Despite being In Flames' lightest album yet, Battles is a much needed return to form

22nd December 2016

In a remarkable twist, I will be writing not one, but two blogs about music before the year is out. This one's been a while in the making, and it'll be short, but it's an album I felt strongly enough about to waffle on about for a bit.

I've covered In Flames here before, and although I liked their last album I had gripes. It wasn't particularly memorable - so much so that I don't actually really remember any of it. It's definitely the For Your Eyes Only of their discography. It's good, then, that they've followed it up with a Living Daylights, skipping over the oddly-racist and too-old-to-be-doing-this phases.

Battles is a welcome return to form from a band that hasn't hit a proper high in a decade. 2006's Come Clarity is one of my favourite albums of all time and will likely never be topped, but Battles is certainly their best attempt since that.

Arguably, they've been struggling to find their sound since Jesper Strömblad left, which is what has caused the slight dip in quality in the past two albums. It's been a transitional period to a much lighter, more accessible sound, and to be perfectly honest Battles may well be their lightest album yet. It's already caused divide amongst the In Flames fans that I know, some of whom prefer the band at their heaviest, yearning for the days gone by of The Jester Race and Whoracle. Others - the camp which includes me - believe that those albums are terribly overrated and the move to melodeath was welcome.

Lead single The End, released back in August, is probably the best song on the album, but it's one of many. Opening track Drained gives a great introduction into the general feel of the album, whilst the frightfully angsty Like Sand is catchy and enjoyable. Some songs, like Underneath My Skin, fall a little too close to genericide, but for the most part the rest of the album is catchy without being boring.

There is still the trend of their music becoming increasingly lighter and mainstream, which for many will be a barrier that they cannot get past. But for me, Battles is a superb album, and an excellent return to form.

That being said, it is completely and utterly overshadowed by the next album - well, EP - that I am going to write about. Watch this space.