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Lingering declension - 18%

Lissart, November 24th, 2016

Every metalhead who has a bit of knowledge about what In Flames have done since the beginning of the new millennium can easily predict what this album is like. Although die hard In Flames fans still hope for a return to good old days, this seems unlikely. After the heart of the band (guitarist Jesper Strömblad) left in 2010, Swedish band delved into alternative metal territory with their 2011's album Sounds of a Playground Fading. The once innovative melodeath band used to be one of my personal favourites; unfortunately, the decline of a once great band is becoming clearer with each release. The newest output by Swedish band is nothing more than a continuation of a path the band took with two preceding releases.

Starting off with Drained, a listener can found himself really surprised as the album opener differs from what In Flames accustomed us to. The song begins with a bleak melody, then whispering vocals come in. However, this is the only innovation I found in the opener; the rest of the song is a typical post-2000 In Flames song with a simple verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus structure. The chorus is weak and uninspired, during the verses a listener can have an impression of listening to a screamo band.

The opener is followed by perhaps the most known song on the album, a track called The End. It was released as a lead single prior to the album's release and received fairly lauding responses, it was even compared to older In Flames material due to its opening guitar riff. The song itself also marks an innovation in the new In Flames approach - appearance of children choir.

The band incorporated even greater usage of electronics than they did on previous albums, it's especially noticeable on the album's second single, The Truth. The track is probably the most radio friendly song In Flames have ever produced, with the prevalent presence of children choir in the chorus.

Halfway through the album, a listener can feel a bit weary of all these flowery choruses and impeccable song production. That's it, my friends - every song on the album is structured in the same way I mentioned at the beginning of my review, a verse followed by a chorus. This is what they have been doing since 2002. In Flames obviously aren't the most creative band around, huh?

Everyone wants In Flames to come back to their pre-Reroute to Remain sound, yet they firmly cling to their recent musical approach. With every album the expectations are growing - and in the end we get an album like Battles. On one hand it's laudable to do something irrespectively of the others, everyone has a right to pursue one's own ways but on the other hand - the way In Flames took is an easy way, a way of radio airplay and MTV auditions.

The separate paragraph should be devoted to vocals. Anders Fridén is a substantial element of the album, similarly as on Siren Charms and Sounds of a Playground Fading, his vocals fluctuate between agonising screams and nasal clean vocals. However, one can easily notice the presence of harsh vocals has decreased considerably in comparison to their earlier releases. Fridén's vocal lines are often cheesy along with his lyrics.

"I'm taking more than I can give
Is this the life I wanna live?" he sings on Underneath My Skin and it leaves me wondering whether I'm listening to a metal band or some kind of a pop-punk group.

To sum up, the band's twelfth studio album is almost a twin brother of 2014's Siren Charms, however, the latter was performed in a more aggressive approach. After comparing those two releases I can come up with a conclusion that Battles is a slightly worse album than its predecessor and probably the worst output of the band in their entire career. There are little to no redeeming features here. I'd rather be listening to The Jester Race instead.

Favourite (actually decent) tracks: The End, Like Sand, Wallflower

Least favourite tracks: The Truth, In My Room, Before I Fall, Drained