Acts as an adequate placeholder until the band’s next release.
In Flames is one of the more prolific metal bands working. While putting out a record every two to three years is certainly admirable, there’s no guarantee that every one of them will be a success. And while Battles isn’t a complete failure, compared to much of the band’s earlier work it’s far from what could be considered a success. It’s fine. It’s meh. It’s one of those albums that acts as an adequate placeholder until the band’s next release, one that could maybe, possibly work just a bit better.
Opening track “Drained” offers a promisingly classic In Flames vibe: it’s up tempo, riffy and just a smidge under a total barn burner. But it ultimately gives the false impression that perhaps there’s more of this to come. It essentially acts as a metal break-up song—you could find the lyrics herein on any screamo band’s album (“You ripped the heart out/ You ripped the heart out/ You ripped the heart out of my will to survive/ You ripped the heart out/ You ripped the heart out/ You killed the part of me that kept us alive”). But the lyrical cliché can certainly be overlooked as “Drained” is simply a solid metal tune.
Next up is “The End,” a very good tune as well, offering a heavier example of In Flames’ metallic chops. After that, however, things take a slide downhill into a series of fine songs that are fairly forgettable, save the impressive guitar work that thankfully makes its way onto every track. And unfortunately, the melodramatic lyrics of “Drained” seem to be a theme on Battles. Metal has never been the go-to genre for the greatest lyrics, or lyrics that don’t intentionally revel in being over-the-top, but this may be one of the sappiest metal records to be released this century, nearly every line dripping with melodrama syrup.
And while there are a few standout tracks, they’re simply not enough to save Battles. That said, they will certainly give listeners hope for a follow up album if they haven’t already tuned out completely as a result of this one. “Through My Eyes” is a speedy, brutal classic In Flames tune that could have fit on 2006’s Come Clarity very nicely. Alternating between break-neck verses and ground-and-pound choruses, this is truly the one track on Battles that provides the faintest glimmer of hope that In Flames is still worthy of a second chance. If you find Battles to be similarly frustrating, playing “Trough My Eyes” on repeat for 48 minutes will remedy that frustration just fine.
“Here Until Forever” features a harmonized ‘90s metal riff that will get the head bobbing and force your hand to form the horns, your arm shot up into the air. It’s righteous in the way only true, good, gnarly metal can be. But it’s also just another bitter reminder of how good Battles could have been if all the fluff was cut away in favor of a very solid EP.
Yet it would be a foolish overstatement to say Battles is a bad album. Stuffing the disc into your car stereo on your way to work and tuning out doesn’t mean the tunes are bad, but, with the exception of the aforementioned few, they’re just not good enough to snap listeners out of a distorted, pounding reverie. As an album, it’s okay. But there is hope for In Flames’ future, and holding on for just one more record may be what fans should do. For the casual listener, you’ll just have to trust that the really good tunes herein only scratch the surface of what this band can do. So do yourself a favor, give this one a pass and hold on.