Over the next while I'm going to be periodically posting individual entries analyzing all of the albums I listened to last year. Granted there are a few releases from 2008 whose existence I did not even discover until this year, but I will most likely include those later on, since release during 2008 is really the only criteria necessary. Essentially what I am doing is giving my long-overdue analysis of all the music I have which was released last year.
I don't really have any particular order set in motion, and I will most likely pick albums at random. This way it gives me more time to re-listen to everything I may not have heard in full for some time. Once I feel like I've covered all the albums I feel like are worth mentioning I will post a summary of them all and will most likely rank them in some form, or at least give my top 3 or 5 favourites.
One last thing I'd like to point out is that different music appeals to different people, and everyone has a different taste in music. I consider myself to be pretty open minded so you may be surprised as to the variance of things you will see me posting about over the next little while. I would also like to ask people that they keep their personal musical preferences and biases to themselves. If you hate band X, or genre X, that's fine, but please keep it to yourself. If you have no interest in the band or genre I am talking about at the time then don't read it, and don't comment. If you have something constructive to say then feel free to add something, but I'm in no mood to tolerate garbage posts on this subject.
So without further ado, I give you...
In Flames - A Sense of Purpose
01. The Mirror's Truth
03. Sleepless Again
05. I'm the Highway
06. Delight and Angers
07. Move Through Me
08. The Chosen Pessimist
09. Sober and Irrelevant
11. Drenched in Fear
12. March to the Shore
Bold = My personal favourite tracks from this album.
If you're an old school In Flames fan then it seems like it would be pretty easy for you to hate this album through and through without ever giving it a second glance. See, if you're unacquainted with In Flames, they basically started out as one of the original Melodic Death Metal bands who essentially played a huge role in creating the genre. The issue a lot of older fans have with In Flames is that around the time frame that they released Reroute to Remain they had somewhat drastically changed their style from standard melodic death metal and started experimenting. The most noticeable change is the singing style used by lead singer Anders Fridén which went from your standard melodeath growling to something that is a bit harder to classify. However, In Flames began adding clean vocals, and a bit more of a "screaming" style of singing than the growling style you typically hear in melodeath bands. Essentially this has made In Flames themselves a bit harder to classify these days since they don't really follow the rules of what it means to be a melodic death metal band, and in a sense have almost created their own genre of metal... again.
Needless to say, if you can't tell from the album name and the track titles, A Sense of Purpose deals pretty heavily with personal struggles and introspective themes, so if you generally have no interest in this sort of stuff you will most likely find this album pretty intolerable. For me however, this album came at a pretty good time of my life. I had been in a bit of a rut when this came out and I felt pretty unmotivated in general, and for a long time I found it pretty easy to relate to this album. Now I don't want people to think I'm getting all "emo" or something here because quite frankly I think that term in general is horribly misused and I don't really see anything wrong with emotionally expressive music either. Isn't all music emotional in the first place? Anyway, the lyrical themes on this album are pretty similar through all of the songs dealing with feelings of inadequacy, hostility, aggression, melancholy, bitterness, bleakness, malevolence... you get the idea. It can be kind of intense and overwhelming almost, but there's definitely no hiding the feeling of this album since it's pretty strong from the get-go.
The album opens with The Mirror's Truth, which was the first single from the album. It then goes on for a few more tracks all of which are fairly solid, my favourites from the first half being Disconnected and Sleepless Again. Disconnected can initially come across as an "emo" song due to the lyrical passage
I feel like shit
But at least I feel something
However Anders Fridén had the following to say about the song:
"When I'm in a tour bus, people can't see me but I can see them, and I see so many sad faces. People go from A to B without trying to break out of that routine, and sometimes I see people like that I want to know what they're thinking. I need to feel alive and sometimes it seems like other people dont feel that way."
Disconnected can come across as a bit simple at first, but lyrically it's a pretty powerful song with this knowledge in hand.
Sleepless Again also deals with some powerful lyrical content, much like the rest of the album, but is especially noticeable due to it's use or powerful vocal harmonies and extremely melodic guitars resonating throughout. All that said, for me the album really, really picks up at just about halfway through with Delight and Angers. What happens with Delight and Angers is that the album goes on a stretch of significant consistency through several extremely good tracks. Move Through Me is an excellent follow-up, which leads into my personal highlight of the album, the +8 minute ballad "The Chosen Pessimist". This song has an incredibly slow build up with clean vocals that from my perspective resemble Thom Yorke at times, which then leads into an extremely intense final two minutes of powerful instrumentals and a extremely passionate vocal performance which is quite breathtaking actually. The song's lyrics are pretty deep, and come across as someone stuck in the sense that they can't make a decision between two sides and has essentially become a pessimist feeling that they never will make the right the decision. This is a pretty unusual song for In Flames, so again some people might really hate this song, but I think this is one of those tracks that is more easily digestible by newcomers, or more open-minded listeners. I mean no offense, but metalheads aren't exactly the most open-minded people when it comes to music. After the epic 8 minute ballad In Flames give no time to let things wind back down again, and instantly get back into the frantic metal people are expecting with Sober and Irrelevant. In in these later few songs where there are actually several moments of death growls that will probably put a smile on older fan's faces, but they also make these last few songs feel pretty heavy, especially Condemned which is easily the most brutal and menacing song on the album.
Another personal favourite of mine is found in "Drenched in Fear", which contains a lyrical passage that I quite enjoyed.
I refuse to let you steal my delight
Barely awake, but it strengthens my night rage
I've seen you kill many dreams
But I've got brand new armor,
Any weapons are way out of reach
How does it feel to be demolished?
Vaporized into thin air
Strange new feeling to be nothing
I find this particular passage meaningful because my own perception of the song is that it's about people who try to bring you down/abuse you and the person in the song has overcome them to the point where what they are doing no longer effects them. The second passage is probably my favourite part though, since it comes across as if he's asking the abuser how it feels to be made to feel nothing which is something they've been doing to others for a long time.
Finally, the album ends with "March to the Shore" which is a pretty powerful album closer, dealing with a theme that seems to be insanity from my view, but it's hard to interpret exactly what it could be. Needless to say, the entire album is full of extremely melodic guitar, and powerful vocal harmonies, to create a really entertaining listening experience. This album definitely is not for everyone and I wouldn't call it In Flames best album either, but to be honest I don't think I could even chose a "best album" at this point. That being said, if you're looking for an album that deals with some interesting introspective and emotional themes you'll probably enjoy this if metal is a genre you can tolerate. A Sense of Purpose was easily one of my favourite albums from 2008, and I have read some people be really harsh on this album but meh... I really liked it so I say give it a listen with an open mind, there are a ton of great songs on here... you may find yourself pleasantly surprised... this album is definitely a grower.
Note: I haven't decided whether or not I am going to give the albums ratings, but if I do they will be saved for the final blog post summarizing all of the albums I've talked about. For now I'd rather people read this, potentially listen to the album and then make up their own mind about it based on the text, and the content of the album rather than a faceless number associated with the text.