pirate-antiquated assholery has dissipated, my opinion of this album has basically remained unchanged. In Flames finally ditched the abhorrently flowery guitar tone after what, 4... 5 albums of diarretic insanity? What a fucking horrible decade its been. But anyway, while the material is by far the heaviest its been since Lunar Strain, it's also the most cock-rockin' and John Davis fellating metal I've heard since fail came to failtown. For some reason, I felt Reroute To Remain would be the puny plateau of faggotry that would tip the band back down the slope of quasi-proper metallicism. How wrong I was.
In a sense, this is your fault.
Everyone who accepted, nay, TOLERATED this band for their "experimentalism" and committed it to paper basically launched an arsenal of sunflowers seeds in hopes of shooing away the nu-metal pigeons. Fuck this poorly concieved metaphor, and fuck you!
The opening track is what threw myself (and many others) off upon first listen; F(r)iend is actually decent. Well, for what it is anyway: an aggressive, hoarse-throated, nu-approach to the classic Swedish death metal sound. Unfortunately, all momentum this track christened the album with is smeared away in a blaze of KY Jelly when the band's hit single, The Quiet Place kicks in and revs up the most fruity set of keyboard whistles I've heard since Europe sent the "cherokeeee, marchin' on the trail of te-yars". Anders patents the pop approach and sucks up to Kurt Cobain with a soft verse, hard chorus schematic, and single handedly sets off a reaming disinterest in me so great I threw away all of my Rottrevore albums in generalized disgust of everything in existence.
The next 10 tracks are basically identical to the aforementioned colostomy bag, and deliver dark, scathing lyrics like "I can be as angry as I want to be" and riffs heavier than a Wham!/Dead Or Alive collaborative supergroup. No lie. The only track that breaks free of this monotony is... hm. Y'know, I honestly can't remember whether it's track 6 or 7. Well whatever. The only real benefit of this album is the utterly hilarious video accompanying the track Touch Of Red. Holy living fuck, I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard. In Flames go rockstar, complete with a scantily woman carwash and the band wandering around in their brooding gangstah way. Oh man.
Avoid this piece of shit.
I've come to the conclusion that if Soundtrack To Your Escape were a movie, it would be a scat porn. It starts out promising, transforms into one of the most horrible experiences of your life, and still has a few good moments in between that make you wonder if you've been desensitized to the horror around you.
After the experimentation on Reroute To Remain, In Flames decided to do what nobody could have ever expected them to do, even after as diverse of an album as Reroute to Remain, they made a synth rock album! Granted, if this was Children of Bodom or Dark Tranquillity making this album then I wouldn't be as pissed, but this is In Flames and they don't even have a full time keyboardist. Hell, the keyboards are louder than the guitars in several parts of the album!
The first track, F(r)iend is a throwback to the old albums, but it only gets you to think that STYE is actually worth hearing before it degenerates into unlistenable garbage. Even the better tracks after F(r)iend are either too simplistic or filled with synths to the point that their session keyboardist is more responsible for their creation than the band itself.
The guitars aren't doing anything special. Jesper apparently forgot how to play guitar in the two years in between Reroute To Remain and this vile piece of trash. The synths (which aren't even a real part of the band) are playing infinitely more interesting parts than the guitars, which stick to simple riffs. And this was the band who wrote songs like Jotun and Bullet Ride, two songs that had some of the coolest riffs of all time. Jesper can obviously write some good riffs but he seems to have gone through severe writer's block when writing the songs.
Anders isn't performing much better than Jesper. His growls occur at the absolute most awkward times and are the same type of multilayered cookie monster grows that Glen Benton uses. The more common type of vocals performed would be Anders clean singing which often sounds like he's poorly impersonating Jonathan Davis while his voice cracks uncontrollably. When he isn't doing either he's either screaming or putting all sorts of studio effects and multitracking on his voice in order to cover up the fact that he sucks as he attempts to do things that he clearly couldn't do until very recently. Anders was never all that great but he is at least tolerable on their other albums. On STYE, he just comes across as totally untalented and sounds like he hasn't rehearsed any of this beforehand and just rushed his vocal performance like everybody but Daniel seems to have done.
Making matters worse, songs like Evil in a Closet go nowhere despite attempting to make the song diverse. When your songs don't seem to progress at all, they should be left on the cutting room floor. The lack of musical ideas is painfully apparent, but the band should have at least asked their label for some additional time to record a new album rather than rushing this out the door and hiring a session keyboardist to incorporate his ideas into the music. The real issue is that In Flames knew that after the success of Reroute to Remain, they could put their name on anything and it would sell a ton of copies.
