Sound — 10
If you listen to classic In Flames records such as 'Colony' and 'The Jester Race', that helped define the melodic death metal genre, and then listen to more recent tracks like 'Scream' or 'F(r)iend', the considerable difference can often spark a negative reaction, and has done in In Flames' core fanbase for years now. But you know what? It doesn't matter, because 'A Sense Of Purpose' is a truly brilliant album, and any critics who are still having trouble getting over the band as they were in 2004 are simply missing out. Their last effort, 2006's 'Come Clarity', was far from poor either, but 'A Sense Of Purpose' is the album that In Flames have been threatening to make ever since that oh-so-controversial change in sound. So, the sound of the album is an interesting one for In Flames fans, any review you read of this album will tell you that they've filled the album with lead guitar and the classic harmonies that really set In Flames apart from any pretenders. No matter how hard anyone tries, the sound of Jesper Strmblad and Bjrn Gelotte is impossible to imitate, as the two have always (that is, since Bjrn switched from drums to full time guitarist on 'Colony') gelled, and their understanding of harmony and their melodic awareness has remained intact since In Flames' inception in 1990. Sure, it wasn't that prominent in 'Reroute To Remain' or 'Soundtrack To Your Escape', but it was always there and since those albums it has really made a return and has become the most important part of In Flames' music once again. Not only that, but the clean vocals of Anders Fridn have taken up Jesper's style of melodic composition, and really work as In Flames melodies. Anyone who has heard songs like 'Come Clarity' will be glad to hear that the clean vocals, while a lot more frequent, have actually improved massively. In fact, the vocals as a whole have gotten much better. Anders actually performs with real conviction and strength on 'A Sense Of Purpose', and has abandoned the whiny half-assed muttering that truly ruined a lot of songs on 'Soundtrack To Your Escape' especially. If you really miss his vocal style as shown with his work with fellow Gothenburg legends Dark Tranquillity, then you won't be relieved here, but hopefully if you listen to the album openly you will recognise that the vocals here are solid in their own right. The drumming, as always, is top notch, with Daniel Svensson delivering yet another absolutely stellar performance, and even though his beats are not at all unique to each song, he performs with finesse and brings a lot of the songs to life. Accompanying him in the rhythm section is bassist Peter Iwers. Now, the bass guitar has never, ever been a particularly noticeable part of In Flames' sound, however Peter's thick bass tone compliments the multiple layers of guitars over it perfectly and really makes some of the album's riffs feel incredibly heavy. You know, even though this new album could be considered a real mixture of their previous work, the sound of the album is very consistent and every single song is enjoyable and valuable: that's not something that I could say about an In Flames album since 'Whoracle'. If you enjoy intensely melodic metal, then this album is most definitely for you.
Lyrics — 8
Honestly, the lyrics of 'Come Clarity' were pathetic. They were whiny, they were repetitive and they contained countless lines that just made you cringe. While I certainly can't say that the lyrics on 'A Sense Of Purpose' can be compared to the poetry of 'The Jester Race', there has been a dramatic improvement. The lyrics still seem to mostly deal with internal struggles and personal issues, however there is only one song on the entire album where the lyrics are so clich that it actually makes you stop and think what Anders was thinking whilst writing them (and all of their albums since 'Clayman' have had several such moments), and that's on 'Disconnected' (I feel like shit, but at least I feel something does not do it's anthemic chorus justice), and several of the chorus lines in particular have that quality that really have a lot of power even if you aren't immediately aware of what they mean, and that's something that Anders should really be proud of.
Overall Impression — 10
If you have truly hated every bit of music you've heard from In Flames since 'Clayman', then I can't say that you will like this album, however if you think that 'Come Clarity' was a definite step in the right direction, then you will want to hear this. It's the album that defines In Flames' sound as the band that they are today. It's played with total conviction and it shows that the recording process was a very enjoyable one (and you know this if you've watched their in-studio videos). It is, ultimately, just a fantastic In Flames album, boasting 12 songs of the highest quality that acknowledges the band's history, both distant and recent, and takes them into new places (the eight minute journey 'The Chosen Pessimist' is testament to that) that hopefully proves that In Flames have not lost their way.