In Flames often catches flack for having a new album sound like the last one, but this mostly comes from the same people who are waiting for another Whoracle or Jester Race. Move on already! The core of In Flames' sound doesn't allow a lot of room to venture, yet at the same time that is what they do with A Sense of Purpose.
The entire disc is very melodic both in vocals and guitar harmonies. Anders Friden's voice doesn't sound as strained and forced or maniacal as it did during parts of Come Clarity, and that in itself gives them strength. Even when he is reaching for something more brutal, he does so with control. The guitar structures from Bjorn Gelotte and Jesper Stromblad flow evenly throughout the heavy riffs and the strong melodies. Over the top thrash riffs seemed to be partly replaced by heavy ass grooves (and no, that does not mean slower). The drumming of Daniel Svensson is not all that flashy, but it doesn't need to be - it keeps things solid and sound even more punishing than usual. Peter Iwers basslines, sometimes indistinguishable, does lay a heavy bottom line when layered between the guitars.
Condemned is an excellent example of the vocal and guitar harmonies blending together to create an instant memorable chorus, while starting off with the typical In Flames signature. Anders may not do a whole lot of "clean" vocals throughout the songs, but he does let loose in The Chosen Pessimist which clocks in as the disc's longest song at over 8 minutes. This song kind of seems out of place in the flow that the disc created thus far, dropping the built up momentum. The usual song structure is abandoned and the song is free to form a dark and moody vibe. The vocals seem a bit lost at times when they are not backed by thunderous twin riffs, as his previous clean parts have been.
Oddly enough, while listening to this release, I picked up on several instances reminiscent of old school Iron Maiden style riffs.
A Sense of Purpose is easily going to be one of the ten best releases for 2008, as well as a very strong release to add to In Flames existing catalog. Expect them to give Megadeth a run for their money this year on Gigantour.