It's not just the album that's bad either, it's the videos. This album spawned a total of 6 singles with a video made for each of them. The videos for F(r)iend, The Quiet Place, and My Sweet Shadow are well produced, but the other three are each horrible in their own way.
Like You Better dead is all CGI and just featured pictures of the band at certain points. It took as much effort from the band to make as the actual CD did, which is pitiful since this is one of the few (relatively) good tracks on the disc. It also featured a teddy bear being hunted down by a robot which is one of the dumbest concepts that I've ever heard of. The sad part is that it apparently had a pretty big budget for a music video.
Then there's the infamous Touch of Red video. For those of you who don't know, In Flames is a European metal band, yet they try to act like a bunch of American rappers in this video, which just comes across as more artificial than the song being played. Their constant "tough guy" mannerisms and attempts to appeal to the hip hop crowd make this video one of the dumbest marketing strategies ever devised and a part of me dies inside every time that I watch it.
Then there's the worst of the bunch, Borders and Shading. This has to be the worst music video that I've ever seen in my life. It's just the car wash/wet T-shirt scene from the Touch of Red video since there were apparently a bunch of unused takes that video that didn't make the cut. It's truly pitiful since it's just another means of In Flames cashing in on their name rather than actually putting any effort into creating an actual music video. The Borders and Shading video is what truly epitomizes the entire album as a whole because of it’s a half-assed production given to mindless fans that will swallow anything given to them just because it bears the In Flames name.
Soundtrack To Your Escape isn’t just the absolute worst album to have ever been made by In Flames, it’s one of the worst albums that I’ve ever heard in my life. If there's anything good to be said about it, it's that In Flames has never made an album this bad before or since.
Soundtrack To Your Escape is not an easy album to review. On one hand, I'm very tempted to try and defend the band from some of the quite vehement criticism of this material (especially from users on this site), but I don't want to give it props where it isn't deserved. So...
Soundtrack's certainly an interesting album to listen to, what you've got is a collection of songs that give off vastly different impressions. Opener F(r)iend begins with a sample that swells into an intense and dark metalcore riff, and quite frankly, it's fucking badass. The rest of the song doesn't quite match it, to be fair, but just the beginnings of these songs really show that In Flames have really been experimenting. You've got the aforementioned F(r)iend, poor nu metal riffs (Touch Of Red), quality melodic riffs (My Sweet Shadow) and even songs like Dead Alone, which sound a lot like a pop-punk band in the beginning.
The problem is, In Flames have always been a band with a set sound for each album, we had the pounding attack of Lunar Strain, the euphoric and soaring melodies of The Jester Race, so on so forth, but with this album and its predecessor Reroute To Remain, we have In Flames sort of flailing their hands around in the dark. While I admire their wish and lack of fear to experiment like this, they haven't really got anything solid to hold on to and make a quality album out of. As with Reroute To Remain, the memorability of the songs relies heavily on the chorus of each particular song, and honestly most of them succeed. Unfortunately quite a few of them do not really uphold the quality of the chorus, and only serve as a waiting period between those moments (this is especially evident on tracks such as Evil In A Closet). It's sad, but In Flames still know how to write an infectious melody, and if you give them the room most of these songs will find a way into your head at one point or another.
Now, time for me to lose some credibility with all of those who hate this album. I'm tempted to give this album a considerably higher score just because it contains My Sweet Shadow, which is an absolute masterpiece of a song, and one of In Flames' best, at least since Colony. The buzzsaw guitar sound the guitarists adopted for the album is really implemented properly here, where in other places it just grates on your nerves. Every part has a place and it all just comes together to form another massive milestone in In Flames' history.
Anders Friden is not the best vocalist in the world. Everybody knows that, but really I think the hate he receives from people is not deserved at all. His screams are perhaps something you need to get used to, but they work very well with the sound of the album, and his clean vocals have improved massively over time (just listen to him with Ceremonial Oath if you don't believe me). The texture of his voice is really quite unique and as always In Flames have done a good job of making the tones and sounds of the respective instruments work well together, even as they change over the years.
