In Flames - Battles

In Flames Battles cover
In Flames
Nuclear Blast Records
Actually ever since In Flames toured with Slipknot a while ago, they decided to throw any metal cred they had to the garbage can and try to make music suited for the American market. Poppy, plastic and American “Metal” inspired. Sugar coated choruses, pseudo angst, full of breakdowns etc. This has gone for some albums to the point their main guitarist/composer Jasper Stromblad walked out, because he couldn’t take it anymore. Since that fateful tour In Flames switched from melodic death metal to dodgy metalcore, with singer Ander Friden having pretty much hijacked the band. Thing that seems to have left Niclas Engelin, one of their two guitarists, with providing them with a fig leaf in songwriting terms to hide their “nakedness”. The songs that he has had his hand in are the better ones in battles, mildly throwing back to a foregone era of the band… because otherwise the album is swamped with pop-metal mediocrity.
“Drained”, “The End” and “Like Sand” have a bit more pointy guitars, but are clearly post “Clayman” examples of the band’s direction, with very melodic and pseudo angsty vocals, ridden with effects etc. But at least they are somewhat catchy.
Track no4, “The Truth” rips off a “ line”, and adds some weak guitar leads to create yet another pop metal hybrid, marginally saved by its leads not being all that terrible.
“In My Room” has some nice guitars here and there, a nice chorus, but boring “rapping” verses and is more poppy.
“Before I Fall” wastes a half decent riff and a lead in a subdued metalcore – mellow sauce that’s vomit-inducing with its soft female backing leads etc...
“Through My Eyes” tries to recapture the band’s earliest style, but Friden’s “clean” vocals are strained. Also the recording quality sounds inexplicably, as if someone threw a blanket over the microphones or something?! Wtf…
In “Battles”, the title track, the said blanket is removed and the band grooves back into action, but the vocals remain tuned as fuck and still weak. But if I were feeling like about to throw up before, by how sugarcoated this album was getting, the poofy ballad, “Here Until Forever” really took the cake and had me reaching for the bucket. A smalzy piece of shit that really sounds fake and not because of the tuning or the drumming, but because it’s the textbook definition of “fake”.
In “Underneath My Skin” Friden tries to sound “tough” during the intro/first verse, but quickly he falls back to the strained/clean vocal motif, on a rather mediocre track overall.
“Wallflower” is another Engelin track and while its intro seems to be building up to something “heavy”, past its second minute it goes pretty ambient, with Friden doing his cleanest least tuned vocals, which aren’t all that bad, surprisingly… it picks up some steam past the fifth minute and comes to a nice conclusion, a different, but actually nice enough song.
“Save Me” can be filled under generic poppy mellowcore with a decent beat. It’s not bad for a club, but as everything else it doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny or comparison with the deathly torrents that the past holds. The trademark leads, lend it an air of “dynamism” but that’s about it.
The “Greatest Greed”, one of the two song on the digipack, feels actually like a “message” to Stromblad and beside its guitars, is a terrible poppy mess. I wonder, who’s the greedy one and making a ridicule of a name that once was eponymous of decent melodic death metal, but has since been tarnished, with all the “fire” gone.
The same pretty much goes for the poppy, but more clean guitar driven “Us Against the World” that’s not bad, when it’s not going for the “core”.
The same tired, sell out style that In Flames has perfected since their post millennial “style” turn, just with an ounce of better songwriting, especially where Engelin is involved, but still not metal enough to appeal to a fan of “Jester Race” and “Lunar Strain”. Plastic “fast food” music that might appeal to teeny-bopper fans of Amaranthe, but without the long legs of miss Ryd. What a pity…