I don't understand the hate this album gets. Yeah, Sounds of a Playground Fading definetly ISN'T fucking Death Metal anymore. And yeah, I love the sound of the "old" In Flames too. But this album is in its own way a fucking masterpiece. In my opinion it's even their best work.
I'm not and never was a great fan of them but I have to admit that I really enjoy this album. Tracks like Sounds of a Playground Fading, Deliver Us, The Puzzle, Where the Dead Ships Dwell and Liberation are outstanding for me on this one, especially last two.
Different strokes for different folks, I 'spose. I agree that the guitars lack punch, as people have said, but even then I don't see that as a bad thing, because I love what they DID put the focus on: the bass. I personally welcome the occasional metal that isn't 90% guitarcentric. Having said that, the only songs on this album I actually keep coming back to are All For Me and Where The Dead Ships Dwell.
Easily my least favorite In Flames album. I have a hard time getting into the alt-metal direction. However, I do like a few songs on this album, but not everything overall. I really don't like the muddy, dull production (Reroute To Remain is my favorite tonally). The Jonathan Davis-esque vocals on this album really don't appeal to me at all. One thing that I like consistently throughout though is the ample guitar solos.
http://dr.loudness-war.info/ Database about the dynamic range of thousands of albums. Who's fallen casualty to and who survived the so called Loudness War? Find out for yourself. ;)
Some brilliant and essential educational stuff on that for every musiclover important topic:
Clayman the weakest vocals? Are you serious? Colony, Clayman and Reroute probably have the best vocals, all a bit different but all awesome. ASOP has the worst vocals by far. The vocals on this album are a lot better but still not great.
It's good to see some people finally acknowledging the awful production/mixing. It's been plaguing most of the big-name melodeath releases since 2002 (with Reroute to Remain being the first, I think), and seems to have become the "standard" sound for the genre. Like many people have said, the production leaves the album flat, lifeless, and without power, and it's brought down quite a few albums over the past 10 years; In Flames, Soilwork, Sonic Syndicate, Scar Symmetry, Nevermore, Mercenary, etc.
There are some good atmospheric parts and melodies (some cheesy one though... i can't stand these poppish choruses) here but it has already been done better in the previous four albums. Moreover it's so overproduced it hurts, the extra added effects clearly shrouds Anders vocals and make it seem unclear. They're playing it too safe and running out of ideas. :/