Speaking of change, the difference between the lyrics of this album and the words for songs like December Flower or Upon An Oaken Throne is just ridiculous. They are, quite honestly, pretty poor. There are a few pretty coherent songs but there's so many pathetic little lines that can actually just distract you from any merit the music behind them might earn. Just a few examples of these lines:
"Drown the monster, make all bad dreams go away"
"I can be as angry as I want to be"
"The I is lost in me
But I'm ready to give you
The m, it might even be the e
As I begin to search for I"
Deep stuff there, Anders. Generally though, the songs make sense, and while they're not all that original, they function perfectly well, it's just a shame when lines like those mentioned above become too audible to the listener and can't be ignored.
Just as a note, as with all his In Flames albums, Daniel Svensson's drumming performances just keep getting better and better. He single-handedly makes songs like Dead Alone worth listening to. An excellent job from him, as always.
Soundtrack To Your Escape is indeed an interesting album to listen to, as it seems to be a very mediocre album patched up in a fair few places with absolutely top quality music. It's all about whether or not those moments (the main riff of The Quiet Place) are frequent enough to outweigh all of the throwaway moments (the verses immediately afterwards). I'd say that they just about do, so if you didn't mind Reroute To Remain, I'd still give this one a try. However, it is still the worst In Flames album.
Soundtrack To Your Escape. The name has inspired many to sarcastically refer to it as "The Soundtrack To Escape From". Justified? Not in my opinion.
This album is a huge disappointment for many longtime In Flames fans. Many have complained that the guitars are not as melodic as they are on such classic masterpieces as Whoracle or Lunar Strain. But this, in my opinion, is made up for by the heavy use of synths. I'm know that many people "hardcore metal fans" considers synth-using a sin, but I really enjoy it. Oh well onto the review.
The opening of the first track, F(r)iend, is very surpring (as is the song title). All other In Flames albums have either started with a slow melodic intro (i.e. Reroute to Remain and Subterranean) or a heavy, fast kick in the face (i.e. Clayman and Lunar Strain). This one starts off with a whisped from distorted female voice. This leaves you stunned and not quite ready for when the kick hits your eardrums. When you have recovered from the shock you can hear a blur of heavy guitars and screamed vocals by Anders. This album is according to me Anders strongest performance in In Flames. He mixes the harsh and the clean vocals really well (unlike the quite boring vocals, ordinary-sounding vocals of the previous album, Reroute to Remain). The guitars on the other hand are far from as good as they have been but this, as previously stated, is not a very big problem due to the fact that the synths compliment the guitars, which upon casual listening could make it seem like there isn't much missing. While I do prefer the "old In Flames" (i am obsessed with Lunar Strain, Subterranean and The Jester Race right now) this is also very good.
And now for the drums; Daniel is a good, if quite standard-sounding drummer. This may be one of his best performances. The only thing wrong with the drums on this album is the sound of them. The producer can't have focused much on the drums, just adding some random effect which makes them sound like Daniel was hitting his hands against various tables and chairs instead of drums, because he was too busy taking care of the vocals and the synths.
The second song on the album, The Quiet Place, was released as lead single from the album. The song starts of with an extreme attack of synths which will chase a lot of metal heads out of the city it's being played in but if your willpower is strong enough to stay in the room until the intro ends you will find a very good song. The vocals during the verses reminds me a bit of Jonathan Davies (which is at all that bad in my opinion) but not too much. The chorus is nice and screamy. Dead Alone is pretty much the same, but faster and with more harsh vocals. The vocals during the chorus are pretty confusing with Anders varying between screaming and hypnotic effect-laden clean vocals.
Song number six My Sweet Shadow seems to be the most generally accepted song on this album. This is due to the almost-classic-In-Flmas-sounding riff in the beginning. About 40-45 seconds in the song calms down and Anders is front and center with some synths behind him. Then comes the chorus which, with a little modification could easily fit on Whoracle. Then another verse, then another chorus, then a bridge, then another chorus. Many people consider this song structure, which applies to almost the whole album, as something bad. I personally dont care in the slightest how the songs i listen to are built up but i guess thats up to each person to decide what they think. Another point of usual complains is the lack of solos. There are a few of them but they generally dont last more than a few seconds. Again, this is not a problem for me; if a song is good a solo wont make it better, if a song is bad a solo wont make it better. My Sweet Shadow ends with a synth playing a repetative melody for about a minute which works very well when they play it live as the last song but in the middle of an album it just gets boring.
The next song Evil In a Closet is the album's "ballad". Next comes In Search For I, which rivals F(r)iend in heaviness. After that headbang-fest comes the midpaced, made-to-be-uncomfortable-sounding Borders And Shading with its disturbing, bizarre lyrics.
