Album review: Battles – In Flames

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Few bands split opinion like In Flames. The Swedish melodic death metal crew have been around for a number of years. Their back catalogue is impressive and the slight change in direction of their more recent albums is welcome, at least for this listener. Many fans of the melodic death metal scene feel they have “sold out”, choosing to go in a more “radio friendly” direction with their more recent works. I actually don’t mind the change. The band has always had a tuneful approach to their song writing and musical structure, and perhaps ‘Battles’ is their most melodic and tuneful to date. Whether that further alienates older fans or not remains to be seen, but for this metal-head, ‘Battles’ is a very solid album.

‘Drained’ is a great way to kick things off. A brooding beginning leads into a spoken intro before things pick up pace turning it into a classic In Flames track. Great melodic chorus too. ‘The End’ then backs up nicely from the first track. Some great guitar and another catchy chorus mean its two from two and a great start to the album. ‘Like Sand’ slows things down a little, and although I like the change of pace it isn’t one of the albums best tracks. Things pick up quickly though soon after with ‘The Truth’, a track that really embraces the bands newer direction – very melodic and a chorus that you will be singing long after you have finished listening to it. I think this will sound superb in the live arena due to the crowd-like chant of the chorus. A top track. ‘In My Room’ has a nice bass line running through it and a good chorus. Relationships seem to be a strong focus for the lyrics on ‘Battles’ and this continues with ‘Before I Fall’, a track I wasn’t keen on at first but won me over after a few more listens. ‘Through My Eyes’ has been around forever now it seems. A cool track, classic In Flames sound, one of the albums faster tracks, sounds like it would’ve worked well on an earlier album as well. I like it a lot and It should be another cracker to hear live too. The title track ‘Battles’ starts off heavy as hell with Anders screaming in the back. Not my favourite In Flames track if I’m being honest, it’s just kind of there really. ‘Here Until Forever’ is superb, a ballad that builds into a great chorus. The change of pace works well here. A very memorable track. ‘Then we have Underneath My Skin’ which is a little In Flames by numbers. Nothing particularly bad about it, just nothing really special either. ‘Wallflower’ clocks in at just over seven minutes in length and the intro sounds like Tool! A much more progressive sounding track than we are perhaps used to from In Flames. I like it a lot. Final track ‘Save Me’ is another that has been seen and heard a lot of recently. It’s a very good way to finish things off, a good representation of In Flames and where they are now musically.

‘Battles’ is an album, for me that gets better with repeated listens. In Flames are making the music they want to make and if you don’t like the direction the band are heading then don’t listen to them. It’s as simple as that really. It’s an album that sticks to its guns, doesn’t experiment too much and delivers most of the time. The performances are solid, the mixing is good and the artwork is excellent. All said, a very solid album indeed.

4/5 stars.

Pick up a copy from here.

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