Sound — 4
In Flames have always been a popular band, and why shouldn't they, they helped start an entirely new style of accessible death metal and have never slowed down since. So why then, after nearly 20 years of respectable metal do they throw this at us? It should be said, I'm not a huge fan of In Flames but I don't dislike them much either, so I'm being a bit more neutral than normal on this one. But even so, sometimes I feel like Anders Friden is deliberately taking the piss. The first two songs on the album are undoubtedly the two worst things to open an album with. Sounding more like Rammstein meets Threat Signal than In Flames's previously unique sound, the aim is obviously clear of what they're trying to do: Get more people to like them. But they don't need to do this, they don't need to weaken and soften their legacy to fit in with the crowd of child-friendly metalcore than dominates the metal charts, and its disappointing to say the least to hear that they're not turning around from this point on. That said, sonically it isn't awful. The departure of Stromblad is noticeable and Bjorn Gollette has done a pretty good job with filling the space yet I can't help feel that songs like "The Puzzle" and the single "Deliver Us" show that they really can't be bothered with their song-writing any more, the momentum is not what it once was and some of (note, SOME) the riffs sound like the wrong kind of 90's metal (think Limp Bizkit). But, the melodies are melodic, without being too family oriented like Parkway Drive, and the main traits of Gothenburg metal are still present, if buried under dense electronics and an almost continual four to the floor (Lars Ulrich-y) beat. And the less is said about the half-arsed breakdowns, the better.
Lyrics — 5
Despite the main sound of In Flames going downhill, Anders Friden is somehow still improving vocally. Although he has kinda stopped the harsh vocals almost entirely (with his current technique just not as punchy as it once was) which was one of the original defining points of In Flames, his clean vocal style has improved since I first heard him on some Metallica cover for some magazine years ago. But the thing is, its just not developed enough to be properly amazing, yet its only just good enough to make the entire farce that is this album sound a bit better. Lyrically, you can tell there wont be anything deep and overly meaningful with an album title like that. I never thought that Anders was a bad lyric writer, only that his themes were rubbish. And this album just proves that. The themes are focusing on some sort of self-betterment train-wreck, whether its a personal view from Anders or just lyrics for the sake of lyrics, they're easily written off when listening to the album.
Overall Impression — 4
In Flames already have their sound, but even without scrutiny of listeners, you can tell this is one of those ideas that should have been left in the back of Friden's brain. Dare I say that this is more accessible than "Toxicity" by System Of A Down? Well, "Toxicity" had death growls and even some actual death metal (in the loosest sense, but still). Stupid comparisons aside, unless you're one of those "with them till the end" fans or someone who thinks that harsh vocals are "unlistenable" or whatever, then there's not much of value in an album like this. Its more or less the re-affirmation of the spiral downward for the band, (this is perhaps unrelated) even Friden chopped his dreads off and started wearing flannel and a farmers hat. And the award for worst album title of the year goes to... Songs to look out for: for quick thrills, "All For Me", "The Puzzle", "Fear Is The Weakness", "The Attic", "Darker Times". The rest shouldn't be worthy of your time.