The last song, Bottled, is a VERY inappropriate way to end an album. It just ends leaving you to feel like there should be another track after that. Which on some versions there is; the bonus track Discover Me Like Emptiness is a much better last track than Bottled in every way. It is a bit slower (though not a ballad) which I really like album-enders to be and also a bit emotional (which Bottled definitely was not. It's pretty much just boring).
This is In Flames' seventh album, and it's without a doubt among the most hated albums in all of metal.
Hell, this has an average 8% below Metallica's disgusting St.Anger right here on the Metal-Archives. I want to state right here that the hate that this album gets is vastly undeserved, since it's still metal, and it's very far from bullshit like Korn and Linkin Park, the mallcore/nu-metal bands that most reviewers compare Soundtrack To Your Escape (STYE) to.
The opening track, F(r)iend stats off quite well with some whispered female electronic vocals and a nice little riff. Good drumming too. Anders' opening vocals are allright...a few seconds later though they get annoying. Then the chorus starts. Anders screams Fiend over and over in a way that's so fucking shitty and irritating that it makes every other In Flames song ever done seem like the best ever. This is their worst song ever. It drags the rest of the album down so much I wouldn't be surprised that, without it, the average ratings by everyone would go up 20%. At least. Skip it or die.
The rest of the album is fortunately much, much better. The Quiet Place and Touch of Red are the supposedly "popular" tracks on here, as they've been chosen as the two singles and music videos. I'll be reviewing the clips too since I have the slipcase version with a DVD including the two clips. The Quiet Place is quite a strong track, it should have been the opener, there's no doubt about that. It's clip is actually very well done, especially the part that accompanies the opening riff, shaking the camera and making it seem generally quite heavy. The other single is Touch of Red, which is again quite a strong song, although not as good as The Quiet Place. My problem with this one is the clip. In Flames, you're fucking Swedish. That means, Anders, that you don't go around with a Hummer in Los Angeles, getting your car cleaned by a bunch of American girls with wet white shirts while while the rest of the band pretend to be Orange County bikers with their Harley's. And the Pitbull/Ipod scenes really, really make this seem like the most mallcore song ever. Could be a clip for a Tampa Death Metal band or maybe some retarded rappers, but In Flames...
The rest of the album is in my opinion quite good. Many songs really sound similar to each other to the limit of being considered filler, but even there they sound good. Nice riffs in most places, with some added electronic effects which really seem to make many metalheads shit themselves. Lyrically we're dealing with the standard In Flames crap about mostly psychotic stuff. Better avoid focusing on the lyrical content of this one.
So I say that this album is vastly underrated and the hate it receives is undeserved. However, even though I like it more than 90% of people out there I can't help but state that it's undoubtedly their worst full-length ever. The songs tend to blend in with each other, especially after Evil In A Closet.
The highlights on here include The Quiet Place, the aforementioned Evil In a Closet for sounding very light while he's screaming like a moron (in a good way) and My Sweet Shadow. This loses points because of the bland lyrics, the lack of originality and variation with many songs and especially the opener F(r)iend, the worst song ever done by this band. This doesn't deserve neither the hate it receives nor a rating above 79%. I just can't give this 80 or above. Approach this with an open mind.
This is the first In Flames CD I picked up, I wanted to hear what they sounded like. At first, I liked it, but as soon as I found Colony… I started seeing the Played Last on WinAMP being listed in the previous year for most of the album (My Sweet Shadow being an exception)
Compared to their older material, this doesn’t hold a candle to those flames. However, I like this a bit better than Reroute To Remain, but only because of a few characteristics that have improved upon on this album.
One thing that is noticeable right away is the use of electronics, samples, effects, and all sorts of shit. I wasn’t brought up into metal right away, a lot of the music I listened to years ago included techno and alternative, so this doesn’t sound completely horrible to my ears. It doesn’t strike me as a way to make extremely good music though. The huge mass of electronics add an atmosphere that, well, makes this album sound electronic. On some songs, they don’t do much at all however.
The guitars are played in a way that is supposed to compliment the electronic effects. They are not always the lead instruments on this album. However, the distortion doesn’t kill the guitars (much). They still sound somewhat in your face; they aren’t watered down to the point where the balls are cut off, rather they are only shrunk. There are still some acoustic (albeit acoustic-electric) breaks, however they are also complimented by atmospheric electronics.
It seems that one thing In Flames wanted to accomplish with this album is to do something original. They have somewhat accomplished that, as there’s no Maiden worship here. Do they do that well? Not really. The songs aren’t put together that well, and while I used to love this album, most grew old really fast, and I tend to wait a long time before listening to them again.
