A funny thing happened today. While killing time in the air conditioned mall, I happened briefly into a Hot Topic. An annoying, whiny song was playing (as usual) and for a minute I just kind of phased it out. Then suddenly a a slightly louder vocal bit caught my ear and I froze. I knew that voice. I grabbed my brother and said "Oh crap, you hear this? That's Anders Friden singing. This is In Flames." He had my sister go up to the counter to ask who was playing, and they confirmed what I already knew.
I was crushed by what I was hearing, and I beat a hasty retreat. The episode did serve as a reminder, though, that I had yet to check out their new album. And even though I fully expected to hear a mountain of garbage, I dutifully went into Best Buy and picked up a copy anyway.
I have to say that, at least after my initial listen through the album, I'm pleasantly surprised. The old In Flames is long gone, and we all know that. I was expecting an even bigger train wreck this time, though, from the bits I'd heard and from the really weak nature of their previous release. Instead (though there are certainly a few weak tracks, like "Liberation", the one I'd just heard) I found myself reminded quite a lot of Reroute to Remain and, at times, Come Clarity. It was quite a relief I must say, and already I can tell that I like this new material substantially better than A Sense of Purpose. They mixed some decent guitar leads in, they've tried incorporating some of their traditional jester imagery (including one song title), and while most of the songs are relatively mid-paced and moderate in terms of aggression there are a couple tracks that actually stand out as some of the heaviest material they've released in years.
Of course the loss of Jesper is something I'm not thrilled about, but at least it appears the band is capable of functioning in their new form without him. There are several tracks that sounded fairly derivative of previous In Flames songs, but I suppose by the time a band releases 10 full-length studio albums that's bound to happen. I can't give a good, comprehensive review having only played the album once, but my initial reaction is that this is something I'll find myself playing and enjoying again several times in the future.