Sound — 6
If you've seen the DVD of the recording process, you know, that the band wanted the album to sound expensive. And they succeeded, it sounds good, guitar tones are really edgy. Bass is aggressive, drums are tight and the keyboards and samples in the background add some deepness to the mix. Anders uses clean vocals much more often than he used to, which is kind of good, because it contributes to the "melodicness" of the songs, but unfortunately compromises the spirit In Flames had before. You can definetly hear Jesper Stromblad left the building - as the band members said in the short documentary film - guitars are much tighter, more synchronised, Bjorn had much more time and freedom to work on riffs on his own. As this might have been good for him, for us it results in worse songwriting. In comparison the A Sense of Purpose, whether you liked it or not, it sounds like a bunch of ideas stitched together rather than thought through compositions. I have no complaints about other members, actually drums sound better and it sounds like Daniel Svensson is on top of his game, so that's good. Album highlights: Track 9 - "Ropes" Track 10 - "Enter Tragedy" - sounds like good ol' times In Flames (think "Whoracle") mixed with the new approach and better sound. Track 12 - "A New Dawn" (yes, the string quartet sounds awesome, even though I am not a great fan of using that in metal). Album letdowns: Track 1 - "Sounds Of A Playground Fading" - I was so hyped before listening to the first track, I was dying to hear something new and fresh and a-s-kicking, that maybe it was too hard to fulfill my heightened expectations. Unfortunately I don't remember who did the sampling and keyboards, but he did a great job and you can hear that especially on the "Jester's Door" track (11). To sum it all up, this album is worse than I expected, but then again I expected it to crush my balls with a merciless storm of melodic, heavy sh-t. I'm disappointed. Still it is worth giving it a listen and as I mentioned, has some really catchy songs on it.
Lyrics — 7
I never thought of Anders as a great lyrics writer, for me it was more important how, not what, he let things out of his lungs. Being a guitarist myself I must admit, that no matter what I listen to, I focus on the melodies in vocals, not the lyrics. I'm happy with my attitude, because if I actually read the booklet, I may find myself thinking "What the..?!" (Let me remind you: "Neo-wolf, but older again Than the Lupus itself Linked its fur to the gyroscope of time") Fortunately by now Anders has learned English enough to write lyrics in that language himself, so now they at least make sense. Cannot say that they're heart gripping or that they make you cry or want to fight (anything by Slipknot), they're just there to provide a canvas for a melody to be painted on top of them. And that is just fine for me.
Overall Impression — 6
Compared to older if work, this one is really weak. Highlights I already listed. What I love about this album? The sound - it is really well produced. What I hate is that the songs are just not good enough. I definitely wouldn't buy it again if I lost it, I'm actually considering taking it back to the store and trading for something else, maybe "Wrath" by Lamb Of God (even though I already listened to it a thousand times, it's still worth having in a box on a shelf). Don't buy it if you're an oldschool In Flames fan.