As for the bass, I can’t hear any. There is so much distortion in the guitars, effects in Anders’ voice, electronics in the background and shit that the bass doesn’t come through in the mix at all.
And the drums, they are horrible, they are watered down and don’t always keep up with the songs themselves. They sound overdubbed, the bass drum and snare sound like plastic, they sound fake.
The hightlights are My Sweet Shadow, Superheroes of the Computer Rage, and Dial 595 Escape. This album had some potential, if they put in more solos and actual lead work, worked on improving the sound of their drums, and cut down on the effects, they might’ve had a much better album. But then again, that’s a lot to cut out.
It's understandable why fans of older In Flames material would become disenfranchised with them after the release of Soundtrack to Your Escape. Every band has a "fluke" in sound somewhere in their discography, especially when they have a career as long as In Flames'. Everyone just assumed that the odd disc out was Reroute to Remain. As it turns out this wasn't the case. In Flames seems to enjoy the direction they are moving with that album and Soundtrack to Your Escape continues in that vain.
The album on a whole is more aggressive this time around but still incorporates melodic synth lines and some gothic toned vocals. The music itself is presented as fairly simple but after seeing some of the material live it goes over remarkable well on stage. So there is some depth to the album that is hidden out of listeners range.
The guitar work is in that ideology of simple and aggressive. That heavier riffs and simplified melodies can make an album a bit more aggressive. Some fans may argue with this, but the album does seem a lot more aggressive. There is still technicality in the guitar work but with In Flames' new guitar tones and rougher overall sound, that technicality can be lost in the distortion. The leads still have that Iron Maiden inspiration but that has been massively toned down too. The crunch of the guitar work has really moved the band away from their melodic death metal moniker. The solos are still well written and performed and will always be a reason I listen to In Flames. The solos are a little more varied on the album which leads to some very lack luster ones and others that sound like they could have come straight off of The Jester Race. Another aspect of the guitars that is different on this album is the stop and go chunks that they incorporate. Many songs have a "nu metal" vibe because of the stop and go guitar writing. It's not a constant on the album but it does appear often.
The bass work is a big part of Soundtrack to Your Escape. With an increased focus on rhythm and aggression the bass work has taken a new meaning. Unfortunately, this means the bass lines have also been simplified from before. They follow the guitars more often and don't blaze their own trails. The bass is mixed more distinctly for that modern sound but in the end the bass is actually not as good because of its relevance.
The drums haven't changed that much over the years. They have moved further and further away from a death metal sound and towards a technical and varied tone. There are still various killer double bass kicks and blasts on this album but it is once in a blue moon. The drums really are the boundaries for the music and keep it in a linear fashion. I would be tempted to claim that the drums on this album are overall a better way for Svensson to show his drumming abilities. Definitely one of the best performances he has given.
The vocals are the biggest complaint for Soundtrack to Your Escape. I personally don't have a big problem with Anders "new" vocal style but some people seem to really dislike them. Anders has never been a great vocalist. His vocals, for me, have been sliding downhill since Whoracle so when he did decide to add a new layer I didn't think it could be that bad. He continues from where he left off on Reroute to Remain and incorporates two different styles. The harsh yelling he does (calling them death vocals is a stretch for me) and his baritone, gothic toned singing. This album layers these two over each other quite often with either the yelling or singing in the forefront and the other as a backing vocal. He does quick vocal changes on the album quite off in the middle of songs so don't expect one song to be one style and the next song to be different.
The continuation of the use of keys on the album is where most of the melody is born. Although I'm pretty sure that the key board parts are really just guitars with distortion at times, the keys do add a new layer that I enjoy. The synth lines can be a little annoying at times but overall they do add some melody on an album where the guitars aren't focused on leads any more.
The lyrics have once again moved away from astronomy and fantasy and moved towards a personal and societal aspect. This is truly where Anders Friden shines. His lyrics are those clever lyrics that have multiple meanings and are dark in nature. I do enjoy the lyrics to this album very much and they are what really keep me coming back to listen. When I found out that the song, F(r)iend, is about Dark Tranquillity I was shocked. Just another layer to the lyrics that I didn't catch at first.
Overall this album is quite catchy. If you are an old In Flames fan who enjoys their older material - you will not enjoy this album. I for one try to keep an open mind when listening to music and found that this album does have much to appreciate when you are willing to look for it. There are definitely flaws abound on the album but its not as bad as most people claim.
Songs to check out: F(r)iend, My Sweet Shadow, Borders and Shading.
