In Flames - _A Sense of Purpose_
(Nuclear Blast, 2008)
by: Kostas Sarampalis (
The band that everyone loves to hate and hates to love. In Flames have had a good career by any measure, yet somehow never managed to live up to the high expectations they set out with their first few releases. If we draw comparisons with their compatriots who started at the same time and even shared members with initially, Dark Tranquillity have carved a more consistent path, always improving and adding new elements yet keeping the core values of their music intact. In Flames, on the other hand, decided to chase after worshipping masses at the expense of the quality of their output.The first impressions of the new album are not good ones. The production sounds thin, the heaviness and urgency of _Come Clarity_ are not present and most songs sound very much alike, with only perhaps "I'm the Highway" and "The Chosen Pessimist" standing out. Where their previous album was a very pleasant surprise, this one comes across as a disappointment. It is only once the listener unclenches his or her teeth and loosens the shoulders, forgets expectations and just tries to see what this album has to offer, that it draws a slightly different picture.This is a more relaxed album than _Come Clarity_. Perhaps groovier is a better word for it. It has all the classic trademarks of the band's sound but impact. The riffs are standard In Flames material, some of which sound recycled, but are effective enough to carry the songs. Fridén continues using both grunts and clean vocals and leaves no argument about him ever being included in a singers hall of fame. He is strangely serviceable though, and long time fans of the band should have gotten used to his voice. One thing that is continually getting worse though, is the lyrics. "I feel like shit / but at least I feel something" and its ilk are juvenile to say the least.Yet _A Sense of Purpose_ is pleasantly easy to the ears. It has the addictive qualities the band developed early on in their career. However many fingers one wants to point at it, scream at the apparent step back of the sound quality compared to _Come Clarity_, or the further simplification of the riffs and song structures, still it is difficult not to happily consume it. There are plenty of hooks and melodies, moments of sing along fun, and even some well executed introspection in "The Chosen Pessimist", a ballad that is not really a ballad kind of song, with slow guitars and moody keyboards that slowly builds up. It is a pity that the extra songs from _The Mirror's Truth_ EP, especially "Eraser", are not included in the full-length, because they are pretty darn good and would have made the album a touch more interesting._A Sense of Purpose_ is not an album that will terribly change your view of In Flames. It has its moments and it can be a lot of fun depending on your mood, yet it offers nothing new and at first it might sound like a step back from _Come Clarity_, if only because it sounds a bit restrained and afraid of what it really wants to be. But there is enough good material here to draw you in, and it kind of grows on you, as well. Perhaps it is the touch of melancholy it exudes.
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