When a band makes the migration from a cult success to an International phenomenon, they simply outgrow their initial fanbase and make it hard for their early adopters to fall in love with anything that they currently do. That is the place where In Flames sits right now. The old In Flames die hards that were around from the beginning are not around as much as they were before after having lost faith with the band’s recent releases, but their fanbase continues to grow.
Musically, In Flames can do whatever they want to do at this point and their fans will eat it up. For my tastes, a lot of what they do from their two most recent albums are too melodic, but are still better than 90% of what is out there. I know that it is popular opinion to hate on In Flames, but let’s face it, they can still bring it with the best of them and they are still one of my favorite live bands out there. Their live shows are intense and mosh-heavy. They have such a large catalog of killer songs that come across so go live that I will catch them every time they tour.
I will be the first to say that I was not really a fan of A Sense of Purpose. I just could never gel with that album in any way. I barely ever listen to it anymore and I am really only a fan of one song on that release. With only a few listens in, I can already say that Sounds of a Playground Fading tops that release easily. While it will probably never fit in amongst my favorite releases of theirs, the songs seem very solid and much more intricate than Purpose.
Like previously mentioned, no matter what In Flames does these days, it will be gold in the eyes of a lot of their newer fans, so there will be a ton of newer fans that will say that this is their favorite release already. Is it much different than their previous releases? No, not really. It is unmistakably In Flames. Even before Anders belts his immediately recognizable vocals, you can tell that it is In Flames. Is it a little different than previous releases? Sure, I would say that is true. Sounds of a Playground Fading has a cleaner tone that a lot of their earlier releases and has more of a rock feeling than they previously had.
I have a feeling that Sounds of a Playground Fading will take a while for us longtime In Flames fan to digest. The question is really how will we feel once we are able to take it in? Will we love it like Come Clarity, or will we be okay with it like A Sense of Purpose. I lean towards the latter on that one.