Reading the reviews here, I've never seen something so widely hated. Hell, even St.Anger is more popular then this album. I was expecting this to be crap, but seeing it in a shop, I thought "Oh What the hell..." and bought it. While It was a waste of money, I'm not going to run back to return my copy. It's only slightly worse then the other IF albums out there.
It's a interesting change for IF, this album, because while it doesn't have their great melodic riffs (the only thing the band had going for it) there's a bit of experimentation, some interesting ideas once in a while. I thought the drums are probably better then in most of the previous albums. They sound fuller and are a bit more up-front, giving this album a bit of momentum in some places.
Anders' vocals are generally loathed in this album, and that's definetly fair enough. His shouted vocals have got progressively worse as the albums go on. They where mediocre in the Jester Race, but now they're just plain horrible. The fairly lame lyrics don't really add much either. But.. And call me crazy for saying this, but I really don't mind his singing vocals. In Dead Alone is a good example of what I talking about. The screaming ruins the verses, but his mumbled, strange voice in the chorus adds something to it. I'm not quite sure If it makes it better.. But it does make it interesting, so I'll give em a few extra points on that.
Well, the drums and the vocals are better then most other IF releases.. so why only 50%? Because the guitars are very very bad indeed. In my humble opinion, the IF sound reached it's peak around Whoracle, and since then the guitars have slowly got worse. There's a few good riffs, like the fairly good opener F(r)iend (Best title ever!) and In Search For I, but for the most part, they're mind-numbingly repetitive, and very boring, nto headbangable, just.. nothing. I would go on about how every chorus sounds EXACTLY the same, but there's not really much point, because all the other reviewers have mentioned it.
So from an artistic point of view, I don't think this is a bad release. The vocals are "Interesting", adding a unique bent with the strange, dementia-riddled mumbling, the synths, while for the most part cheesy, complement the songs well in some parts (the Dead Alone chorus being the best example). I think IF really tried something different on this album, and while it's indeed fairly different, it's also fairly bad, in the fact that the guitars really don't play that many good riffs. SInce the Guitars are the IF focal point, if they where good, this album might get a 70% from me. But instead, they're fairly awful, with a huuuge amount of crappy riffs springy up to surprise. While I wouldn't tell you all to avoid this album like the plague, I wouldn't suggest buying it, unless if you want to round off your IF collection. New fans should check out Whoracle or Jester Race.
I won't be so hard on In Flames for taking their obviously nu-metal route because at least they've done it in a natural fashion while still incorporating tiny bits of their incredible old sound into it. If you liked Reroute to Remain, you will probably like Soundtrack to Your Escape, however it is definately not as good musicwise.
With each progressive album, In Flames slowly went this more mainstream direction bit by bit. From Lunar Strain to Jester Race to Whoracle to Colony to Clayman to Reroute to this. It is simply impossible to tell that this is the same folk-inspired band that created Lunar Strain. It's quite sad because the band is fully capable of putting out such masterpieces yet chooses not to do so, rather favoring a Slipknotish route. Only traces of the band's talent are left amidst the repetitive songs displayed on Soundtrack to Your Escape. Unfortunately there is absolutely no turning back for In Flames at this point. They are a completely different band than they were and have taken a permanent change in their sound.
The album begins with the really clever title "F(r)iend." It is a pretty good beginning for the song but doesn't do much to keep your attention. The formula is the generic verse-chorus-verse-chorus etc. formula, similar to a pop song. A lot of people have criticized Anders' scream vocals but I personally think they are better than ever on this album. What really flaws his performance is his newly found nu-metal mumbling/"clean vocals," which are openly shown on the second track "The Quiet Place." The song sounds like a heavier form of Linkin Park without the rapping. I'll have to admit that it is a catchy and addictive song, but nonetheless it is not "good" in the true sense of the word. The musicianship is gone, the vocals are whiney, and the songwriting is embarassing compared to Jester Race. The rest of the album continues in a repetitive fashion filled with whiney/clean vocals and lots of similar riffs. Also, Daniel's drumming is laoded with snare that rivals the repition of Lars Ulrich. Fortunately, however, In Flames have the sense to incorporate at least a teensy bit of their old talent into this new sound that is shown on songs such as "My Sweet Shadow," which has a terrific intro, and "Superhero of the Computer Age," which is actually a pretty good song that might even fit on Colony. In Flames still could be writing great albums, but they just seem to choose to write music that will get them more cash.
