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Disjointed and obscured remains. - 43%

hells_unicorn, February 13th, 2011

This is a challenging album, and definitely not so in the most obvious of ways. Some albums are challenging to like, some are challenging to understand, and some are even challenging to hate if society deems it garbage and a few individuals disagree but still want to fit in. But this is an album that is challenging to dislike for the right reasons, and while many can properly point out the problems in the midst of a blinding rage, keeping one’s sense of proportionality is difficult. Even the most rabid of “The Jester Race” and “Lunar Strain” fans should keep in mind that buried under a lot of really unnecessary additives and overindulgent drama is actually a pretty decent album, but like with any elaborate cuisine in a given hybrid genre, too much of certain ingredients or a couple things that don’t belong can turn a tasty dish into a pile of disgusting mush.

Since the release of “Colony” and the addition of drummer Daniel Svensson, In Flames has played a hybrid of power metal and melodeath that is fairly similar to more keyboard oriented Finnish outfits like Children Of Bodom and Norther. They aren’t nearly as flashy and generally tend to rely more on guitar harmonies than atmospheric keyboards, but the spirit was basically the same, and “Reroute To Remain” still carries the same basic template insofar as the majority of the non-vocal parts go. It has been rightly pointed out that several of these songs contain fragments of ideas that were heard back in the 90s, most notably the principle guitar line on “Metaphor” which draws dangerously close to the intro of “Moonshield”. This song also has the misfortune of being covered with a really whinny clean vocal performance out of Anders Fridén, and throws out the climactic distorted sections in favor of a full out sappy ballad with a distant, droning violin line, and herein lays the area where this album runs into serious trouble.

The formula at work in this band’s repertoire has always been simplistic, barring perhaps the experimental tendencies of the pre-Fridén era, and things aren’t that much different here. The riff work is a bit further simplified, but still largely consonant and animated, and the rhythm section still maintains that fast paced power metal edge. The only critical flaw in this category is that Svensson’s snare and cymbal tracking is tending towards the popping and ringing characteristic more commonly heard in metalcore circles. But apart from this and maybe a few clunkers like “Transparent” and “System” being heavily groove oriented, almost to the point of being bad Pantera songs, there is little to be offended by here unless the material following “The Jester Race” really didn’t agree with you. Certain songs like “Trigger”, “Dismiss The Cynics” and “Dark Signs” are actually consistently good throughout, from an instrumental perspective, really accenting the melodic guitars and some decent keyboard additives, and could probably have made “Clayman” without greatly detracting from its overall quality.

The real folly comes into play when dealing with the vocal work, which while not all that more offensive to the ears than the semi-moaning spoken lines heard on “Clayman”, is presented in such a way that the continuity of the songs is thrown off. Perfectly good fast paced numbers like the title song “Reroute To Remain”, “Drifter” and “Egonomic” begin attacking the ears with the blazing goodness of a late 90s melodeath fest, but collapse into these horrid clean sung choruses that range from being happy hardcore rubbish to overt pop/punk with harsh, pseudo-death shouts along for the ride. When combined with an assortment of industrial tinged keyboard elements, a somewhat appealing stew all but morphs into pig slop. What makes things worse is that the instrumental sections have been slightly cut back to make more room for lyrics and vocals, the two areas where this band has always been weak, but here also serving to make the stylistic embellishments that have corrupted the sound all the more blatant.

It might be an act of unintentional conformity, but I am forced to agree with the popular sentiments of the old guard metal community on this one, this is a pretty bad album. However, fixing an album like this would require little more than dropping one or two songs and changing the vocals around, which is pretty simple in comparison to many bands who simply sound bad no matter who is performing the parts. There is no actual bad songwriting to speak of, just poor arranging and a really bad stylistic mix put on top of what is otherwise a fairly consistent Gothenburg version of power/melodeath. Bargain bin hunters might be encouraged to part with a couple of bucks for 2 or 3 songs that are minimally affected by Fridén’s gimp hardcore singing, but the words of the day here is “look elsewhere”, and I am happy to have done my part to spread the word.