The production isn't bad and everything sounds good, more polished than Reroute to Remain. Nothing special yet nothing to bad either, so therefore I can't complain. Unfortunately the production doesn't cover up the lack of ability displayed on Soundtrack to Your Escape.
To put it all in a nutshell, In Flames have changed for the worse in the eyes of most of their old fans. If you listen to the old stuff and then to this, it seems like two completely different bands from two very different genres that have nothing to do with each other. So, if you don't like this new In Flames, just leave them be and let them make money. Whining about how they turned soft will not do anything but inspire Anders to write more lyrics like "The Quiet Place." I've been a big fan of In Flames for a long time and hearing this is a bit of a disappointment but anyway, there are hundreds of other bands to take In Flames' spot for what they used to do. And hey, In Flames' "progression" is definately not as bad as what Soilwork is doing.
Having been a moderate fan of In Flames, I was looking forward to this when I heard the band say that this was their heaviest material yet. I should have known better, because no band will ever say that they're going to shit when they know it's true. This album is a complete joke. No ifs ands or buts about it. This just sucks.
From past albums we know In Flames are able musicians and can make good music, but this is a cop out. What the Hell happened to the harmonized guitars, the solos, the grunts, screams, and most of all, the metal spirit? This album sounds like it's trying to be Slipknot, Mudvayne, and Linkin Park at the same time. Anders' voice sucks now, he doesn't growl or scream, or write good lyrics anymore. There are times he'll try to sound like he's in a hardcore band, by doing a sub par scream and then quickly going to soft and whiney vocals.
Björn and Jesper don't do anything fast or melodic anymore, and Daniel is just boring on the kit. They just play repetitive and weak chunk riffs over and over again, occasionally throwing in a little hint of melody, but not nearly enough to make this album sing! Oh, and the bass...wait, there is no bass, it's hidden underneath the heaps of bullshit known as the guitar riffs, drumming, and singing. Something I never would have expected on this album was the semi-techno sound that In Flames are trying to incorporate into their music. Hell-fucking-o, even little bits of techno don't even mix well with any other kind of music, what makes you think it'll mix well with this subservient shit?
I'll admit, there are a few interesting guitar riffs scattered around the CD. For instance, the first fifteen seconds of "My Sweet Shadow," starts off sounding like they could possibly pull out into an okay melo-death song. After those fifteen seconds, it falls apart to ruin any little bit of metal that is even left in this CD, much less the band. I'm all for trying something new with a band, as long as they can make it sound GOOD; and any ruminants of good sound left the CD when...oh wait, it never did sound good to begin with.
This album is a complete disgrace and should be avoided at all cost.
Forgive me father, because I had sinned.
I actually, in a not so far away past, downloaded some stuff by Korn, and I actually listened to it and said "it's not so shitty". But on my redemtion's count I must say that the files rotten in my harddrive until I deleted them when they didn't pass the "if I don't listen it in two months, and I'm not in the mood of listening when doing the test, goes to the garbage can".
But my sin is that I can tolerate nu metal. That's why when I'm not having in mind what In Flames was, I can somewhat enjoy (or bear, or stand, or listen, or... like?) this. In fact it goes better if you just try to forget anything about In Flames' history (except when you look at the last album, maybe, as this one could be in some ways a consequence of the use of the informatic technologies to that one: Select all, copy files, paste files, rename files, and them edit them a bit). So I'll try to make this review from that memory-less point of view because as it isn't fair to tear down a band for the mistakes on it's past, it also isn't fair to bash a band for the splendour of its gone past.
So going to the music by itself, the guitars sounds kind of dirty, thing that I actually can enjoy even when this use to be a bad way to add weight to forceless guitars. But I can stand dirty guitars as I can stand dirty sex: Not for all the nights, but hey, sometimes it's funny. About the guitars, if this were that unknown band I'm supossing it is, I wouldn't think that it holds two guitar players, because the rythms are all but complicated, and they don't lose too much time making leads beautiful or complicated. I mean, what's the sense of having two guitars if they are all the time doing the same? I remember that a band that I miss the track long time ago released an album called Colony and there one could find even four guitar tracks at some times, two for the rythmic guitar and two for the leading one. I also would like to hear some good solo here and there as I would think that this music would go better with them. But maybe this guitarplayer I don't know isn't a fast one or isn't good finding good solos, who knows.
About the drums, they are for me the biggest dissapointment of this album. I don't know if the drummer is recovering from a recent lobotomy or had received drumming lessons by Lars Ulrich, but he sounds like if he only have one leg, most of the times, and problems when moving fast the arms. I bet that even me (EVEN ME!) could think better things to do with a drumkit.
The bass must be somewhere, missed down between the guitars and the noise they add to them. It can be felt somewhere in the back, underlining at times another rythm melody that one guitar should follow, but other times it just lazily flows with the guitars on their monochord run.
And let's face the voice of this guy, Anders Whatever (same name of that guy, Friden). I don't use to have problems with people's voices as long as they aren't Rob Halford's wannabes, with very thight underpants helping their voices go thinner, but well, this guy use to have a strange like to a somewhat disturbing way of singing. At times he uses his clean voice, that speaking politely isn't specially beautiful, and at times he screams with a harsh voice, that sounds high-pitched for me, to be a growl, and that is something that I don't specially like.
About the songs, well, some of them (The Quiet Place, for example, even when, incredible, it holds a melody on one guitar!, or Evil in a Closet, even when it briefly holds some acoustical guitars that reminds to old In Flames --yeah, that good sweddish band that dissapeared time ago-- songs, from 0'46'' to 1'08'': over twenty seconds, uau) ask screaming for the next track button to be compulsively pressed, but some others have a hidden good riff here and there. I could be writting similar words, I guess, from the first Korn album.
So forgive me, but even being a sin if we remind what In Flames was, I don't specially dislike this album, and I tolerate it, and somewhat I even like it. The biggest problem I see with it is that there are thousand of bands that I prefer to listen, better than this, so I think it won't pass the next "if I don't listen it in two months, and I'm not in the mood of listening when doing the test, goes to the garbage can" test, wich makes of this an album condemned to hold dust over it and to be forgotten in a dark place.
As with the single the Quiet Place, this album ended up as a total disappointment. Perhaps not as terrible as The Quiet Place, but still comes off as quite uninspired and dare I say an intentional commercial effort. Absolutely void of memorable guitar melodies or even the tight rhythm guitar that worked so well up to parts of Reroute To Remain. Even Anders vocals sound much worse and I was never fond of them in the first place at all. If they are going to change their sound entirely why turn into this into a generic bottom of the barrel band with all this synth work(WTF?). I happen to love synthesizers and keyboards too add atmosphere but In Flames are without a doubt the worst I've ever heard at using these. They should have taken a hint from Soilwork's material and made that atmosphere EXTREMELY MINIMAL at most. It is beyond me why they dont just change their name and not disgrace the legend of In Flames. To sell more albums? Best of luck when your name is dragged in the mud by all the older In Flames fans.
One thing I find upon listening to these tracks is that perhaps In Flames tried too hard too incorporate watered down elements of their older music with this new fascination of making bland music. F(r)iend is a very good example of this. They just don't have it anymore so why bother even trying to half-ass it? It just sounds horrible. If you are going to sellout, go for the gold and just completely re-engineer your sound into a top 15 hit too accessible electro shit (ala Theatre of Tragedy). As much as I hate this album, I cannot say this each piece is entirely horrific. It had a few interesting riffs here and there so if they put some decent leads in, less repetition and tinker with the choruses they might have had a relatively acceptible song structure for starters. Very few decent riffs and barely acceptable rock(not metal) solo's is all this album contained. It doesnt help when every chorus sounds the same either. I wouldnt recommend this album at all. In fact, I wouldnt even recommending CD burning it.
I was willing to let Reroute to Remain slide. "It's just an experimentation," I thought. Expanding horizons. It's no Whoracle, but I'll manage.
This, however, is purely inexcusable. At first, I didn't mind it. However, as the tracks play on... Jon Davis enters my mind. Ew. Korn similarities? What the hell happened here?
For one, it seems Bjorn and Jesper forgot what a fucking guitar lead was! The harmonies of yore are long gone, replaced by rather montone chugging riffs (cum-chugging, of course). Anders really wasn't much of a screamer, but his feeble attemptsto mix clean vocals and his usual hardcore mockery necessitate his assassination (all the virgins in heaven to whomever kills him first!). There's a few interesting drum patterns scattered about, but for the most part, Daniel's excellent double bass skilled are nauseatingly underutilized. There is also an abundance of keyboard usage on this record, which just gets downright bloody annoying.
In Flames are the band that got me into Gothenburg; indeed, the band that really got me into metal. While Lunar Strain, Jester Race, and Whoracle shall be forever classics, I believe this album signifies the end for this once mighty group. Drop your axes, gentlemen, and move on, for it is now your career that is up in flames.